BY JASBIR SANDHU
MP for Surrey North
IN the wake of Remembrance Day, the pressing issue of the Canadian government’s treatment of our veterans should be fresh in the mind of all Canadians. On Remembrance Day, we pause to recognize the significance of our veterans’ contributions and to honour the sacrifices that they have made to protect our beautiful country. However, for veterans, every day holds reminders of the service they have given our country and we must ensure that we, in turn, are serving our veterans and their families in the same way that they have served us. Further, this is an issue that should not just be relegated to November; veterans deserve our respect, thankfulness and their rightful benefits from the government every day of the year.
Time and time again, the Conservatives have shown that veterans are far down their list of priorities. The New Veterans Charter, which became law in 2006, replaced a system that provided disabled veterans with a pension for life with one that offers one lump-sum payment. Rather than providing our veterans with the support that they need and rightly deserve, the Conservative government has instead chosen to engage in legal battles with veterans – one against injured RCMP veterans over disability clawbacks and another against injured Afghanistan veterans over the level of financial support under the New Veterans Charter. Furthermore, the Harper government has announced plans to close nine Veterans Affairs offices in smaller communities, posing a significant barrier to veterans accessing the services that they need.
In stark contrast to the Conservatives’ policies, the New Democrats have led the way on proposals to improve programs and services available for Canadian Forces and RCMP veterans and their families. I, along with my New Democrat colleagues, believe strongly that the care of our military and RCMP veterans, and their families, needs to be improved. Veterans should be able to return from service without worries about the level of financial support that they and their families will receive, especially if they were injured in the line of duty. Veterans should not have to worry about the clawing back of their pensions. Veterans should have access to better support and treatment for mental health conditions that have resulted from their service.
Instead, we are seeing exactly the opposite. The Conservatives are leaving veterans out in the cold. I say out in the cold literally as I had a veteran approach my office this summer who was at risk of being homeless. This same veteran has been placed on a five month waitlist for the psychological evaluation needed to gain access to veterans’ support services.
I have spoken in the House about this issue on multiple occasions and I will continue to speak out about the improvements that need to be made in Veterans Affairs Canada. These brave men and women are our nation’s heroes and they should not have to fight for the benefits that they so justly deserve.
I give my sincerest thanks to the veterans who selflessly served our country in order to protect the rights and freedoms that we value so greatly in Canada. I thank them for their courage in defending the values that we hold so dear and for the great sacrifices that they have made in the line of duty. I will continue to advocate for the government to correct the many issues that prevent us from serving them as diligently as they have served Canada.