This week is full of tributes, and rightfully so, for the sacrifices of Canadian servicemen and women who have given their lives so that we may enjoy the freedoms of democracy.
For more than a century, Canadians have been known for both their ferocity in battle and their extraordinary ability as peacekeepers.
It is a dual legacy unmatched by any other country.
Unfortunately, we have in recent years, developed a third legacy which must be scrapped now.
It is time we acknowledged that Canada’s veterans are more than just photo props for politicians once a year, that our government and nation must be judged by our deeds much more than by our words.
Changes in the way war is waged and advances in medical science have meant fewer fatalities for our forces but a greater number of soldiers returning home with wounds not of the flesh but of the mind.
Returning veterans realized it, their families realized it, medical professionals realized it but the government refused to do so.
Horror stories of veterans having to prove over and over again that they lost a limb, the staggering number of suicides by military personnel and the financial abandonment of them once they served their purpose were juxtaposed with the arrogance of former Veterans’ Affairs Minister Julian Fantino and the gold-plated pensions MPs received compared to the pittance given real heroes.
The 2006 Veterans’ Charter leaves disabled veterans with a maximum monthly impairment allowance of $1,753 ($21,000 per year) although most receive less than $600 per month. The amounts are taxable.
The maximum lump-sum payment for total disability is $306,698, tax-free or $7,667 per year if the veteran lives 40 years. Less than 200 of the 45,000 veterans granted pensions received the maximum.
Despite changes enacted in 2012, MPs still receive a pension most only dream of. The payout costs for those who retired before, or were defeated in, last month’s election, will top $11 million in severance and $5.3 million annually in pension money for 180 people.
We need to realize that the cost of war includes the cost of taking care of those who fight it. It shouldn’t be more profitable to order young men and women into battle than it is to actually fight and die.
The Liberal government has promised reform in this area. We will be watching and waiting, albeit not patiently.