David Pugliese More from David Pugliese
Published on: January 30, 2015Last Updated: January 30, 2015 8:32 PM EST
New Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O'Toole failed his first test in convincing the country's former soldiers that things would be different under his watch, says a veterans' advocate and an opposition MP.
O'Toole was supposed to provide an update Friday on how the government was responding to recommendations put forth by the Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs in June. Those recommendations, supported by the Conservative, Liberal and NDP MPs on the committee, focused on how to improve the situation for Canada's retired military personnel by making changes to the controversial New Veterans Charter.
O'Toole didn't provide a progress report. In a response Friday evening, his spokeswoman Kayleigh Kanoza said that "it was submitted" to the clerk of the Commons committee on Friday. She provided no other details.
There were 13 recommendations on how to make improvements to the charter. Those ranged from increasing the disability award provided to veterans to improving how injured soldiers are handled by the bureaucracy. The 14th recommendation was to produce a response by Jan. 30, 2015, on the progress that had been made.
"He failed already," said Mike Blais, an injured veteran and president of Canadian Veterans Advocacy. "It's not a very good start."
The Royal Canadian Legion did not respond to a request for comment.
But Liberal veterans affairs critic Frank Valeriote said O'Toole not only failed but his actions showed contempt for veterans. "All he had to do was update us on what the government was doing with the recommendations and he couldn't even do that," said Valeriote. "It's business as usual for this government."
The New Veterans Charter has prompted anger among younger veterans who complain it provides fewer benefits than those offered to military personnel who fought in previous wars.
Valeriote said O'Toole is acting no differently than former minister Julian Fantino, who was disliked by some in the veterans' community because of how he dealt with former soldiers.
O'Toole declined an interview with the Citizen.
The recommendations from the Commons committee are not binding on the government, which had asked the committee to examine the charter.
The government's request came after a group of injured Afghan veterans filed a class-action lawsuit arguing that the New Veterans Charter violated their Charter rights since it removed lifetime disability payments for injured military personnel. The veterans charter replaced that with a lump sum payment.
It was revealed earlier this week the Conservative government has spent almost $700,000 in legal bills fighting the disabled Afghan veterans in court.
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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.