Canadian Veterans Advocacy

Friday, May 30, 2014

Fantino rushes from committee with RCAF spouse in pursuit


CTV News Channel: 'That was the ultimate truth'
Jenifer Migneault says the incident shows the ultimate truth into how Julian Fantino treats veterans.

Fantino rushes from committee with RCAF spouse in pursuit

Fantino challenged by families on $4M for TV ads to counter PTSD 'misinformation'

Veterans girding for fresh battle with federal government

Anciens combattants: Accueil hostile pour le ministre Fantino

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Monday, May 26, 2014

New announcement: Meet the modern-day voice of Canada's veterans

Meet the modern-day voice of Canada's veterans

David Pugliese More from David Pugliese
Published on: May 26, 2014Last Updated: May 26, 2014 11:35 AM EDT

In the last several years, a new breed of veterans' advocates has emerged, including Mike Blais, founder of Canadian Veterans Advocacy. Unlike many of their counterparts from years before, these veterans don't believe in remaining silent or working behind the scenes.

They have faced the ire of Conservative MPs and party organizers. Last year, Blais was branded an extremist by Daniel Dickin, president of the Ottawa South Conservative Association, who claimed that Blais advocated threats and civil disobedience. In fact, Blais had spoken out against such activities.

Blais joined the Canadian Forces in 1977; seven years later, he suffered a serious back injury during a mission in Cyprus. In 1993, he was medically released from the military.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. Why did you start Canadian Veterans Advocacy in 2010?

A. The foundation of that was a sense of duty to those in my regiment who were serving in Afghanistan. I was the president of the local RCR (Royal Canadian Regiment) association. I went to a ceremony in Hamilton and I got talking to these young fellas. Man, I was stunned: These guys were coming home with serious wounds and felt like they were being cast adrift.

Another reason was the manner in which the government treated Pat Stogran as Veterans Ombudsman (he had been outspoken on behalf of veterans and his term was not renewed). That was one of the reasons I organized the first Canadian veterans' day of national protest, because of the way he was so unjustly treated.

Q. You seem to have become the focus of a number of Conservative MPs and party members who have launched personal attacks on you. Why?

A. I'm a volunteer. I'm a veteran. The message I may bring may not resonate too well with the government but it's a message that has been decided by the wounded veterans and their families. It's not Mike Blais picking words out of my hat. I'm the voice of many who are afraid to speak out.

Q. What about the more traditional organizations such as the Royal Canadian Legion?

A. They abandoned us with their support of the government's New Veterans Charter. They would support a standard (of support) that is much lower for the modern veteran, than the standard they had fought so strongly for, for the traditional veteran, myself included.

I'm on the Pension Act. I was injured when I was 35. My pain and suffering award could almost equate to $2 million by the time I die. Meanwhile, Afghan veteran Maj. Mark Campbell gets a $280,000 lump-sum award for losing two legs and other serious injuries including severe PTSD. What the hell happened there? Why are we treating a veteran like that?

Q. Do you think things will improve?

A. I believe there will be improvements. I believe that because a movement is starting to rise. I feel that it started when the veterans came in to Ottawa from down East about the Veterans Affairs district office closures and the abhorrent way that Minister (Julian) Fantino treated them. I think that was a tipping point.

For a while, it seemed it was modern veterans fighting for modern veterans and the old guys were kind of on the sidelines. But when that happened with Fantino, when he disrespected that 88-year old World War Two veteran, when Afghan veteran Bruce Moncur who has five per cent of his brain removed because of his injuries, was disrespected, I think a lot of multi-generational veterans got really pissed off.

Q. Any closing words?

A. I would encourage all veterans to reach out to their MPs. We cannot affect change on the New Veterans Charter until we get all MPs from all parties to embrace their sacred obligation to veterans. Now we have the Liberals on board. We have the NDP on board. Now it's time for the veterans' community to focus on the Conservatives. At this time they are the only political organization in Canada who is not fulfilling their sacred obligation to veterans.

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Friday, May 16, 2014

New announcement: Town Hall Meeting: Julian Fantino may soon be leaving the Harper government

Fantino a go go! I have heard through the grapevine Fantino will be doing a cross country trip soon to meet with veterans in town meetings. Time to rally, time to have your voice heard. Hopefully, he wont have the "binder" he uses to Question Period to answer your questions

Once the schedule is up, we will be posting times and dates. He will be in BC next week, there will not be much time to rally. Should anybody wish to PROTEST, I am good with that!!!!!

Veterans deserve SO much better.

Consider this a warning order.

Robocalls in Ontario fuel rumours of Fantino's resignation

Amid calls for his resignation, curious robocalls in Vaughan fuel rumours that Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino may soon be leaving the Harper government.
Matthew Millar
Posted: May 16th, 2014

Mysterious robocalls in Ontario have people wondering if Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino is considering his future after federal politics, the Vancouver Observer has learned.

Residents of Vaughan, Ontario -- a suburb North of Toronto -- received robocalls surveying their likelihood to vote for Fantino as Mayor of Vaughan in the municipal election slated for October 27, 2014.

