Londoners Demand Fairness for Veterans
August 30th, 2010 - 12:26am
LONDON– Veterans from both wartime service and peacekeeping deployments gathered with Canadians of all ages, from all walks of life, at the Cenotaph in Victoria Park in downtown London today to share their stories of frustration with the department of Veterans Affairs and to demand parliament take steps to address their issues.
The veterans were joined by London-Fanshawe NDP MP Irene Mathyssen, and Veterans Ombudsman Pat Stogran, who attended to show their continuing support for our veterans. Mathyssen has been an outspoken advocate for local veterans, successfully fighting for tax relief for the Duchess of Kent Legion, and speaking out against bed closures at the Parkwood Veterans Hospital. Stogran has been in the public spotlight since the government announced he would not be reappointed at the end of his term, which has been widely criticized as an attempt to silence the outspoken Ombudsman who has been critical of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
MP Irene Mathyssen and Veterans Ombudsman Stogran greet one another before speaking with the London Free Press
“There is no question that changes regarding how Veterans benefits are administered and what types of benefits are required are desperately needed. We have a bureaucracy with a penny pinching insurance company-like culture that is resistant to change and is impeding the progress of improving the support to Veterans,” said Stogran “and the track record for getting substantive changes through the system is poor.”
Mathyssen said the government and MPs must accept their share of the blame for the current situation “We have a government today that is quick to wrap itself in the flag and claim it ‘Supports the Troops’, every time anyone raises legitimate questions about the kinds of missions our Armed Forces should participate in, but once the troops come home their needs aren’t considered a priority. The proof is in the record. The NDP’s Veterans First Motion was passed in parliament, but enabling legislation has not come forward. When the legislation came forward to end the claw back on RCMP and veterans pensions, the government opposed it. The list goes on and on.”
Hundreds of signatures have already been collected on a petition circulated by rally organizer Sean Wilson, which Mathyssen will table in parliament when the House of Commons resumes in September. The petition calls on MPs to conduct a full and honest debate on the future of Veterans Affairs and the benefits available to Canada’s veterans.
Londoners sign on to veterans petition to parliament
“We have heard many sad stories from several Veterans over the last 2 years. When Veterans at Mr. Stogran’s press conference asked that Canadians stand up for them and that ‘Canada was the new battlefield’, our group decided to take action. These brave people have always served their country without question, and in their time of need we cannot let them down. Canada would be breaking a sacred trust," said Wilson "I appreciate all the support Irene has given us, and all the work Mr. Stogran has done, but they cannot do this alone. I hope Canadians will download the petition and collect signatures, write their own MPs, and demand they take up this cause. I am tired of words. I want to see real, meaningful action, to support our veterans”.