Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino's behaviour towards a group of veterans last week disgusted me. And, when he blamed his behaviour on the actions of a union I became outraged. The union may very well have told the veterans a one-sided story about how their poor members are being hard done-by. That doesn't excuse the minister's behaviour. As a free public service for cabinet ministers and others in leadership roles, I'm going to offer up some completely unsolicited advice, right here, right now, at no charge. When a veteran is angry with you for being late, you say, "I'm sorry."
Just months ago, the Minister for Veterans Affairs stood in a Legion in London, Ontario and promised members that soldiers would no longer be cut loose. Clearly, that practice continues. I am calling upon the government to stop giving weak excuses and apologise to these Canadian heroes who have been dismissed because of the Conservative government's efforts to balance the budget.
I'm not knocking Movember. It is an excellent campaign, both for fundraising and awareness. I don't even have a problem with the timing. I have absolutely nothing against Movember. I'm using it for comparison purposes because Movember and Remembrance both happen during the same month and are both about awareness. And last week, Movember enjoyed a lot more media coverage than veterans.
Canadian citizens may be shocked to learn that the Canadian Forces do not have the same Charter Rights as the rest of us. They give up those rights when they enlist. Maybe this law makes sense for the military -- it is used to suppress mutiny and rebellion, but at the same time, these are the people who are risking their lives for our freedom. Don't they deserve better?
"A lot of people don't know what goes on in the woodwork of the Forces," the Corporal tells me. "In a sense, it's good that Afghanistan happened; it allowed us to show Canadians what we do, and what their taxes are paying for. And usually, if there's a sense of animosity against the army, it's because a lot of people don't know much about us."
My heart begins to pound as I see the green sign of the beach. I see other rafts ahead and can't be sure if the troops are fast-casting off them yet until I see their bodies make small, white explosions into the water. The driver yells "Go!" and the two men behind me somersault into the water with a crash.
The captain leads me through the base to pick up my kevlar vest and helmet. The officer sitting at reception's eyes grow wide at seeing my camera dangling around my neck. Understandably, the Forces are sometimes wary of the press. Minutes later, I don not the uniform of the Canadian soldiers, but rather the one they use during exercises for "enemy" troops.