Multiple sources in the region confirm that the calls were received shortly after 7:00 p.m. local time on May 15 and asked residents whether they would vote for Fantino, or the incumbent Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua.

"I was surprised to get this call. And to hear that Fantino appears to be running for Mayor of Vaughan. The robocall poll only listed two people -- Mr. Fantino and Mr. Bevilacqua -- and it asked who I would vote for, Fantino or Bevilacqua," said Vaughan resident Carrie Liddy.

"It looks like they are getting ready to run a campaign for Fantino in Vaughan and they are testing the waters to see if the public is favourable to electing him as Mayor," said Liddy.

Sonia Meucci was also 'shocked' when she heard the minister's name in the call.

"I normally hang up on these calls, but because we're having a provincial election, I stayed on the line," she said. "It said they were conducting a poll for Vaughan which seemed out of the ordinary. When I heard Fantino's name as a future Mayoral candidate -- I was shocked, because he's a federal minister," said Meucci.
'Every intention' to continue as Veterans Affairs Minister

Despite strong calls for his resignation earlier this year from veterans, Fantino has steadfastly maintained he would not step down. The Minister did not respond to media requests, but Nicholas Bergamini, Fantino's press secretary said:

"I don't know where you got it from. I don't really care, and it is completely off base -- don't waste your time. This is categorically false. Minister Fantino has every intention to remain as the Member of Parliament for Vaughan, and in his role as the Minister of Veterans Affairs".

Fantino is currently the Conservative Member of Parliament for Vaughan -- a riding once held by Bevilacqua with the federal Liberals until 2010. Liberal sources state that the calls were not associated with Bevilacqua. Neither Fantino or Bevilacqua have formally registered as candidates in the Vaughan municipal election.

The calls were conducted by the Conservative-friendly Grassroots Public Affairs from a Toronto based number associated with the company. When reached for comment, an automatic voicemail identifies the number as a "research line for Grassroots Public Affairs".

Caller ID showing a May 15 polling robocall from Grassroots Public Affairs.

According to Grassroots' website, company principal Peter Seemann "has been involved in Canadian politics since 1993. Through his political activism, Peter has forged many strong relationships within the current federal Conservative party and the Progressive Conservative Party in Ontario".

Also listed as part of the Grassroots Public Affairs team is Gary Grant, a retired Toronto Police Service Staff Superintendent. Fantino was Chief of the Toronto Police Service and later Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police between 2005 and 2010.

When reached for comment about the robocall, Seemann wrote:

"We do work for a variety of clients on three levels of government. The question you refer to was only one of several elated to the current municipal race in Vaughan. We do not disclose information on who we are doing research for."

Fantino has been heavily criticized for his role as Veterans Affairs minister, with calls for his resignation after showing up over an hour late to a meeting with veterans in Ottawa in February, resulting in an explosive and emotional press conference lambasting the minister.

The federal government has come under fire over the recent closure of eight regional Veterans Affairs offices, and also over the ongoing debate about the mental health services available to vets and compensation for injured soldiers.

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

One Day of Honouring Veterans Will Never Make Up For a Lifetime of Disrespect

One Day of Honouring Veterans Will Never Make Up For a Lifetime of Disrespect

When I was asked to write about the Day of Honour I found it difficult. I knew that the sooner I finished the better, but I had a hard time wrapping my head around it. The ceremony itself went off without a hitch. The military worked within the seven-week time frame flawlessly, DND followed the word of command and put on a parade that would make Caesar jealous, while cities across Canada honoured the 40,000-plus Afghan veterans with a display of gratitude that was truly appreciated. Despite these facts, I have misgivings about painting a happy picture of military affairs in Canada. One day of organized remembrance does not undo the actions -- or lack thereof -- of our government on every other day. I fear that our veterans continue to be mistreated and disrespected within a system that ignores their sacrifices on a daily basis.

It is truly amazing to watch Canadian soldiers work with what they have. Very few nations can boast of a military able to overcome such adversity. Canada has ships that break down in the Pacific and have to be towed to Hawaii, there are submarines that don't sink or float, and the Sea King helicopters require 100 hours of maintenance for every hour of flight time. I've heard that the company that made the Sea King has even requested an inspection of the helicopters because they never intended them to be used for over 40 years. The current Canadian contribution to the NATO mission supporting Ukraine is a great opportunity for other nations to see the equipment that their grandfathers used. Combat tested reservists -- men and women who volunteered to go to war, putting job and family on hold for over a year -- have returned to their civilian lives and reserve units and due to budgetary cutbacks are forced to use militia bullets (the act of saying "bang" with your mouth) on weekend exercises. I've done it.

The day before the National Day of Honour, I decided to visit the National War Museum. As I walked through the museum I noticed that it ended at the Canadian mission in Bosnia. There was no indication at all that Canada had ever sent a mission to Afghanistan. I followed my visit with a walk along the Ottawa River and as I went to cut up Elgin Street, I found construction crews working on the National War Memorial. Communication for the May 9 ceremony was abysmal, apparently the plans leading up to parade for the Day of Honour were need to know, and veterans did not need to know.

