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.
Forget the homeless Veterans. Forget the lawsuits, and how the Harper Government says they are not obligated to provide for Veterans. Forget the closure of VAC Offices, the cuts to staff and the consequent loss of service to Veterans. Forget the Veterans kicked out of the Forces before they are eligible for pensions. Forget the families of poor Veterans, denied funeral expenses.
There continues to be a constant barrage of misinformation regarding Canada's Veterans. In total, our Government has invested almost $5 billion new dollars that has been put towards rehabilitation, re-training, and medical and financial benefits. I will continue to seek to fully pay homage to the depth of sacrifice of Canada's 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.
Every year, we put on a poppy, read a few feel-good stories about the surviving Second World War veterans, and maybe observe a moment of silence on the 11th. But veterans' news stories disappear almost immediately and are replaced with tales of holiday consumer-orgies. We should not be so quick to forget them.
There are many cases of privacy violation at Veterans Affairs. Those that have gone public have two things in common: they have all spoken out about VAC policy and they are all veterans. Some can prove the Minister was given their information. Some can only prove that Ministerial staff was reading their files. Why is this happening?
Though the Department of National Defence is cutting 1,000 jobs for austerity, some 157 employees will be sharing $2 million in bonuses. The whole bonus tradition in both public service and the private sector should cease. None of us has any control over what the private sector does, but government employees get enough perks as it is without extra money for doing the job they are paid for.
In June 2011, shortly after Steven Blaney was appointed Minister of Veterans Affairs, Cpl Fabien Melanson, a vet, stopped eating to protest years of neglect by VAC. But the Minister, it seems, felt no responsibility. He did not speak to the veteran. And he still hasn't. Blaney has willfully neglected his duties. If he will not rectify that, then he should resign.
A recent documentary shows how in 2004, a Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) typo sent a veteran's pension into somebody else's bank account. VAC won't take responsibility for the problem. They deprived a man of his rightful income for months, but, when it comes to the impact, VAC is as uncaring as a hit-and-run driver.