LONDON – The announcement by the Government of Canada that a new centre for injured soldiers will be built in London this spring is a step in the right direction for local veterans and their families.

For more than a year, veterans, military families, and veterans organizations have been working with NDP MP Irene Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe) to pressure Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to provide better support to veterans who have served in the Canadian Forces since the Korean War.

“I am cautiously optimistic that this new centre for injured soldiers will be a first step towards establishing the Veterans Centres of Excellence my colleague NDP MP, Peter Stoffer (Sackville-Eastern Shore), has been calling for over the past several months,” says Mathyssen.

Although London’s Parkwood Veterans Hospital has been providing excellent care for WWI, WWII, and Korean War Veterans for many years, it does not have a mandate to serve veterans of more recent deployments.

“I am concerned however, that this was a Department of Defence announcement, and not a Veterans Affairs announcement. I understand we have injured soldiers coming home from Afghanistan later this year, but what about the veterans who served in Bosnia, Rwanda, and other conflicts who still aren’t able to access the treatment and support they need?” asked Mathyssen.

In recent debates in parliament over Bill C-55, which is supposed to improve the Veterans Charter, Mathyssen questioned why the legislation consistently referred to “may provide” instead of “shall provide” in its clauses.

“When our soldiers come home, when they become our veterans, we acknowledge they have fought for our country. They shouldn’t have to fight their own government when they get home in order to receive the benefits and support they were promised,” Mathyssen says, “I hope this announcement of a new centre in London is a first step towards treating all of our veterans with the respect and dignity they deserve.”