November 19, 2013
Ottawa – The Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs, today made his inaugural appearance before the House of Commons' Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs since his appointment as Minister in July. Before committee, Minister Fantino reiterated the Government's support for a comprehensive review of the New Veterans Charter, including all the enhancements that have been made to it to date, with a special focus placed on the most seriously injured, support for families and the delivery of programs by Veterans Affairs Canada.
During his appearance, the Minister asked the Committee to consult with Veterans and other key stakeholders on options for how the New Veterans Charter could clearly define and demonstrate the Government of Canada's relationship with Canadian Veterans.
"The work our Government does each day to serve Canadian Veterans can be called many things: duty, responsibility, commitment, social contract, sacred obligation or covenant. It is all of those things," said Minister Fantino. "Our Government is committed to ensuring that we give Canada's Veterans the clarity they have asked for. As part of the comprehensive review, I have asked the Committee to determine how best we can state our commitment to Canada's Veterans, and what is the best format for doing so."
The New Veterans Charter, which was passed unanimously by Parliament in 2005 and implemented in 2006, is specifically designed to provide Veterans with the tools, assistance and support they need to effectively transition into civilian life and continue to contribute their exceptional leadership skills to building a strong and resilient Canada, just as they did in uniform.
The New Veterans Charter was reviewed by Parliament in 2011. Enhancements made through that review include legislative and regulatory changes which total $2 billion in new investments over the life of key programs. These changes increased support for severely injured Veterans and their families facing the greatest challenges making the transition to civilian life, and ensured ill and injured Veterans have an adequate income.
"Through the comprehensive parliamentary review, we are listening to Veterans and their families, and building on the160 recommendations that have already been incorporated into the New Veterans Charter in order to make responsible changes to better support our former personnel," said Minister Fantino.
The comprehensive review of the New Veterans Charter, by legislators and with input from Veterans, their family members, public officials, the Veterans Ombudsman and the Veterans stakeholder community, serves as a key forum to find responsible changes to improve the already robust systems of support in place to help Canada's Veterans.
Veterans Affairs Canada's support and services offer the right care at the right time to achieve the best results for Veterans and their families. Find out more at veterans.gc.ca.
2013 is the Year of the Korean War Veteran—Canada proudly remembers the heroes of the Korean War and their brave fight to defend the Republic of Korea and uphold freedom, democracy and the rule of law. For more information on Canada's role in the Korean War, visit veterans.gc.ca.
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Media Relations Advisor
Veterans Affairs Canada
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs
Please also note the hyperlinks in the web version of the Minister's speech from earlier today. These links will direct you to a list of key actions taken to address former advisory committee recommendations related to the New Veterans Charter.
Web version of the speech can be found here:
Speaking notes for Notes d'allocution de
THE HONOURABLE L'HONORABLE
Minister of Veterans Affairs Ministre des Anciens Combattants
the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Please check Le discours
against delivery prononcé fait foi
THANK YOU FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO APPEAR TODAY AS PART OF THE COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW OF THE NEW VETERANS CHARTER.
IN 2011, PARLIAMENT PASSED BILL C-55, WHICH CREATED ONE NEW MONTHLY PAYMENT, EXPANDED THE ELIGIBILITY FOR TWO MONTHLY FINANCIAL BENEFITS AND ALLOWED VETERANS TO BREAK THEIR LUMP SUM INTO MORE FLEXIBLE TERMS.
IT ALSO ADDED A REQUIREMENT THAT THESE NEW MEASURES BE REVIEWED BY PARLIAMENT IN 2013.
UPON TAKING OFFICE, I HEARD CLEARLY FROM THE VETERANS OMBUDSMAN, VETERANS' GROUPS AND STAKEHOLDERS THAT A WIDER REVIEW OF THE NEW VETERANS CHARTER WAS NEEDED.
I THEREFORE ASKED MY PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO ENSURE A COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW OF THE NEW VETERANS CHARTER WAS TO BE TAKEN UP IN SHORT ORDER.
AND I AM PLEASED TO BE HERE TO DISCUSS HOW WE CAN IMPROVE THE NEW VETERANS CHARTER FOR VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES.
AS YOU UNDERTAKE THIS REVIEW, I'D LIKE TO TAKE A MINUTE TO DISCUSS MY HOPES FOR YOUR WORK.
