Harper Government No Friend to Canada’s Veterans.

Feb 07

If there was ever any doubt the Harper Government views veterans as perfect props for photo ops but an inconvenience to assist, it was dispelled once and for all by Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino’s recent disgraceful behaviour toward a group of veterans.

The veterans were to meet with Fantino to express their concerns over the government’s decision to close several Veterans Affairs offices across Canada. The group ran the gamut from Second World War and Korean vets to former peacekeepers to veterans of the recent war in Afghanistan.

VAC Minister Julian Fantino (right) doing what he does best: treating a veteran like shit.

VAC Minister Julian Fantino (right) doing what he does best: treating a veteran like shit.

Fantino failed to show on time, kept the veterans waiting for hours, then made a brief appearance before their scheduled news conference. When Fantino was criticized by the vets for his tardiness and unwillingness to address their concerns he stormed out in a huff.

The veterans subsequently blasted Fantino and the Harper government for their uncaring, dismissive attitude. That left the government subsequently going into damage control mode, issuing apologies (off cue cards!) in the House of Commons, justifying their cuts to the VAC offices whilst claiming the veterans were mere pawns of the Public Service Alliance union, who will be losing jobs as a result of the cuts.

I’m a veteran, serving 25 years in the Canadian Forces. I saw service in the 1991 Persian Gulf war and served a peacekeeping mission in the once war-torn former Yugoslavia at a time when there was no peace to keep. I’m in middle age and good health. Fortunately I have no requirement for VAC services, as I retained my Public Service health care coverage upon my retirement.

Many veterans, however, aren’t as fortunate. They need the services provided by VAC. Many are elderly or disabled and require assistance in dealing with the bureaucracy. The government believes simply shuttling the services once provided by those now-closed VAC offices to Service Canada (the same place where people apply for unemployment insurance, or a social insurance card, or a passport) will sufficiently address those needs.

The Harper government claimed the closures of those VAC offices was necessary because they weren’t being frequented as often by veterans. They provided little actual proof or numbers to substantiate that claim.

Has anyone in the Harper government ever stood in line at Service Canada? How many of them are actually disabled veterans in need of the unique assistance which can only be provided by VAC? How many Service Canada mandarins are qualified to deal with veterans struggling with PTSD?

Veterans served their country in war and peace. Many of them died in that service. Some of the survivors gave parts of their bodies and in some cases their psyches. They aren’t scam artists trying to cheat the system. They’re honorable men and women who were there when their country called and now want their country to be there for them.¬†Instead, they’re discovering Harper and his government have no problem trying to wrap themselves in veterans’ glory but have little interest in providing the help they need.

What sticks in my craw is how casually and callously the Harper government is turning its back on Canada’s veterans. Sure, the Jean Chretien government which gutted the Canadian Forces during my service and paid scant attention to veterans was just as bad. But having served back then, I knew, as did many of my fellow servicemembers, that Chretien didn’t give a shit about us from the get-go.

Harper, however, was supposed to be different. He promised to support the Canadian Forces and its veterans. For a while, especially during the height of the war in Afghanistan, he did. I believed him, as did many others. Hell, I voted for him twice largely because of his government’s support of the military and its veterans.

However, with Canada’s gradual withdrawal from that conflict, suddenly the Canadian Forces and its veterans aren’t as important to Harper and his gang anymore. They’re opportunistic liars who have cast aside the military and its veterans now that they don’t need them for votes.

The Harper Government has broken faith with Canada’s servicepeople and with its veterans. They are lying, backstabbing scum. It’ll be a cold day in hell before I cast another vote for the Conservative Party. I hope Canadian military and veterans feels the same.

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