Posted on 29 November 2010
“The Harper Government has once again reverted to their now familiar tactics in dealing with veterans and their families: reassuring words and more promises,” said Charlottetown Senator Percy Downe. However, veterans are still waiting for the Harper Conservatives to actually implement the many promises they’ve already made over the last four years.
Downe refers to a list of broken promises made to veterans, many personally promised by Stephen Harper himself, including the expansion of the Veterans Independence Program (VIP) home care program, the Veterans Health Care Review, increasing funding for veterans funerals and compensation for victims of Agent Orange chemical spraying.
The Veterans Independence Program was intended to help veterans maintain their independence and stay in their own homes by providing funds for basic services such as snow removal and lawn mowing. Stephen Harper promised in a letter he personally signed that his government would immediately extend the benefit to widows of Second World War and Korean War veterans, but never kept his word.
Another commitment is with regard to the priority hiring of medically released Canadian Forces veterans in the federal public service. The very low participation levels of most federal government departments is an ongoing issue, leaving injured veterans with limited future career opportunities. Over 67 injured veterans who wanted to work for the Government of Canada have been denied that opportunity.
“Employment options for medically released veterans can be severely diminished because of their injuries, but in a federal public sector work force of over 380,000 across Canada, employment can be found for all medically released qualified veterans,” said Downe.
Further, the Conservatives promised in 2005 that they would undertake a Veterans Health Care Review, boasting it represented “one of the most extensive health services reviews ever undertaken at Veterans Affairs”.
Almost five years later, there have not been any developments with regard to such a review, and it has all but disappeared from the Veterans Affairs Canada website.
Next is the unfulfilled commitment in addressing the discrepancy between the $3,600 limit for veterans’ funerals versus the $12,700 for funeral and burial expenses for Canadian Forces Members. In March 2010, the Minister of Veterans Affairs promised a comprehensive review of the matter - evidently, this “review” is still ongoing.
The Harper Government also announced a disappointing and very restrictive compensation package for those affected by the spraying of Agent Orange, but Downe was surprised to learn that almost $33 million of the compensation funds put aside were never distributed to the surviving veterans or their families.
Canadian veterans and their families have had to undertake a class action lawsuit in an attempt to force Prime Minister Harper to keep his original promise. The Government of Canada has already spent $7.8 million fighting veterans and their families in opposition to this lawsuit.
Given the Harper Government’s failure to honour their previous promises to veterans and their families, their new and improved promises are being met with scepticism by many in the veteran community.
For further information:
Senator Percy Downe: 613-943-8107
Or toll free at 1-800-267-7362