Be advised that the CVA press release on the throne speech, Minster Fantino's response and tour response, all of which has been posted at the Ottawa Citizen
October 29th, 2013
Thank you publicly responding to the Canadian Veterans Advocacy press release in reference to the Harper Government's Throne Speech; as always, we are interested in engaging in dialog at any level, including this forum.
….Lest we Forget as Remembrance Day approaches that 150 Canadians died in Afghanistan under the Harper Government's stewardship of the War in Afghanistan.
Minister Fantino, I am well aware of the Afghanistan War's roll of Honour's composition and I have served with more than one whose name adorns the Seventh Book of Remembrance on Parliament Hill.
Sergeant Marc Leger, Cpl Ainsworth Dyer, Pte Richard Green and Pte Nathan Smith, PPCLI, were slain by friendly fire in April of 2002. A year and a half later, The Royal Canadian Regiment would sustain the nation's first KIA fatalities when Sgt Robert Short and Cpl Jamie Beerenfenger's lightly armoured jeep struck an IED. Over the course the next two years, two soldiers, Cpl Jamie Murphy and Pte Braun Scott Woodfield, RCR, were killed before Jan 15, 2006, when diplomat Glyn Berry became Canada's first civilian fatality when a suicide bomber attacked his vehicle.
Lest we forget.
During this period of time, Minister Fantino, Prime Minister Paul Martin stewarded Canada's war effort, their sacrifice occurred on his, not Prime Minister Harper's watch. Prime Minister Steven Harper was sworn in on Feb 6th, 2006 and enacted the New Veterans Charter on April 1st.
Since then, 150 members of the Canadians Forces have died as a consequence of war, non-combat injuries, even suicide… on Mr Harper's watch.
I am also profoundly disappointed that I must define the difference between the INCOME LOSS REPLACEMENT provisions accorded to disabled veterans through SISIP and ELB with the PAIN and SUFFERING pensions of the Pension Act and now, the Chump Sum Award provided under the New Veterans Charter. Lest we forget 6500 disabled veterans, united under the leadership of Dennis Manuge, were successful in attaining a major victory on this very principle.
The court ruled definitively that the government cannot take into consideration PAIN and SUFFERING Pension Act provisions that were specifically designed to recognize the Sacred Obligation we, as a nation, have to Canada's sons and daughters who have borne the repercussions of war and peace.
So let us focus our reader's attention on the pain and suffering quotient without distraction and in simple terms. Let us compare in a manner that respects our fallen, that defines the obligation to Canada's most seriously wounded veterans of the Afghanistan War and most importantly, highlights the consequences of failing to embrace the obligation.
June 6th, 1944, 0715, Sergeant Juno Beach, leading his platoon across the beach, steps on an anti personnel mine that explosively amputated both legs above the knees and killed three of his best friends. He sustains other serious injuries, the loss of his sexual organs, severe internal blast injuries that would result in years of operations. He is partially deafened by the blast and as the medic valiantly saves his life, the images of the mangled, lifeless bodies of his friends and the ring-muted, horrible pleas of the wounded, perhaps himself before the morphine took effect, remains forever etched on his mind.
Despite the seriousness of his wounds, Sergeant Juno Beach survives and lives sixty years. Although he will not longer enjoy intimacy, his wife has borne him two children prior to the catastrophic event, He is provided a PAIN and SUFFERING pension through the Pension Act in recognition of the bitter fact that his life has been forever changed as a consequence of a parliamentary decision to send him to war. Canada, once compassionate, recognized that his wife was the primary caregiver and provided a small supplementary pension. When her husband precedes her, she is entitled to a percentage of his VAC pension and VIP services, indeed, the Sacred Obligation accorded to Sergeant Juno Beach extends beyond his death. His children are also recognized with small supplementary pensions until they finish school and individual support when they leave the home to seek a college or university education.
