I want to thank Bruce Moncur for his piece, "Trudeau's Liberals Anything But Sunny Ways For Veterans," and for attending Veterans Affairs Canada's (VAC) stakeholder summit on May 9 to 10. To date, it was the department's largest and best-attended, and he made some invaluable contributions both as a member of the greater assembly and individually when we had an opportunity to speak one-on-one during a lunch break. Bruce points out in his piece that Budget 2016 did not include all of the items in the mandate letter I received from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when I took office as minister of veterans affairs in November 2015. He's right.
Most veterans joined the Forces between the ages of 18 and 22 and serve a large portion of their adult lives in uniform. When they leave the military, they are leaving behind comrades who continue to serve Canada, so it is a priority for them to see that the military has the equipment and support it needs. Probably the largest reason why many veterans support the Conservative Party is because they have seen both the equipment and morale improve dramatically under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The last Liberal government hollowed out the military during the "Decade of Darkness." From used submarines to the dated green uniforms for Afghanistan, the Liberals did not make a properly equipped military a priority.
In seven days, Canada lost four soldiers to suicide. They died of despair. Suffering mental wounds from their service, able to foresee the end of their careers but unable to see how they could survive after, they succumbed to their injuries and took their own lives. We might give it fancy clinical names, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Operational Stress Injury, but that doesn't change the condition: broken mind.
I hadn't planned on posting any sort of response to the Minister, as I've found it's best not to favour such accusations with comment. However, one of those individuals I referenced in my article wants to respond to the Minister's "corrections and clarifications" regarding how the Conservatives are supporting veterans.
For Canada's veterans the Throne Speech was a big flop. It devoted a total of 10 sentences to vets, and only two of them said anything about Harper's plans. The other six were self-congratulatory backslapping: meaningless rhetoric from a government which appears to think supporting veterans is as simple as saying those words over and over.
Obviously, the Minister didn't intend that every person who dies or is injured in service to the public is a veteran. But what he did was imply that injury or death is required for one to be considered a veteran. That may be a convenient definition for a government intent on saving money on the back of our veterans, but it's a silly notion for nation that requires a military.