Harper government has little concern for veterans

Harper government has little concern for veterans 
(Opinion piece that was published in the Daily Gleaner – April 12)

When Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino took over the portfolio last July, he had this to say:

“Case management is a service offered to veterans with complex needs and their families. Case managers are frontline personnel who build relationships with veterans and their families; identify their needs and goals; develop a case plan with the veteran and family to reach those goals; and then monitor and evaluate progress.

“We owe a tremendous debt to those who have served the interests of our country, in preserving our freedoms, ensuring our prosperity and securing our future. They warrant our support and assistance and we are committed to delivering for them. As minister of Veterans Affairs, along with our government and my department, this is a commitment that I take with the utmost of respect, responsibility and consideration. Our veterans deserve no less.”

But it didn’t take long for Mr. Fantino to show his true colours. He and the Harper Conservatives must go.

Their version of support and assistance has been to close nine Veterans Affairs offices. They are utterly and obscenely out of touch with the reality that many of Canada’s veterans face. Through their actions and lack of integrity much grief has been caused for veterans and their families.

Out of absolute desperation, after unsuccessfully trying to meet with government ministers, veterans reached out to the Public Service Alliance of Canada for help in retaining the services they deserve and were promised.

They are reaching out to save fellow veterans by telling the Canadian public what is happening to their fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, sons, and daughters who have given so much that we may live in a free country. And what do they get in return?

They get discarded like yesterday’s trash by the very government that deploys them into war zones and conflicts.

In Cape Breton alone, 4,200 veterans lost urgently required services when their office closed. They now travel five hours or more to Halifax. Most veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder can’t even drive for an hour or two, never mind through the maze of a city.

Case management is crucial to prevent veterans from falling through the cracks. As Mr. Fantino himself has said, case management is a very real necessity for Canada’s veterans and their families:

But, low and behold, the Conservatives are deflecting the wrongness of their actions by blaming others for the veterans and their families’ concerns. Mr. Fantino and the Harper Conservatives accused the PSAC of lying about their intentions. The government’s actions prove its intentions. The closure of nine Veterans Affairs offices has proven their intentions. How can they hide from this?

We will not let them hide. The issue is simple .- people who have given their all, and put their lives on the line for this country and every Canadian living in it, were promised and deserve the desperately needed assistance and support they require to live a “normal” life.

The obduracy of Mr. Fantino, and the Conservatives, is unfathomable. The office closures affect tens of thousands of veterans. This decision could be reversed with a word from the prime minister or the stroke of a pen. Yet, all cries for help fall on deaf ears.

The only cries heard are the echoes of our fallen colleagues who felt no hope and departed this life, the devastated loved ones left behind, our current veterans and their families, all crying out to our government for the help that was promised, the help they deserve.

So, Mr. Fantino and the Harper government, remember this: current service members and veterans are very highly trained and skilled people. We have an esprit de corps that surpasses any group commonality. We depend upon one another in times of peace; and in times of conflict and war, we depend upon one another for our lives.

We, the citizens of Canada, the veterans of Canada, current service members of Canada, and the Public Service Alliance of Canada, are working together to protect those who have protected us, the veterans. From coast to coast, we will work together until the next election.

If no consideration is to be given to the value of the lives of our veterans and their families, then no consideration will be given to you on election day.

Susan Clarke-Tizzard, CD (Cpl. Retired) is a third generation veteran, a mother and a full-time university student. She lives near Sussex, N.B.