Originally, families of the fallen were told that they would not have to pay for their travel expenses to attend the Day of Honour. Unfortunately, within 24 hours of that announcement the decision was reversed. Further information was quickly released that the charity, True Patriot Love, was going to cover the expenses. However, to cover the costs, a breakfast was held on the morning of the ceremony at the Ottawa Convention Center where donors could pay 1,000 dollars a plate to attend. In a Dion Quintuplet type scenario, the families of the fallen were to be put on display to the highest bidder to cover the cost of attendance at their day of honour. It was at this time that I became aware of the fact that doing nothing might be better than doing something.

It was Facebook that showed me how to sign up for the National Day of Honour. If it were not for the Canadian Veterans Advocacy (CVA -- a group dedicated to improving the quality of life of our veterans), I would have had no idea how to even sign up for the parade. The government made no attempt to contact me or -- to my knowledge -- any other Afghan vet.

When I arrived at the ceremony I did not anticipate having to march on parade. I was conflicted, and yet I fell in to ranks. A retired colonel began to delegate, immediately appointing a Regimental Sergeant Major RSM to form us up. They began to call out drill, but I could not bring myself to follow the word of command. Being called to attention, after all of the grief my injury caused me, was too difficult. Veterans Affairs of Canada legislation is set up in such a way that a penetrating head injury like the one I sustained in Afghanistan will garner you 10 per cent of 298,000 dollars. I will not come to attention.

Julian Fantino compares Rob Ford's addiction struggles with the PTSD suffered by soldiers like myself. I will not turn to the right in threes. The conservative government is currently arguing that the "moral obligation" owed to injured veterans spoken of by former Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden does not apply to those veterans now. When we were a poorer country, with more veterans and less people, there was a moral obligation. But when we are a richer country with less veterans and more people, the moral obligation no longer applies. I argue that you must possess and act in honour to declare a day in support of it.

This should be a cautionary tale to everyone. The veterans' inability to come together proved to be their downfall. Anyone currently serving will not speak up about poor treatment. World War II veterans are dying at a rate greater than a 1,000 a month. Veterans' associations are working in their member's interests, but do not appear interested in working together. Charities will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars so that the government does not have to pay to bring 158 families of the fallen out to Ottawa. Twenty years ago, the legion had 500,000 members. Today there is only a little over 300,000 and of that number 70,000 are veterans, 40,000 of whom are above the age of 80. The legion will soon have to transition into a civilian organization to survive. Our failure to unite as veterans has left us vulnerable and the government has seized the opportunity to slash the department of Veterans Affairs.

The honour that I witnessed on May 9, 2014 was that of a group of men and women who will continue to be mistreated and disrespected. They will continue to hold their heads high and follow commands from a man that speaks of honour and then allows his representatives to walk out on veteran delegations and dispute moral obligations to those injured in war.

There is nothing left to protect the rights of veterans in Canada but the Canadian people. There is no union. A soldier cannot sue the federal government. I believe that no one is safe from a government able to do this to veterans. I have often wondered if Canada was like this when I went to war in 2006. If it was, instead of my brains back I want my naivety.

Bruce Moncur: Canadian Afghanistan War Veterans Association

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

New announcement: Parliament Has To Do Better For Veterans, Says Advocate

Parliament Has To Do Better For Veterans, Says Advocate

From veterans advocate Sean Bruyea: His testimony to House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance-May 14, 2014

Thank you Mr. Chair and honourable members of Committee. You have much on your plate so I will skip further formalities.

On May 29, 2012, coincidental with the announcement to not appeal the class action lawsuit involving the Canadian Armed Forces insurance plan known as SISIP, the Government of Canada committed to cease the offsetting of Pension Act pain and suffering monthly payments from four plans: Earnings Loss Benefit, Canadian Forces Income Support, War Veterans Allowance and Civilian War-related Benefits. I will speak specifically about the Earnings Loss Benefit or ELB.

ELB, is an income loss program and a key pillar of the controversial legislation commonly known as the New Veterans Charter.

Bill C-31 provides retroactivity in returning to the veterans the Pension Act pain and suffering deduction offsets of ELB from May 29 to September 30, 2012.

During the launch of the New Veterans Charter including the Earnings Loss Benefit on April 6, 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised that "Our troops' commitment and service to Canada entitles them to the very best treatment possible. This Charter is but a first step towards according Canadian veterans the respect and support they deserve."

If government has decided that the policy of offsetting monthly Pension Act payments from ELB is not what our "troops deserved" on May 29, 2012 did our troops deserve the unfair deductions on May 28, 2012? For that matter did our troops deserve the unfair deductions any day back to April 6, 2006 when the Earnings Loss Benefit was created?

