Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Veterans prepared to unite to restore Canada's moral obligation to Veterans

Under the motto "One Veteran one Standard" an array of veteran advocates and interested veterans contributed to an e-mail forum to bring forth ideas on how to unite and mobilize both veterans and the public to put pressure on the federal government to change the New Veterans Charter (NVC).  The primary concerns were the allocation of lump sum payments, without the option of a life time pension and the omission of the social contract Canadians have with veterans.

Equitas, an organization of concerned citizens formed to fund raise for a law suit against the federal government, represented by the lawfirm Miller Thompson pursued the case in court pro bono. Here is a link to the Equitas web site for reference. They sued the Canadian government for their treatment of veterans and their objection the NVC.  During the case government lawyers argued that the Government of Canada had no obligation toward veterans and that their cases were no different than any other welfare programs.  In other words veterans are at the grace of the government when it comes to benefits. 
The social contract with veterans has existed since Prime Minister Robert Borden stated that “You can go into this action feeling assured of this, and as the head of the government I give you this assurance:
"That you need not fear that the government and the country will fail to show just
appreciation of your service to the country and Empire in what you are about to do and what you have already done. The government and the country will consider it their first duty to see that a proper appreciation of your effort and of your courage is brought to the notice of people at home…that no man, whether he goes back or whether he remains in
Flanders, will have just cause to reproach the government for having broken faith with the men who won and the men who died.”
This social contract has been in place since Prime Minister Bowden spoke those words for every generation of veterans.  The social contract is with the people of Canada and not a particular government.  Members of the Canadian Forces have taken on every peacekeeping/peacemaking mission that their gouvernment asked them to take on.  Just as veterans of the Canadian Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have met their obligations under the contract, it is incumbent upon the gouvernment  to meet its sacred obligation.

Below is an executive summary, prepared by Harold Leduc, who started the e-mail forum, which outlines the way ahead:
Executive Summary

The dialogue revealed that Canadian Forces (CF) veterans are seriously outraged with how they are represented, how they are being treated by Government and are ready to do something about it! They feel abandoned by the former CF senior leadership including former Chiefs of the Defence who they readily served and sacrificed for. The Veterans organizations don’t consult with the greater veterans community and are out of sync with their needs yet claim to advocate on behalf of all veterans. The organizations don’t protest that their advocacy with Government is used against CF veterans in the Equitas lawsuit yet they protest the Government denouncing the sacred social contract they helped erode. The Government has returned to a willful negligence of responsibilities towards veterans not expressed by Canadian Governments since the 1930’s.

The organizations are in transition and are failing the veterans community. They need to take the veteran's call for change seriously because the status quo is harming C veterans. The time to act is now if it hopes to stop the Government's erosion of their special status as veterans and their obligations of the sacred social contract. Veterans are calling for central leadership to organize and lead the community through the chaos. The attached report summarizes the open dialogue conducted by the broader veterans networks and the below recommendation from the report are provided to establish a first step in moving forward towards s cohesive community. The open dialogue that's been established is important to the community's success and should continue.

Report Recommendations:
Recommendation 1. That all organizations and individuals immediately stop negotiating or consulting with Government and it’s bureaucracy on any matters brought before the Courts on behalf of all Veterans by Equitas and Miller Thompson. This message will be widely communicated by media release.
Recommendation 2: That the greater veterans community recognize the importance of fostering strong relationships with Government and the people of Canada understanding that these relationships are dynamic and that tough love may be required from time to time to maintain the balance.
Recommendation 3. That the organizations commit to the principle of ‘One Veteran – One Standard’ not only in words but in action to remove discrimination against CF veterans in all veterans issues.
Recommendation 4. That the organizations accept that they are part of the greater veterans community and have the authority to advance the needs of their members only unless permission is obtained from the greater community to do otherwise.
Recommendation 5. That the greater veterans community is responsible for holding Government, it’s bureaucracy, the Veterans Ombudsman and itself to the true meaning, spirit and intent of ‘One Veteran – One Standard’ and the ‘Veterans Bill of Rights’. 
Recommendation 6. That lines of communication between the organizations and the greater communications be established for transparent information sharing and consultation.
Recommendation 7. That a roster of qualified, relevant professionals and subject matter experts be established to set a high standard of advisors to guide the greater veterans community and Government on legislative, policy and medical matter of concern to veterans and their families. Members of this roster should be arms length from any organization or level of Government.
Recommendation 8: That former senior officers of the rank of General form a strategic planning committee to develop an appropriate leadership model as a first step towards unifying and building capacity in the greater veterans community. Nominations for this committee should be put forward immediately.
Recommendation 9: That an advisory panel of qualified subject matter experts be convened to support the strategic planning committee in their work. Nomination for this advisory should be put forward immediately.
 Recommendation 10: That former Chiefs of the Defence Staff voluntarily come to the assistance of veterans and their families to lead the greater veterans community during this time of crisis and into the future so that veterans are never taken advantage of again.
 Recommendation 11: That the greater veterans community recognize that the current leadership model over the last few decades has seriously failed CF veterans. Organizations and individuals alike must become willing agents for change to unite and organize the greater veterans community to the level necessary to defend against any further attempts to take away the special status as veterans or the sacred social contract.

Authors Opinion:  

The special status as veterans and the sacred social contract with the people of Canada has been in place since 1917.  No government has the right to change this status without the concurrence of the Canadian people or a parliamentary debate.

The Leader of the Official Opposition, Thomas Mulcair and the Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau are asked to take up the mantle on behalf of "Veterans" and place pressure on the government of Canada to restore this social contract and bring the issue of veterans compensation front and centre.  Only in this way will the Canadian public be aware of this shameful position of the gouvernment.

The main stream media, CBC, CTV and Global as well as the conservative SUN TV have to make this an issue and not ignore the plight of veterans because it's not news.  Canadians, once aware of this issue, will most certainly have the back of veterans.

In view of the crown lawyer's statement in the Equitas case, the Government of Canada has remained silent on its policy and one can only assume that the lawyers acted on behalf of the Harper government.  Queries to three conservative members of parliament, two of them military veterans, have been greeted with silence.  Surely this is not the way the rank and file of members of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) feel. 

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