I voted Liberal this past election, in part, because they had promised change from the Conservatives and their stance that Canada doesn’t have a covenant with our Veterans.
The Covenant, Our Sacred Obligation
That covenant, although not formally declared, has been a sacred obligation to provide care for those who served and fought for this country that they may live out their years in dignity.
The Conservatives went to court with a group of veterans rather than admit the country had that covenant. This past week, the Liberal government signaled they are set to return to court to uphold the Conservative argument with them.
Most Canadians have understood the obligation to be true and our duty to those who served. The definition of how that would be accomplished wasn’t always a point of universal agreement.
Veterans Groups Advocacy
The Royal Canadian Legion has been at the forefront of advocating for their benefits for most of its ninety years of existence. Other veterans groups have taken up the fight as well as they have formed.
At the heart of the current struggle is the Veteran’s Charter. Brought in by the previous Liberal government as a modern day solution for their benefits, it was originally supported by the Legion. Their support was predicated on some faith in the government to implement it in a manner which met the needs of our younger vets and was fair in terms of what the older ones had received.
That faith was quickly broken when it became clear the Conservative government was set to use the Charter to reduce the costs of veteran’s care. The need was rising as the human cost of the Afghanistan war was being felt. It was no time to be cutting.
Previously, wounded vets received lifetime pensions and benefits. Overseas vets as they aged were eligible for the War Veterans Allowance (WVA), the Veterans Independence Program (VIP) and associated benefits. Benefits included health, dental and eye care as the vet aged.
The Liberals campaigned on a promise to bring back lifetime pensions for wounded vets. That is a promise which needs to be kept.
Veterans Covenant Needs to Be Formalized
Above all the wrangling about benefits and pensions for veterans, this government needs to formally recognize the country’s sacred obligation to the care of them, especially those wounded in service.
In the century since the start of World War One, Canada has been able to keep the faith to hundreds of thousands of veterans. Even through the toughest economic times we’ve ever endured, the Great Depression. The benefits may not have been great, but the government recognized their obligations and continued to work in good faith to find common ground for our veterans.
To me, there is no small amount of irony that the Prime Minister rose in the house this week to apologize for a 100 year old decision of a previous government to refuse the passengers of the steamship Komagata Maru entry to Canada, and in the same week takes our veterans to court to deny the existence of an obligation which was rooted in a war that started 100 years ago.
If the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wishes to treat our veterans with the honour they deserve, he needs to drop this court challenge and rise in the house to declare this country’s obligation to our veterans for all time.
If our veterans were willing to put their life and safety on the line to protect our freedom, we need to be committed to them for as long as they live.