CFN – Seasons greetings from Niagara. The situation is serious so I will delve right to the point with the hope that should you be in touch with other veterans over the holiday season, you might be inclined to discuss the plight of many Canadian disabled veterans and encourage them to support the Advocacy as we fight to have Veterans Affairs Canada’s budget excluded from the governments 5-10 percent deficit reduction austerity program. The department is already under resourced and understaffed, that there unacceptable consequences already being inflicted on our veterans and that any further cuts will only serve to exacerbate the problem.
Ongoing Operations. The CVA continues to focus attention on the government’s proposed 1/2 billion dollar budget cuts to VAC and the consequential impact this will have on the service and standard of care for disabled veterans of all eras. The primary issue these past two weeks have been revelations by the Union Veterans Affairs Employees that have certainly justified the CVA’s battle for a complete exclusion of Veterans Affairs Canada’s operating budget. The quotes provided speak for themselves.
“I’ve had clients pass away before I can get equipment to them,” said Vaillancourt, one of 47 people working at the Island’s main Veterans Affairs office, located in downtown Victoria. Five staff members work at CFB Esquimalt, helping Canadian Forces members transition to civilian life.
“(Veterans are) falling through the cracks,” she said.
…Vaillancourt has 1,200 files, helping veterans or their widows acquire mobility devices, disability benefits and pensions, as well as helping them transition to civilian life. Because her workload is so heavy, the Esquimalt resident said she still can’t get to paperwork from April. Some colleagues are assisting veterans as far away as Regina.
Surely these revelations are of great concern to Minister Blaney and the leadership of Veterans Affairs Canada considering the promises to ensure that the quality of care veterans receive will not be affected by the budget cuts? Do they not also question the validity of streamlining the application, claims and service based resources when there is insufficient level of case managers to provide the services they need in a timely and efficient manner that our disabled veterans deserve? The harsh reality of these claims cannot be denied or dismissed, there must be a comprehensive approach to resolving these gross inadequacies and the formal acknowledgment on behalf of the minister that resources committed to provide for veterans health requirements will not be restricted by the government’s indiscriminate slash and burn approach to deficit-reduction or any dishonourable scheme to pay off the national deficit on the backs of our disabled veterans.
St Anne de Bellevue. Last week, the directors of the Canadian Veterans Advocacy traveled to Montréal from Southern Ontario to support the UVAE’s campaign to ensure that the standard of care for Ste Anne de Bellevue’s 400+ residents have been accorded by Veterans Affairs Canada for nearly a century will be maintained after the facility is transferred to provincial control and converted into a long term care facility open to the general public. Mr. Clark, CVA Client Services and I visited St. Anne’s after the last VAC Stakeholders Committee meeting in October and as reported during the last sit-rep, we were provided with a comprehensive briefing by Madame Gravel on the facilities current status. Mr Lalonde, OSISS, also provided a presentation about the national program and role Ste Anne’s currently provided. The presentations were followed by tours of the wards dedicated to our WW2 and Korean War era veterans. No questions were avoided, information was offered willingly, with great sincerity and with that in mind I would inform you that I was amazed at the standard of care, the compassion…
Our government has a sacred obligation to these 400+ veterans call St. Ann’s their home. Many are suffering not only from service related disabilities but the natural physical and cognitive issues of growing older. A majority of these veterans are between the age of 80 and 95, they have become accustomed to the dedicated efforts VAC has provided and their relationship with staff is far much more complex than that of a orderly/patient relationship. Put yourself in their shoes. Would you like some stranger come into your room at three o’clock in the morning to change your diaper or someone you trust, know, and feel comfortable with after years of care and treatment? This is a issue directly concerning the QUALITY OF LIFE of our World War II and Korean era veterans deserve, the standard of excellence which Veterans Affairs Canada has attained at this facility and the need for binding safeguards, incorporated by the Harper Government, to ensure that the staff and the existing infrastructure responsible for the standard of excellence remains dedicated to veterans once the hospital is transferred.The budget cuts and the issue at Ste. Anne de Bellevue are interconnected, one cannot be separated from the other!
