It is Time for a Heroic Moment
Ottawa – March 11, 2014
Last Thursday, March 6, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs continued its review of the New Veterans Charter by hearing from Gordon Moore, Royal Canadian Legion Dominion President, and Brad White, Dominion Secretary, along with Gordon Jenkins, President, and Percy Price, Acting Director Advocacy, NATO Veterans Organization of Canada. There were a couple of recurring themes in the presentations made by these very knowledgeable representatives of Veterans’ organizations that I hope left an impression on Committee members.
The first recurring theme was the priorities that need to be addressed by the Committee. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, the two reviews and two reports published by my Office since April of last year, namely, Improving the New Veterans Charter: the Report; Improving the New Veterans Charter: The Actuarial Analysis; Improving the New Veterans Charter: the Parliamentary Review; and Investing in Veterans’ Vocational Training pinpoint specific New Veterans Charter program areas that need to be addressed as a matter of priority.
Speaking on behalf of the over 320,000 members of the Royal Canadian Legion, Dominion President Gordon Moore told Committee members that the key shortcomings identified in these reports have been at the forefront of Legion advocacy for several years. He added that in May 2013, the Veterans Consultation Group, which includes 20 Veterans’ organizations, sent a letter to the former Minister of Veterans Affairs raising similar priorities. In particular, he emphasized the fact that the 20 Veterans groups were unanimous in their position.
Mr. Moore also said that in October 2013, the same Veterans Consultation Group reinforced these priorities to Government. The group unanimously agreed that it was time for this government “...to have a heroic moment and do what is right for our Veterans and their families.” In summing up his testimony, Mr. Moore noted that “...Veterans groups, the Veterans Ombudsman of Canada, the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group and this very Committee have all stated since 2006 that the government must resolve, as a matter of priority, the key financial deficiencies of the New Veterans Charter.” This statement was supported by Mr. Jenkins, President of the NATO Veterans Organization of Canada.
The second recurring theme concerned how much additional review is required of the New Veterans Charter before action is taken. It is worth repeating what I stated in my blog last week on the parliamentary review of the New Veterans Charter: “After 15 meetings in this Session of Parliament, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs is continuing its study of the New Veterans Charter by consulting widely with Veterans, Veterans’ organizations and departmental personnel. In and of itself, this is a good thing, but given all of the evidence that is available and all of the work that has been done before, I would suggest that it’s time for the Committee to focus singularly and squarely on the solutions to New Veterans Charter problems.”
In his presentation to the Committee, Mr. Moore called upon the government to expedite the review of the New Veterans Charter. While Mr. Moore acknowledged the importance of an open and transparent parliamentary review process and the value of allowing Veterans groups, Veterans and their families to testify before the Committee, he also emphasized that there are urgent problems that need urgent action.
During his testimony, Mr. Moore advised the Committee that the Royal Canadian Legion agrees with the New Veterans Charter deficiencies identified by the Veterans Ombudsman. He stated that the Ombudsman’s reports were well researched, evidence-based, and informed by actuarial, independent analysis, and as such, they should be used as the baseline for the Parliamentary review and the roadmap for change. Mr. Moore added that a glaring gap that needs immediate action was the approximately 400 totally and permanently incapacitated Veterans who are not in receipt of allowances. This is an urgent problem as these are the most vulnerable Veterans who are at risk of living their retirement years in poverty.
Mr. Sylvain Chicoine (Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, NPD) added an interesting note to the discussion by asking the witnesses whether it would not be preferable for the Minister of Veterans Affairs to begin work immediately on improving the New Veterans Charter, given that everyone unanimously supports the Veterans Ombudsman’s recommendations. He further surmised that if the Minister took this action, then in the year following the review of the New Veterans Charter by the Committee, other changes to the Charter would be ready for implementation. Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Moore were supportive of this approach. I also find that it would be a very productive way to address key priorities in a timely manner.
In closing, I am heartened by the support of many Veterans’ organizations for the action that is required to address, as a matter of priority, the deficiencies with New Veterans Charter. There are many voices, but there is also consistency and agreement on key shortcomings that need to be addressed. All we need now is action. It is time for a heroic moment.
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