ELB is clearly an income loss program. The Pension Act is indisputably a program for pain and suffering. Our courts have long stipulated that income loss is to be maintained completely separate from general damages otherwise known as pain and suffering payments. No other provincial civilian workplace insurance program in Canada deducts pain and suffering payments from income loss programs. Why are our disabled military veterans and their families subjected to an unjustifiable lesser standard from April 2006 to May 2012? ? ?Even if we ignore the strong legal precedent of not deducting pain and suffering payments from income loss programs, this arbitrary retroactive date of May 29, 2012 comes across as petty. The indefensible retroactive date creates additional classes of veterans once again. Those in the SISIP class action lawsuit had the problem rectified back to the date SISIP began offsetting Pension Act payments. Why are ELB recipients not accorded the same dignity? The appearance of justice being done is plainly not reflected in Bill C-31.

Should you pass this legislation as is, you will force the most disabled veterans under the flagship Conservative veterans' benefit program, the New Veterans Charter, to enter the paralytic morass of years of unnecessary and bitter legal battles. These battles will sap the health, family stability and dignity of military veterans and their families. We say we honour our injured veterans as a nation and a government but Parliament's actions often speak otherwise. Before we hesitate because of cost, please remember these disabled veterans never hesitated when Parliament ordered them into situations knowing full well many would die or be disabled for life.

Major Todd, the architect of the Pension Act philosophy of pain and suffering payments stated in 1919, "Those who give public service do not so for themselves alone but for the society in which they are a part. Therefore, each citizen should share equally in the suffering which war brings to this nation."

This is just one tangible and clear example of the debt we keep promising to repay our veterans but do not.

What is also troubling about Bill C-31, is what is absent, what further debts we must pay. The Earnings Loss Benefit is not being increased to 100% of military release salary while providing lost potential career earnings. Yet civilian workplace compensation schemes recognize this lost potential. Boosting ELB to 100% has been emphatically pushed by the major veterans' groups, the two VAC advisory groups tasked to study the matter as well as the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. There are also no provisions for providing childcare and spousal income assistance to the most disabled veterans. These most disabled are not supported for education upgrades or to pursue any employment opportunity to better themselves and improve their esteem. The monthly supplement provided under Bill C-55 in 2011 is denied those seriously disabled veterans collecting Exceptional Incapacity Allowance under the Pension Act.

My first of now eight parliamentary committee appearances was in front of the Senate version of this committee, National Finance, on May 11, 2005. Then I raised and continue to raise serious concerns about the New Veterans Charter. My concerns were generally ignored by government but not by veterans and the public. Had substantive action been taken then, we would not be in year eight of the tragic mess in how our veterans are mistreated and often pushed aside by both the New Veterans Charter and Veterans Affairs Canada. The Special Needs Advisory Group and the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group created as a result of Parliament's concerns in 2005 were summarily and without warning terminated. They have never been able to verify if their good work has ever been implemented.

I also warned Parliament of harassment of those who opposed the New Veterans Charter. This was also ignored only to explode on the national media stage five years later with what some call the largest individual privacy breach in our history, my privacy.

As such, provisions such as those which would allow CRA to voluntarily hand over highly confidential taxpayer's data to the police without the approval of a judge send shivers down my spine as they should with every Canadian. Surely the magnitude of Bill C-31 is disconcerting. The consequence of ignoring the concerns of Canadians and veterans is a perilous road.

Undoubtedly Parliamentarians and the Public Service work hard for democracy. However, none can claim to have sacrificed what our military has sacrificed to preserve our democratic way of life. The omnibus budget bill does not meet Canada's democratic standard. It allows many changes to Canada's laws to enter the backdoor of government policy without full participatory and democratic due process.

Ramming through legislation without proper scrutiny is an insult to the dignity of all that the military has sacrificed in Canada's name and at Parliament's orders. The omnibus budget bill is a perversion of democracy, a democracy for which almost 120,000 Canadians have lost their lives and hundreds of thousands more have lived and continue to live with lifelong disabilities as a result of serving our nation.

Surely Parliament can do better.

Thank you.

Source: Parliament Has To Do Better For Veterans, Says Advocate

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

New announcement: Parliament Has No Obligation to Fight for Veterans, Even though Veterans Fight

"Parliament Has No Obligation to Fight for Veterans, Even though Veterans Fight and Die for Us"

Canadians will hopefully remember this before they walk into a Canadian Forces recruiting centre.

The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
Veterans want respect: In the coming days, Parliament will release a highly-controversial report on the embattled veterans legislation known as the New Veterans Charter. Will this report help repair or will it contribute to the immense broken trust government has provoked within an increasingly-disillusioned veteran community?

By SEAN BRUYEA | Published: Monday, 05/12/2014 12:00 am EDT Last Updated: Monday, 05/12/2014 12:24 am EDT

In the coming days, Parliament will release a highly-controversial report on the embattled veterans legislation known as the New Veterans Charter (NVC). Will this report help repair or will it contribute to the immense broken trust government has provoked within an increasingly-disillusioned veteran community?

The forthcoming report is part of a legally-mandated "comprehensive review" in spite of the attempt by the minister claiming that he personally called for this review. Such politicking of veterans' issues has plagued far too much of the Conservative questioning during the hearings. In place of substantive investigation, many Conservative members of committee, such as Parliamentary Secretary Parm Gill, have asked politically rhetorical questions, especially of those witnesses who questioned the government's inaction: "Can you tell us you are aware that more money is spent today under the new Veterans Charter than under the Pension Act?"