IT IS MY FIRM BELIEF THAT YOU SHOULD FOCUS THE REVIEW ON HOW THE NEW VETERANS CHARTER SERVES THE MOST SERIOUSLY INJURED; HOW OUR GOVERNMENT SUPPORTS CANADIAN VETERANS' FAMILIES; AND ON HOW VETERANS AFFAIRS DELIVERS THE PROGRAMS YOU HAVE PUT IN PLACE.
COLLEAGUES, THE NEW VETERANS CHARTER WAS UNANIMOUSLY PASSED BY PARLIAMENT UNDER THE FORMER GOVERNMENT AFTER YEARS OF DEBATE AND STUDY AMONG EXPERTS, VETERANS REPRESENTATIVES AND VETERANS THEMSELVES.
WHILE WE CAN NEVER SAY EVERYONE, THE VAST MAJORITY OBVIOUSLY CONCLUDED THE OLD PENSION SYSTEM HAD OUTLIVED ITS USEFULNESS.
I ENCOURAGE MEMBERS TO READ THE SENATE'S REPORT ON THE NEW VETERANS CHARTER, WHICH THEY ISSUED LAST YEAR.
I WOULD ALSO HIGHLIGHT A COMMENT SENATOR ROMEO DALLAIRE STATED UPON ITS INTRODUCTION IN THE OTHER PLACE:
"IT IS WITH GREAT ANTICIPATION THAT I AM SPEAKING TO THE NEW VETERANS CHARTER, WHICH PROPOSES TO MODERNIZE OUR VETERANS' ASSISTANCE AND COMPENSATION PROGRAM. IT IS, IN FACT, A NEW SOCIAL CONTRACT BETWEEN THE PEOPLE OF CANADA AND OUR VETERANS, BOTH PAST AND PRESENT."
ADVANCES IN MEDICAL KNOWLEDGE AND DISABILITY MANAGEMENT, AND CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS AMONG THE VETERANS POPULATION WERE JUST SOME OF THE CHANGES THAT LED TO THIS NEW APPROACH IN 2005.
AS THE SITUATION FACING CANADIAN VETERANS CHANGED FROM 2005 TO TODAY, SO TOO HAS THE NEW VETERANS CHARTER AND HOW IT IS APPLIED.
AS I SPEAK, MY OFFICIALS ARE DISTRIBUTING COPIES OF A REPORT MY DEPARTMENT HAS PRODUCED WHICH OUTLINES 160 ADOPTED RECOMMENDATIONS THAT LED TO 107 IMPROVEMENTS TO THE ADMINISTRATION OF BENEFITS AND SERVICES UNDER THE NEW VETERANS CHARTER.
THESE CHANGES REPRESENT OUR COLLECTIVE EFFORT TO KEEP PACE WITH CHANGING TIMES, BUT I WILL BE THE FIRST TO AGREE THAT MORE MUST BE DONE.
COLLEAGUES, SINCE 2005 WE HAVE SEEN THE EFFECTS OF THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN ON OUR MILITARY MEN AND WOMEN.
WHILE NEW PAYMENT AND OPTIONS WERE PROVIDED TO VETERANS IN 2011 THAT PROVIDED MORE FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN SERIOUSLY INJURED, I AM CONVINCED MORE CAN AND SHOULD BE DONE.
OUR COMMITMENT TO VETERANS IS ABSOLUTE AND HAS BEEN SINCE OUR GOVERNMENT WAS FIRST FORMED IN 2006.
ONE MUST ONLY LOOK AT THE OVERALL VETERANS AFFAIRS BUDGET TO SEE HOW EVEN DURING A RECESSION AND A GOVERNMENT-WIDE COST-REDUCTION EXERCISE, VETERANS AFFAIRS SPENDS APPROXIMATELY $700 MILLION MORE ANNUALLY TODAY IN 2013 THAN IN 2005.
THE WORK OUR GOVERNMENT DOES EACH DAY HAS BEEN AND CAN BE CALLED MANY THINGS: DUTY, RESPONSIBILITY, COMMITMENT, SOCIAL CONTRACT, SACRED OBLIGATION OR COVENANT. COLLEAGUES, I BELIEVE IT IS ALL OF THOSE THINGS.