Minister Blaney’s response to our pro-active presence at Ste Anne’s on the 15th does not address the standard of care issue nor the safeguards we are seeking to have implemented on behalf of the residents. The government would deflect attention from the primary issues by prioritizing priority care and services offered in French and English, issues that have never been in question. Minister Blaney did not address the issue of credible safeguards to ensure these veterans live out their lives in the dignified standard they have been provided.
Is it acceptable to you that Canadian veterans are dying before they are being provided the equipment that would have improved the quality of their lives prior to their deaths? Is it acceptable to you that one caseworker would have 1200 files of her desk and is backlogged on some for up to eight months? Is this the standard of care that you would expect for those who have been wounded or injured in the service of their nation? is it any wonder that so many veterans feel that they have been abandoned by this government? How can we ignore the plight of veterans of all eras, of those we have served with, who are suffering from mental or physical trauma and are NOT being provided the services they are entitled to by Veterans Affairs Canada because, even before the HALF BILLION DOLLAR cuts, the department has neither the staff or resources to fulfill its mandate?
Will we abandon the veterans residents of St Anne’s, those who fought at Ortona, Juno Beach, Kapyong, Hills 355 and 187… will we stand passive while our government abandons them to an unknown standard? Will we, veterans and patriots, ignore the plight of the nation’s most vulnerable veterans and the responsibility we have to rally to our brothers/sister in arms defense? Will we ignore the fact that veterans are dying before they are receiving the services they need! Does this reflect the standards of YOUR Canada?
This could be YOU tomorrow! Or your wife, husband, son or daughter; every generation of veterans will be affected…
Shall we to abandon the Sacred Obligation as has our government, who would now, even though profound existing inadequacies have been exposed, further decimate the budget responsible for our wounded warriors, RCMP and Police service officers?
Vigil for Veterans, 1st reading, Budget, House of Commons, Parliament Hill. There is still time for us to unite and to have an impact on the government’s decision. There is still time to fight to have VAC Budget excluded from any deficit reduction schemes, to encourage the Harper Government to accept its moral obligation to our disabled veterans, to honour the Sacred Bond that all Canadian parliaments are obliged to uphold once they send Canada’s Sons and daughters into Harm’s Way. To ensure the government and, equally important, the Canadian public hears our message, the Canadian Veterans Advocacy is organizing a Vigil for Veterans RALLY on Parliament Hill to coincide with the first reading of the budget in the House of Commons.
We must put a face to the misery the Harper government will inflict upon veterans of all eras should they follow through with the proposed budget cuts. Our mission, which will be conducted with great respect and dignity, will be to focus the nation’s attention on the current level of substandard treatment our veterans are being accorded by questioning the commitment they have to Canada’s wounded warriors and veterans, those who will suffer the profoundly adverse effects any further cuts would bear upon an already overburdened department?
Let us be realistic, the system is already deeply flawed, under-resourced and over-stretched. A further half billion dollars in budget reduction will leave no VAC client unaffected, whether it be through the abandonment of the standard of excellence the residents of Ste Anne de Bellevue currently enjoy or the counter-productive impact (see Victoria link) on VAC’s ability to provide services at a standard inclusive of prompt service and the expedient provision of treatment/services/compensation.
The Canadian Veterans Advocacy is encouraging veterans and Canadian patriots, those who have not served but support veterans honourable quest to defend our wounded veterans, to join with us on Parliament Hill during the 1st reading of the 2012 budget in the House of Commons. Strategically, this is a period where the national media, on all levels/mediums, traditionally provides live, nationwide coverage. We hope the concurrent presence of as many disabled veterans as we can muster and their supporters outside the House of Commons on Parliament Hill will provide an opportunity to focus national attention on the TRUTH, that our message will be broadcast into the homes of millions of Canadians. God willing, they will hear veterans cries, they will feel compassion for the the suffering these unjust policies are/have created and with true patriot love, they will rally to our cause to support those who have suffered the consequences of war and peace
We cannot, as a veterans community, win this battle alone.
