Canadian Veterans Advocacy

Thursday, April 4, 2013

New announcement: Oshawa sues Highway of Heroes Ride organizer

Oshawa sues Highway of Heroes Ride organizer

City looking to collect on bill for 2011 event

Reka Szekely Apr 04, 2013 - 4:35 AM

Oshawa sues Highway of Heroes Ride organizer. OSHAWA -- Heroes Highway Ride and Rally organizer Lou DeVuono has asked the City of Oshawa to forgive a bill for the 2011 event in Oshawa after the City took him to small claims court. Mr. DeVuono was charged $5,600 for City services, including street closures and garbage collection. April 2, 2013. Ryan Pfeiffer / Metroland

OSHAWA -- A Durham man who organized a motorcycle rally to support the troops is asking the City of Oshawa to forgive a bill for the event after the City sued him in small claims court.

Lou DeVuono is the founder and organizer of the Heroes Highway Ride and Rally, now in its fifth year. In 2011, the ride ran from Quinte West, home of CFB Trenton, along the section of Hwy. 401 known as the Highway of Heroes to downtown Oshawa, ending at the McLaughlin Armouries. At the time, Mr. DeVuono said, he felt Oshawa was the perfect place to hold the event since the city is home to the Ontario Regiment.

In January of that year, Mr. DeVuono appeared before council and the ride was endorsed by councillors. However, during the budget process that year, council rejected a $19,300 grant application for in-kind services for the event. Staff had recommended against approving the grant based on the submitted financial statements, which showed other sources of funding.

Mr. DeVuono made the decision to move forward.

"It essentially was too late, I had made the commitment to hold the event there," he said, adding that organizers did their best to reduce the cost of City services, adding the ride is a non-profit event running on a shoestring budget with sponsors mainly donating in-kind services.

The ride was a success, drawing thousands to the downtown.

Following the event, Mr. DeVuono got a bill for $5,600 from the City of Oshawa and a bill for $3,600 from the Region of Durham, he said. City services included street closures and signs, garbage collection, the use of picnic tables and some fencing. The Regional portion is due to the fact that part of the event was on a Regional road and also needed signs for the street closure.

"This is the only jurisdiction I've worked with that put a bill on it," said Mr. DeVuono. "I've had the event in Bowmanville, I've had it in Whitby, I'm having it in Whitby again this year ... even the City of Toronto which closed the DVP for us."

A letter from Mr. DeVuono asking that his bill be zeroed out went to the City's corporate services committee last week and was referred to legal services.

The City's solicitor declined to comment on the case until it's concluded, but confirmed the case is pending in small claims court.

Generally speaking, the City has a policy for partnership grants that exceed $500, including grants for in-kind services. The policy requires that the grant be approved during the budget process.

However, both Mr. DeVuono and his co-organizer, Graeme Hume, said they felt that when the City endorsed the event, it included covering the City services.

"It's a public demonstration of support for the troops and their families, and these people just want to suck everything they can out of it for themselves," said Mr. Hume, who served in the Ontario Regiment from 1983 to 2010.

Prior to being involved with the ride, Mr. Hume sold merchandise such as T-shirts to benefit the military family resource centre at CFB Trenton, first to his co-workers at General Motors in Oshawa and then to the greater community.

He said there is a great deal of local support for the troops and thinks residents would be upset by the City suing Mr. DeVuono.

"The people of Durham Region they support the troops and it's not just lip service but they wear the stuff which other families see on Fridays ... this is what really burns my ass that these guys are so out of touch with their constituents."

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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.

New announcement: Vets Ombudsman Launches Initiative for the Upcoming NVC Parliamentary Review

April 04, 2013 09:09 ET
Veterans Ombudsman Launches Initiative for the Upcoming New Veterans Charter Parliamentary Review

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - April 4, 2013) - Canada's Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent released today a report entitled Improving the New Veterans Charter: The Parliamentary Review. Its purpose is twofold: to focus discussion for the fast approaching parliamentary committee review of the enhancements to the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act, commonly known as the New Veterans Charter; and to act as a catalyst to broaden the review to include a discussion of the New Veterans Charter, as a whole.

"The October 3, 2011 coming into force of Bill C-55, the Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act and amendments to regulations, brought about much needed changes and began the process of making the New Veterans Charter a truly "living" document," said Parent. "Importantly, a clause was included stating that a comprehensive review of the provisions and operations of the amendments to the New Veterans Charter would be undertaken within two years by designated/established Senate or House of Commons Committees."

In preparation for the review, the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman analyzed the more than 200 recommendations for improvements to the New Veterans Charter proposed in various reports since 2006. It found that 145 of the recommendations dealt with three key transition issues: financial instability and decreased standard of living caused by reduced post-release income; limitations in vocational rehabilitation and assistance programs, which can affect second career aspirations and employment options; and difficult family environment situations due to insufficient family support.