The question was directed to Jim Scott who heads up Equitas Society, which is spearheading a lawsuit claiming the NVC violates fundamental Canadian rights while disadvantaging those veterans under the new legislation compared to the previous Pension Act. Scott obviously did not have internal departmental statistics leaving this categorically incorrect assertion uncontested. However, in 2012-13, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) paid out $1.6-billion under the Pension Act and only $552.3-million under the New Veterans Charter.

Conservative MP Ted Opitz continued the political badgering of Scott: "Sir, the New Veterans Charter was designed to support wellness, and it was designed to encourage independence over dependence. Would you agree with those principles, overall?" I would have liked to respond, "A low income Canadian stole gold from the Bank of Canada and distributed it to homeless persons. Would you not agree that ensuring Canadians have adequate income supports the principles of independence and well-being?"

Gill asked VAC bureaucrats cakewalk questions such as that given to ADM Walter Semianiw: "Would you please explain the history of how the new Veterans Charter came to be?"

Herein lies the problem. Elected government and senior bureaucrats are far more loyal defending each other than serving veterans. Too often, they quickly attack those with a dissenting view rather than listening, hence destroying the possibility of making real and substantive changes to improve the lives of veterans and their families. Veterans meanwhile scratch their heads and question their hearts: what was it about democracy for which they sacrificed their careers, families and formerly healthy lives?

Focusing "the review on how the [NVC] serves the most seriously injured, how our government supports Canadian veterans' families, and how Veterans Affairs delivers the programs that have been put in place" is what Fantino asked but the senior bureaucracy appears not to want.

Whatever the bureaucrats want or do not want from a policy perspective should be irrelevant except for one question: does the bureaucracy have the resources to administer any proposed change? Policy development should remain with Parliament and Canadians, not with bureaucrats.

The House committee can learn much from the Senate study on the NVC released in March 2013. The report of the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs took two years to prepare and was hard hitting with testimony lasting over a year. The conclusion was unequivocal: "Those who die or are injured in the course of duty deserve the best program of compensation and benefits Canada can provide."

Veterans Affairs Canada essentially ignored the report. Fantino's response did not arrive in the Senate until April 10, 2014. It is a nine-page used car sales pitch replete with the usual bureaucratic and political rhetoric justifying that bureaucrats know what is best for veterans. The clear message through such condescension was that the three-year Senate study did not directly result in any substantive changes.

Part of the blame for bureaucratic obfuscation can be laid on the Senate and the report itself. Except for calling government to "table a document that articulates and promotes the social contract between the people of Canada and their veterans," the few recommendations were riddled with vague generalities and fluffy language. Whereas there is near universal endorsement to increase the income loss benefit for disabled veterans to match 100 per cent of military salary and compensate for lost potential earnings increases, the Senate recommended government "continue to review the [income loss program] to ensure veterans are receiving the appropriate level of compensation."

Fantino could easily claim that the bureaucracy determined that the status quo of 75 per cent is effectively "appropriate" and that no change need be made. Civilian workplace compensation programs pay an average of 125 per cent of current profession earnings to seriously disabled workers. This appears to be lost on Prime Minister Stephen Harper who in 2006, during the launch of the New Veterans Charter, promised "our troops' commitment and service to Canada entitles them to the very best treatment possible."

The committee can help repair some of the broken trust brought about by the government's unquestioning loyalty to senior bureaucrats. Parliament must reinforce who is boss. Parliament works directly for veterans and the rest of Canadians, not for bureaucrats. Recommendations that allow senior bureaucrats to shirk their obligation through vagaries and 'fluffy' direction allows bureaucratic responses and consequent actions to be equally or more vague and fluffy.

With only a few weeks preparation, Canada's military expeditiously began deployment of more than a half-billion dollars in Air Force equipment and 228 personnel for an eight-month or longer deployment to Eastern Europe. Veterans and their families, meanwhile, languish waiting nine years for promised ongoing substantive changes to the New Veterans Charter.

The minister deflected much responsibility to committee, including claiming Parliament was a better venue than the courts to determine what is the nature of Canada's obligation to her military veterans and their families.

Surely, if military members are willing and have died to serve Parliament's ends, the least of these obligations should require a committee to write a forceful report with numerous clear and specific recommendations. Harper must enact substantive changes to the New Veterans Charter expeditiously and comprehensively and not use them as campaign promises to hold veterans prisoner during the coming election.

Otherwise, the committee and the Prime Minister will have clarified only one thing: Parliament has no obligation to fight for veterans even though veterans fight and die for them. Canadians will hopefully remember this before they walk into a Canadian Forces recruiting centre.

Sean Bruyea, vice-president of Canadians for Accountability, is a retired Air Force intelligence officer and frequent commentator on government, military, and veterans' issues.

The Hill Times

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Monday, May 12, 2014

New announcement: UK: The Armed Forces Covenant Today and Tomorrow. How about Canada?

Should we not have a covenant??