THEREFORE, AS PART OF THIS REVIEW, I ASK YOU TO DETERMINE HOW BEST TO STATE OUR COMMITMENT TO CANADIANS AND THEIR FAMILIES AND WHAT IS THE BEST FORMAT TO DO SO IN THE NEW VETERANS CHARTER.
IT IS IMPORTANT THAT CANADIANS EXPRESS, THOUGH THE PARLIAMENTARY PROCESS, EXACTLY WHAT IS OUR SHARED DUTY, RESPONSIBILITY, MANDATE, OBLIGATION, COMMITMENT OR COVENANT TO CANADIAN VETERANS.
RETURNING TO THE CHANGING TIMES; VETERANS AFFAIRS OFFICES IN NINE LOCATIONS ACROSS CANADA HAVE SEEN DEMAND DROP, AND SO YES, THEY ARE BEING CLOSED. SOME OF THESE OFFICES HAVE SEEN DEMAND DROP TO FEWER THAN SEVEN VISITS ON AVERAGE PER DAY, WITH MANY OF THESE VISITS FOR DROPPING OFF PAPERWORK.
BUT WHERE VETERANS NEED THEM MOST, OUR GOVERNMENT HAS MAINTAINED 26 VETERANS AFFAIRS CANADA SERVICE CENTRES, AND HAS ESTABLISHED AND SUPPORTS 24 INTEGRATED PERSONNEL SUPPORT CENTRES AND 17 OPERATIONAL STRESS INJURY CLINICS.
IN TOTAL, VETERANS AFFAIRS WILL HAVE 67 LOCATIONS ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO MEET THE CHANGING NEED. BUT THIS IS AGAIN ONLY PART OF THE STORY.
NOW, IN LOCATIONS WHERE VETERANS AFFAIRS HAS NEVER OPERATED BEFORE, VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES CAN VISIT ONE OF 600 SERVICE CANADA SITES TO GET THE INFORMATION THEY NEED.
AS TIMES HAVE CHANGED, SO TOO HAVE THE RATES PAID UNDER THE FUNERAL AND BURIAL PROGRAM.
THE AVERAGE COST OF A FUNERAL TODAY IN CANADA IS JUST OVER $7,000. THAT IS WHY LAST SPRING OUR GOVERNMENT INCREASED THE MAXIMUM PAYMENT TO $7,376 WHILE PROVIDING AN ADDITIONAL $1,200 ON AVERAGE TO VETERANS' FAMILIES FOR ANY BURIAL COSTS.
WE HAVE ONE OF THE MOST ROBUST PROGRAMS OF OUR ALLIES—THE UNITED KINGDOM PROVIDES $3,500 AND NEW ZEALAND PROVIDES $1,800. ALL NOTED IN CANADIAN DOLLARS.
IT IS CLEAR THIS PROGRAM HAS KEPT UP WITH THE CHANGING TIMES, BECAUSE OF IMPROVEMENTS MADE BY OUR GOVERNMENT.
I WILL ALSO TAKE A MOMENT TO SPEAK ABOUT THE SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATES B, WHICH THIS YEAR INCLUDES A REQUEST FOR ANOTHER $20 MILLION DOLLARS TO SUPPORT CANADIAN VETERANS' FUNERAL COSTS, OUR COMMEMORATIVE PROMOTION CAMPAIGN, AND FOR INCREASES TO THE WAR VETERANS ALLOWANCE AND OTHER HEALTH-RELATED BENEFITS.
THIS FURTHER REQUEST FOR NEW FINANCIAL SUPPORT BUILDS ON OUR GOVERNMENT'S RECORD OF ALMOST $5 BILLION DOLLARS IN TOTAL NEW FINANCIAL SUPPORT SINCE 2006.
WITH OUR ADMINISTRATION COSTS ON THE DECLINE, WE ARE FOCUSING ON DELIVERING MORE VALUE IN OUR VETERANS SERVICES WHILE MAINTAINING AND IMPROVING SERVICE.
ONE FINAL THOUGHT BEFORE I TAKE YOUR QUESTIONS:
THE EXERCISE ON WHICH YOU ARE EMBARKING IS NOT ONE OF THE ELUSIVE PURSUIT OF PERFECTION, BUT RATHER ABOUT FINDING THE RIGHT SOLUTIONS FOR THOSE VETERANS AND FAMILIES WHO NEED THEM THE MOST.
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