Sergeant Panjawaii Valley, married with two kids, is deployed to Afghanistan with the Royal Canadian Regiment Battlegroup during the summer of 2006. At the height of Operation Medusa, on the morning of November 27, Sgt Panjawaii Valley was struck down when a 122mm mortar round detonated amongst his platoon as they advanced to contact against a determined foe. Bereft of legs in an heartbeat, deafened, the images of the dead and dying, the blood, the smell, the horror,,,, The battlefield angels, medics, would save the good sergeant's life and after years of corrective surgery, infections, multiple periods of hospitalisation, prolonged times of severe depression, PTSD…
Sgt Panjawaii Valley lives sixty years, As a consequences of the Harper Governments failure to embrace its Sacred Obligation, he is denied the life time recognition pension for pain and suffering provided to Sgt Juno Beach. Instead, he is provided a Chump Sum Award that is obscene when compared to the collective Pension Act provisions for PAIN and SUFFERING Sgt Juno Beach received. His wife, who will be responsible for his primary care, for ensuring he is fed, bathed, dressed, that his meds are administered according, who trembles in fear with her children or alone when the night terrors strike and or when prolonged bouts abject depression smothers the spirit of the entire family.
She receives nothing. The Sacred Obligation has been abandoned, her enormous sacrifice ignored. Once her husband passes, there will be no pension, no VIP as was provided to Sgt Juno Beach's spouse. Unable to seek a career, unable to provide for retirement, she is condemned for a short life of poverty. The children suffer equally, there is no supplementary pension to ensure their sacrifice and the that the impact of having a seriously physically and mentally wounded father is honoured. Nor is their any educational support when they finish school,
The disparity is obscene and six seriously wounded Afghanistan War veterans are taking the federal government to court. The wounded seek only the same Sacred Obligation this nation, without hesitation, provided to me and all disabled veterans/families who were lucky enough, if such a grotesque term can be applied, to be injured before the Harper Government enacted the NVC, April 1st, 2006.
These are the consequences of the New Veterans Charter, our obligation, our most Sacred Obligation, Minister Fantino, is to respond in good faith and focus on the needs of the Sergeant Panjawaii Valley's and their families
VIP Grant. By chance I recently spoke with an elderly veteran who expended the grant prematurely and when asked to supplement, it was still inadequate to the cost of legitimate services within his community. Others have been denied. More veterans will come forward, I am sure, as the first grant expires and they realize that the VIP regional rating system that poses the foundation of the Grant provides insufficient funding and the services veterans once had are diminished as a consequence of cutting red tape. It is inevitable.
RETRO-ACTIVITY - Earnings Loss Benefit – War Pensioners Allowance - I would take this opportunity to ask you, Minister Fantino, when the disabled veterans covered under the ELB and WPA will be compensated for the Pain and Suffering claw back? II understand that there was need for legislative reform in order to include the WPA clients into the equation yet these requirements have been satisfied.
When will the government recompense disabled veterans the monies that were clawed back from them prior to the Manuge decision.
Will the Harper government stand by it promise? Will you provide disabled veterans who are n ELB and WPA the same standard of retro-activity as provided to the 6500 SISIP victims?
Or, once again, will Canadian disabled veterans be forced to turn to the courts to seek justice, to have the Sacred Obligation applied to them as it has been to our brothers and sisters affected by the SISIP injustice?
I would encourage you to take a leadership role on the retro-activity issue, Minister Fantino and act with all due haste by embracing the true spirit of Remembrance and making a definitive statement that the Sacred Obligation to these men and women will be honoured, that the retro-active standards a set by the Manuge legal decision will be applied and veterans continuing to be victimized by this unjust policy can expect a cheque in the mail by Christmas!
On closing, I would hope these words inspire you to fulfill your obligation as Minister of Veterans Affairs, to ensure that the looming Comprehensive Parliamentary Review includes the issue of the Lump Sum Award, that this ridiculous Conservative premise that the Harper Government has no legal Social Contract for the wounded does not artificially obstruct parliamentary procedure.
Michael L Blais CD
President and Founder, Canadians Veterans Advocacy
Niagara Falls Canada
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Michael L Blais CD
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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.