We do not have the numbers or the unified presence of the traditional veteran’s organizations, nor is their time to launch a campaign to solicit their help. The task falls to us, veterans who believe that the oath of allegiance does not have an expiry date, that the bond we share with our brothers/sisters in arms is as strong now as it was when we served. We must adapt, recognize that we must attain the general public’s support if we are to generate the levels of political pressure required to convince the government of Canada to embrace is SACRED OBLIGATION to our troops, not shun it as they have been doing these past five years.
This situation is further compounded by the fact that the budget issue is time sensitive, ie, BUDGET DAY!
The strongest weapon in the Canadian Veterans Advocacy’s arsenal at this time is the TRUTH!
If we can assemble under one voice, if we focus Canadians attention on the consequences of the budget cuts to Canada’s Sons and Daughters, military, RCMP and Police Services veterans… we can prevail.
Once the parliamentary budget dates are set, formal announcements will be issued in relationship to the time and duration of the rally. Artist Don Ward has created some posters for the CVA, samples of which I have attached.
I repeat! The situation is critical, veterans of all eras, of all wars, peacekeeping and peacemaking missions are directly threatened by the impact these arbitrary budget cuts will impart to VAC’s ability to provide expedient and proficient care to Canada’s sons and daughters who have sacrificed so much in Canada’s name.
Budget day! Think about it. Think about what you can do to make a difference in a disabled veteran and his family’s life?
The CVA executive will be traveling to Ottawa from Niagara Falls, a very long trip (for me-health) but one that is absolutely necessary if we are to lead by example.I would encourage you to follow team Niagara’s example, to muster a car or vanload of veterans from your community, share travel expenses to stand beside us on Parliament Hill for the afternoon for what very well could one of the most important events in veterans advocacy. Your presence will make a profound difference, the effort they YOU made to journey to Ottawa symbolic of the patriotic spirit we share to ensure that all veterans, of all eras, are treated with the dignified standard of care reflective of a nation that acknowledges the Sacred Obligation parliament has for those they send to abroad to wage war, enforce the peace or engage in humanitarian operations in the aftermath the globe’s most destructive natural catastrophes in Canada’s name.
Pennies for Veterans. Once again I would extend our gratitude to the anonymous donor who deposited a little over $1800 to the Pennies for Veterans national bank account. Funds generated through this program/account are fully dedicated to supporting authenticated homeless veterans outreach programs. Since July 10, when the program was inaugurated at the Canadian Veterans National Rendezvous in Niagara Falls, we have raised close to $5000. To date, we have sent $1000 to Calgary Constable John Langford’s homeless veterans housing project in Calgary and $3000 to Halifax based Veterans Emergency Transitions Services (VETS) Canada’s proactive outreach operation in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The CVA is a long-standing supporter of the VETS Canada and after meeting with president and founder Jim Lowther at the CVNRV this past summer and discussed the VETS Canada concept at length, recognizes the urgent need for a dedicated organization willing to conduct proactive, ie, go out on the streets, outreach programs that focus on the plight of homeless veterans. Jim and his team have led the way in Halifax and over the past year has established an organization capable of effectively seeking out and offering assistance to veterans who are living on the streets of Halifax. We share in his dream to expand this project to include a home wherein veterans in transition have a place to reside with the proper levels of peer/professional support and without the pressures of living on the streets in reference to addictions or any other form of self-destructive behavior. We hope this will be a pilot project, one that will eventually expand throughout Canada, particularly in locations, such as Halifax, wherein there are no dedicated veterans organizations present to address their needs.
I trust we have provided enough things to ponder over the holiday period and as we enjoy the joyous time with loved ones and friends, I would encourage you to spare a thought about the times when you/we served this nation abroad at this wonderful time, of those who shared this profound experience, many who need our help now and those longer present to share in our good fortune. Their spirit lives within our memories, we have only to remember…
On behalf of the entire CVA team, I would extend to you a wonderful holiday season resplendent with the warmth of loved ones, good health, good friendship, good cheer, prosperity in spirit and happiness in the New Year.
Pro Patria Semper Fidelis
Michael L Blais CD
Founder/President, Canadian Veterans Advocacy
Harper Drive, Niagara Falls, Ont, Cda.
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