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New announcement: When It Comes To Military Personnel and Their Families, The Canadian Government Is Like An Abusive B

When It Comes To Military Personnel and Their Families, The Canadian Government Is Like An Abusive Boyfriend

Editor's note: I received this from an individual who is involved in the Canadian military system and whose spouse is also in the Canadian Forces. They have asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from government and senior leadership:

The Canadian government is like the abusive boyfriend who brings flowers to his girlfriend at her workplace after a fight.

Her friends think he's awesome. They see his nice clothes and his friendly smile. They think he is hardworking and smart. They see his friends treat him with respect. But they have never been alone with him. They don't know what is really going on behind the façade.

The government is like this. Their bouquet is simply on a larger scale, in front of thousands of people no less. They put on a parade and ceremony and arrange a fly by. They call it a day of honour for the Afghan war vets. They publicly praise them for everything they have done in the last 12 years. They pat them on their back for their bravery and commitment to the country. They force all their peers to come out and cheer them on.

But privately, it is a different story. The government promised soldiers that they would be well cared for if they got hurt, but privately they force them to repeatedly beg for assistance. If a soldiers gets so low that he or she commits suicide, they blame them for not coming forward and asking for help sooner (fyi, many soldiers ARE asking for help, but they don't always get the right kind of help, if any at all).

If families complain, soldiers are warned to keep their family 'under control'. The military only allow soldiers to only speak positively about their chain of command in public forums, or they could be charged. As someone who has worked with both abused women and abusive men, these are typical tactics.

And now with the 'recent' revelations of sexual misconduct (aka abuse) being prevalent in the forces, the military leadership reacts with shock and publicly scolds this behavior and promises to get to the bottom of it. But privately, this is nothing new. It is only a reminder that they need to keep better control of their troops, because people are watching and starting to suspect that not all is as it appears. The bruises are starting to show as a few brave victims are starting to tell their story.

However, abuse usually gets worse when the abuser is fearing exposure. When their secrets are starting to be revealed, they increase the pressure to 'behave' as the threats become more severe. And what is more threatening then taking away a soldiers livelihood, their career, the respect from their peers, and dare I say, their 'military family' (as dysfunctional as it may be, it may be all a soldier has)? What is a soldier to do but follow orders?

This day of honour is for the government nothing more then a big bouquet of flowers to the bruised and hurting soldiers and their families. Because if they truly honoured them they would be respecting the promises they made. They would honour them everyday and not just May 9th, not just with a parade and a ceremony. They would be compensating them as they were promised. They would apologize when mistakes are made, and not blame the injured. They would do everything in their power to make the health care truly the best in the world and not just on paper and in speeches. They would reach out to families and offer them the long term support that is really needed when caring for a member who has a long term injury (6 to 8 sessions with a social worker doesn't cut it). There is simply so much more that could be done if the government truly honoured their soldiers.

The government should be ashamed. Canadians deserve to know the truth and we all deserve to be treated better. Then we would truly be able to honour soldiers and their families for the sacrifices they have made.

Source: When It Comes To Military Personnel and Their Families, The Canadian Government Is Like An Abusive Boyfriend

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

New announcement: REMINDER: Vets living in poverty

Vets living in poverty

Tue, Oct 1: Canada's veterans ombudsman said former soldiers are slipping further into poverty and the new veterans charter that was supposed to help is short changing them. Shirlee Engel reports.

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

New announcement: Letter to Legion from Sean B

Letter to Legion from Sean B

May 08, 2014

Gordon Moore
Brad White
Dominion Command
Royal Canadian Legion

Dear Brad and Gord

I wish to register my emphatic protest at the exclusion of particular veterans' advocacy groups/individuals for the upcoming May 10 2014, Legion Consultation Group/Forum. I find this exclusion disturbing and highly counterproductive to the advocacy goals of any unified group/forum. I respectfully urge you to reconsider their participation as well as anyone else you may have excluded.
From what I understand, at least two organizations, Canadian Veterans Advocacy and Canadian Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association, are excluded from the May 10 meeting. It is also my understanding that their exclusion is because of positions or comments they may have put forward, especially comments urging the community and government to take more substantial and assertive action to bring about meaningful change.

If this is the case, why are organizations which have enabled government inaction and set a lower standard of advocacy also not excluded? Surely such conspiring does more harm to advancing advocacy for veterans and their families than those that have done much to garner increased public attention to the issues at hand?

However, I believe that neither end of the spectrum should be discriminated against. I have often been a victim of such discrimination based upon difference of opinion and have continued to endure attempts by veterans and veterans organizations as well as actions by government to prevent my meaningful participation. My Privacy Act and ATI documents now numbering more than 25,000 pages indicate some executives of some groups including the Legion have written in secret to the government attempting to and succeeding in discrediting me.

Minister Fantino and senior VAC bureaucrats have recently begun a campaign to "vet" out veteran groups who have opinions which the government does not wish to hear. The recent application of the word "reputable" wreaks of authoritarian control, something which we have pledged our careers to fight against, a fight for which many of our comrades lost their lives.
"I may not like what you say but I will defend your right to say it" must not die with those who fought so hard to preserve freedom of expression. We must not buy into government's longstanding success at dividing veterans so that government inaction can continue.