"These military to civilian life transition challenges need to be addressed urgently because they can potentially affect a Veteran throughout his or her life," said Parent. "The first opportunity to do this is the parliamentary review."

In the lead-up to the review, the Veterans Ombudsman will continue to meet with Veterans and their families and Veterans' organizations across Canada to discuss the best way forward on this issue. In coming months he will publish a follow-up paper with specific evidence-based recommendations to address the Charter's shortcomings in relation to military to civilian life transition challenges.

The full report is available online at

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Monday, April 1, 2013

New announcement: Ex-serviceman seeks to help others

Ex-serviceman seeks to help others

March 28, 2013 - 8:34pm By MICHAEL GORMAN Truro Bureau

Transitional housing would make life easier after military, says proponent

TRURO — Greg Swiatkowski feels he's been left to fight his own battles.

He doesn't want others to feel that way.

Swiatkowski, who recently moved to the Annapolis Valley after living in Hilden, was discharged from the navy last June because he couldn't meet universality of service requirements.

Struggling with chronic back pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, having to leave the military made everything worse.

"I didn't want to become a civilian," he said. "The 10 years in the military was the most exhilarating time in my life. … It's hard work, but it's an elite club."

In 2002, at age 35, Swiatkowski, who speaks four languages, was inspired by the post 9-11 recruiting drive and enlisted, eventually working as a naval electronics technician with a specialty in sonar acoustic equipment.

He deployed twice, once to the Persian Gulf and then as part of a NATO standing force patrolling the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea.

But what he expected to be a long military career started getting shorter following a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis in 2008.

"You lay the groundwork for a promising career with a lot of hard work and then it's taken away from you," he said.

Swiatkowski found it difficult transitioning to civilian life, partly because he had no place to go.

Staying with a friend, he struggled to find a proper balance with his medication and found day-to-day tasks daunting.

He's quit drinking and smoking and sees a psychologist. He also attended sweat lodges at the Millbrook First Nation.

In the last year, he's worked hard with his case manager to get healthy, but still feels he'd had to do most of it alone.

And Swiatkowski said he knows of 20 to 40 people dealing with similar circumstances.

What he was really missing was the sense of companionship and support he had with the military.

A native of Poland, Swiatkowski doesn't have any family in Nova Scotia other than his two children who live with their mother. The lack of a support system was difficult.

"You feel completely lost," he said. "You go from a highly structured … environment to being on your own. When you add medical problems to the mix, it is very easy to get overwhelmed and just have nowhere to turn."

That's why Swiatkowski believes it's time to consider some kind of transitional housing where people leaving the military can go for a period of time before returning to civilian life.

Suggesting Shannon Park in Dartmouth could be a good location, Swiatkowski sees it as a place where people encountering similar challenges can work through them together as well as deal with the day-to-day details of life.

Jim Lowther of Veterans Emergency Transition Services believes such a project is worthwhile. In fact, his group is trying to raise funds and awareness to make it happen in major Canadian cities, he said.

Although much of the group's work focuses on homeless veterans, Lowther said there in an increased need from people simply looking for some added support.

"A lot of the guys with PTSD, they have major illnesses, disabilities, they just can't do it (alone)," he said.

The biggest concern he has heard is people not knowing where to go for or how to access services, Lowther said.

Veterans Affairs Canada is working to change that.

Lt.-Gen. Walter Semianiw said the department spends more than $3.2 billion a year on support services and much of that focuses on injured people.

Semianiw, the assistant deputy minister of policy, communication and commemoration, was brought into the department as part of an effort to get more people in uniform in high-ranking positions at Veterans Affairs.

While he said he'd never heard about Swiatkowsi's idea, that doesn't mean it wouldn't be useful. But as a needs-based department, the need must be demonstrated, said Semianiw.

In the meantime, there are services like the joint personnel support units and a more active presence in a soldier's life before he leaves the military.

"What was happening in the past (was) the Department of Veterans Affairs, they have seen you but they saw you way too late, just before you're leaving," said Semianiw.

Now, when it appears a member might not meet universality of service, he's evaluated for up to a year. Information about being discharged includes access to social workers, return to work programs, Veterans Affairs staff and a case manager is assigned.

Upon returning home, Semianiw said vocational rehab is provided. With a focus on preparing to return to work, it includes medical, psychological and social support. Earnings loss programs are available if that isn't possible.

He acknowledged that having a support network makes a major difference. "If you have family around you, you have friends around you, you get better quicker and you stay healthy longer."

Swiatkowski knows that, too. He believes something needs to be done for the people who don't have that support system when they get home.

"When you find yourself without that support it's difficult," he said. "I would like to see something constructive come out of my experience, something positive, even if I make it easier for one other guy."


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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.