2014 will go down as the year in which Canadians -- all Canadians -- truly became aware of the debacle that is Veterans Affairs. It was the year in which pictures spoke, in which talking points failed, and in which government reports were actually read. It was the year that Conservative misdirection drove increased awareness instead, thanks to Julian Fantino.
The lady who bawled me out at the grocery store made me think of my Papa. Remembrance Day was the biggest day of the year for him. In addition to marking the end of the worst nightmare in history, November 11 was his birthday and his wedding anniversary. When my Papa was alive he really looked forward to marching in the Remembrance Day parade.
Recently, Canada's military has come under deliberate, sustained attack. In fact, our Forces may already have been vanquished. Not by an enemy, but by the nation it defends. Faith in Canada's support is the one thing our Forces absolutely, positively must have to be effective. But that was taken away last year, bringing the days of selflessly charging into danger to a crashing halt.
Every day, women and men put on uniforms for the RCMP and RCAF, RCN, and the Canadian Army. Every day, those men and women set out to be the wall of flesh between us and harm. Every day, whether a major catastrophe affecting thousands or just one of us lost in the wilds, we know who to look for, who to trust in.
Yes, the Canadian story in Afghanistan is mixed, with closure hard to come by for those soldiers not only involved in security details, but development projects like protecting schools, building damns, and conducting civilian peace efforts in villages. But what shouldn't be in doubt is our government's promise and dedication to those military personnel.
General, might I offer up that, at the heart of the problem of suicide in the Forces, is that soldiers feel trapped and with no way out? That the widespread stigma against mental injury and illness, that the attitude you present -- that helping is coddling, and that your condescending attitude exemplifies the problem which soldiers face?
There is a stark contrast between what Veterans want and need, and what the Harper Government is presenting. Veterans need benefits, pensions, enough money to live on, and assistance accessing programs. Veterans are in crisis across Canada -- mental health crisis, financial crisis, family crisis resulting from both -- and deserve help. Decorated Veterans are suing Canada for not providing for them; a shameful situation which decent people would settle quickly. What has Harper offered? No jobs, more expensive health plans, more emphasis on the depersonalized VAC web service.
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."