There has been much progress in terms of uniting the disparate voices under common cause through the February 2012 Stakeholders meeting which was thankfully followed up with the Legion initiative of the Veterans Consultation Group. These were not only historically important initiatives to bring organizations and experts together in a unified voice but more importantly, these were the first steps to get that word out to all veterans and Canadians while hopefully coordinating wider unanimity for action for veterans and Canadians outside, not just inside formal organizations.
The choice of three priorities for government is noble first step to put forward those recommendations which would make immediate, substantive and meaningful improvements in the well-being of Canada's most disabled veterans and their families. These priorities were selected from reports of the Special Needs Advisory Group, the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and the Veterans Ombudsman. As we agreed, we chose just three because that is what Government asked us to do because they thought we could not agree.

We called government's bluff and we learned much. Government has little intention of listening to the wishes of veterans to decide their destiny. Although a lengthy exercise to prove this sad reality, it was much shorter than the time government has been inactive on making any substantive changes to the New Veterans Charter. Rather than demoralizing us, calling the government's bluff should provide new fire to further unite veteran organizations and hopefully the veteran community at large to face a foe we now know much better.

The modern veteran community is markedly different from the past. Most veterans will no longer pay a membership fee and/or only associate in a hierarchical organization. True transition means we grow beyond the rank and structure of the military to become equals.

Veterans no longer come together for the most part in meeting halls but in chatrooms and through common cause social media, a more fluid community which allows the very freedom and independence for which we fought to flourish. When that cause is resolved or no longer has life, the community will reform under a different cause. Members need not follow any approved scripts and they may easily disagree with the opinions or strategies of the representatives but still agree on the cause. The paths may be different but the destination is the same. This is the face of modern organizations and they are equally reputable as any other community structure.

However, we must never forget that when we advocate for veterans issues as a whole, self-interest must disappear in favour of advancing improved well-being in the face of unprecedented government resistance to listen to veterans and other Canadians. Secrecy must also be thrown out as all veterans deserve to know what is being done in their name or on their behalf.
I encourage you to understand that disparate voices are not a weakness but a strength which encourages debate. In excluding veteran community representatives, not only would the Legion Veterans Consultation Group/Forum suffer and be weakened in legitimacy and authority but the veteran community and their families as a whole would suffer a missed golden historical opportunity to bring more unified pressure to bear upon government.

Make no mistake: government wants this Consultation Group to fail and veterans to continue internecine bickering while government unilaterally continues deciding our destiny. Let us come together to take back our destiny from bureaucrats who have no right (and never did) to decide policy on our behalf. This authority rests with the veterans and the citizens of Canada working directly with Parliament. Bureaucrats should come to learn their rightful place so that veterans and their families can take their lives back.

I encourage you to invite more not less veteran representatives and experts to these highly productive meetings.

(electronically signed)
Sean Bruyea
cc. Veteran Community including Veteran Consultation Group Members

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Friday, May 9, 2014

New announcement: You're Not Alone Guide: Connecting military families to mental health & social w

You're Not Alone Guide: Connecting military families to mental health & social wellness programs


VOUS N'ÊTES PAS SEUL : Aider les familles des militaires à accéder aux programmes de santé mentale et de bien-être social

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

National Day of Honour disappointment

National Day of Honour disappointment

Mother of a fallen soldier criticizes National Day of Honour for being rushed and disorganized, and says Ottawa is not doing enough to support grieving families

Politics | May 8, 2014 | 12:20

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

New announcement: Master corporal with PTSD says military would use force to remove her from renta

Master corporal with PTSD says military would use force to remove her from rental home

By David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen May 4, 2014 11:48 AM

Even as Canada's top soldier promises more help to those dealing with mental health issues, the military has threatened to use physical force against a master corporal suffering from post traumatic stress if she and her husband don't vacate their rental house on time.

Master Cpl. Jen MacLeod, 44, was booted from the Canadian Forces on March 26, the same day she was released from the psychiatric hospital where she was being treated.

But what upsets MacLeod is the letter sent by the commander of Canadian Forces Base Borden, Ont., which noted she must vacate the military house she has been renting by May 30. "Failure to leave the said premises by that date shall render you and your family liable to physical removal from the above housing unit," the letter to the Afghan veteran warned.

MacLeod and her husband had paid their rent in full up to that date and had every intention of leaving by May 30. They had already acquired a new house and were getting ready to move.

"I was shocked to get the letter," she explained. "I thought, what a crappy way to treat somebody. I have a totally clean service record. My house is clean. My yard is clean."

The letter came just weeks after the Canadian Forces embarked on a public relations campaign to convince Canadians and military personnel that those who have PTSD will be respected and treated fairly.

In a video message, Gen. Tom Lawson, the Chief of Defence Staff, appealed to those battling mental issues to come forward and seek help.

