May 08, 2014
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.
cc. Veteran Community including Veteran Consultation Group Members
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