"Just as you would expect to be helped by your colleagues on the battlefield if you were physically injured, your brothers and sisters in arms are with you in the fight against mental illness," Lawson said in the video.

MacLeod, in the military for 11 years, served in Afghanistan as an intelligence operator with an unmanned aerial vehicle unit. Although she can't go into details about her job for security reasons, she viewed large amounts of imagery showing insurgents being killed. That led to PTSD and severe depression. She will receive a small veterans payment because of her illness.

MacLeod said she understands the Canadian Forces have to release her because she can no longer do her job.

She said she watched Lawson's video but said the letter she received, as well as other actions taken against veterans, show the Canadian Forces are having problems living up to their claims of fair treatment.

The Department of National Defence said in an email to the Citizen it allowed MacLeod to stay in the house until May 30, a short extension after her release date.

The email from DND stated all current notices for individuals to vacate such housing contain the statement about physical removal.

The email, however, noted that the DND "is currently reviewing its notice to vacate and eviction letter to ensure appropriateness of language."

The email also pointed out that military personnel have a wide range of medical and mental health care services to draw upon."CAF senior leadership is committed to each and every ill and injured member receiving high quality care and support," the email stated.

MacLeod said that previously, military personnel were given more than a couple of months to transition to civilian life and could continue paying rent for base housing as they prepared for a move.

"We are lucky because we have a house to move to," she explained. "There are veterans who have no place to go. The military doesn't care; it's 'Get out. Go find a bridge to live under.' "
© Copyright (c) Postmedia Network Inc.

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New announcement: Julian Fantino, Parm Gill And Laurie Hawn Make Unsupported Accusations About Vet

Julian Fantino, Parm Gill And Laurie Hawn Make Unsupported Accusations About Veterans, Says Veterans Advocate

May 4, 2014. 12:44 am • Section: Defence Watch

David T. MacLeod of Veteran Watch writes this:

The term McCarthyism is based on the political practices of the late US Senator McCarthy. His use of unsupported accusations and inappropriate use of information for political gain resulted in the discipline and even suicide of US government officials and politicians. The consequence of Senator McCarthy's practices was the dubious distinction of being one of the very few US Senators to be censured.

Unfortunately, McCarthy's tactics are alive and well … in Canada.

In March and April 2014 three temporary employees of the Canadian people (otherwise known as Members of Parliament) conducted practices that smack of McCarthyism.

On 27 March 2014 Parm Gill's inappropriate questioning of veterans in the Parliamentary Committee Meeting resulted in more than one letter fired off to the Prime Minster. Linda Magill (a veteran herself and the wife of a veteran) was present at the committee meeting and was so enraged by Gill's behaviour she fired off a terse email to the Prime Ministers office.
You can read her letter on Facebook. (

On 7 April the Honourable Minister Fantino abused parliamentary committee testimony for political gain by using the dirt that Parm Gill had sifted for him on 27 March. Fantino Tweeted :

"Disappointed that Union of Veterans Affairs Employees financing Veterans groups with secret "War Fund."

Fantino then had the cheek to provide a link to the testimony of veterans concerning the Mandatory Review of the New Veterans Charter.

Both Gill's insinuation and Fantino's accusation of a "war fund" are unsubstantiated. Any politician who would use testimony before a Parliamentary Committee as a source of political attack does not deserve to hold office.

On April 9, 2014 the Honourable Laurie Hawn, tabled his Private Member's Bill C-593 entitled the "Canadian Forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police Former Members Personal Information Act".

Hawn incorrectly claims that veteran's currently do not have access to their medical files. Hawn is misleading the public. Veterans merely have to fill out one form. The Bill is a thinly veiled effort to violate serving members, veterans, and their spouses' privacy – is this an intimidation effort?

Within two weeks Fantino, Gill, and Hawn had made unsupported accusations and inappropriately used information for political gains.

I caution these temporary employees (Members of Parliament) that US Senator McCarthy's behaviour significantly disrupted US government business and caused irreparable damage to McCarthy's political career.

McCarthyism is unbecoming a Member of Parliament. Inappropriate use of Parliamentary testimony combined with unsupported accusations is unacceptable. Canadians, including veterans, deserve better service from temporary employees – especially Members of Parliament.

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Former veterans ombudsman slams planned National Day of Honour

Former veterans ombudsman slams planned National Day of Honour

Strogan says creating day for Afghanistan veterans will create divisions among country's veterans

CBC News Posted: Apr 30, 2014 9:32 PM MT Last Updated: May 01, 2014 8:04 AM MT

A former veterans ombudsman and colonel is slamming plans to hold a National Day of Honour for members of the military who served in Afghanistan.

The National Day of Honour May 9 will include events on Parliament Hill and at bases and legions across the country.

However, some members of the military community – including a retired colonel of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry – are unhappy with the plans.

Pat Stogran spent two years based in Edmonton, and led the first Canadian soldiers deployed to Kandahar.

From 2007 to 2010, Stogran served as Canada's first veteran's ombudsman – a position he says he lost after speaking critically about the federal government's treatment of veterans.

Click below to listen to Stogran's full interview with CBC's John Archer.

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.