Why No One Should Join the Canadian Forces by Bruce Moncur

Why No One Should Join the Canadian Forces

Former Soldier, PSW, B.A. History , Seeking NDP nomination for Windsor/Techumseh
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A Defence Department report recently tabled in the House of Commons “showed a shortfall of nearly 900 regular force members and 4,500 part-time reservists at the end of March due to higher than forecasted attrition and other factors.”

To put that into perspective the 5,400 less troops equates to 135 less platoons. Or 45 less companies or even 15 less battalions. Which means the Canadian forces is down 3.75 brigades, or almost two full divisions. It has gotten so bad that the Canadian forces has lowered their physical fitness standard and some soldiers are put through fitness camp before they go on basic training.

So what is the root cause of this? I think there are three major flaws that are contributing to this downward spiral. The reason that the Canadian Forces is having such a hard time retaining and recruiting troops is because of budget cuts, the state of the equipment, and the knowledge that if you are injured on the job you will not be properly taken care of by Veterans Affairs.

A soldier that serves in the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry (PPCLI), one of the most revered and respected infantry units of the past century, has told me that they are allocated only 49 rounds for the entire training year due to budget cuts. The PPCLI’s service in World War I and II and Korea and thereafter is what legends are made of. Yet now they train with less than 50 bullets a year.

In the beginning of World War I the German Army was impressed by the amount of lead the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was able to put downrange. The reason for this is because of repetition, practicing with your rifle on the ranges for years. With only 49 rounds a year the soldier’s ability to clear stoppages, change magazines, shoot accurately is diminished greatly. The repetition needed to confidently operate a C7 is reduced with the inability to practice with bullets. In essence the budget cuts done to the infantry units has handicapped one of our greatest units.

Another unit that has paved the way for Canadian freedom and democracy is that of the Royal Canadian Regiment or the RCR. 1 and 3 RCR are posted to Petawawa, Ontario. 1RCR was a mechanized infantry unit until recently when it began training as a light infantry unit again. This was not a tactical decision but a budgetary one. The maintenance and upkeep of the LAVIII vehicles is too much for the unit and has caused their fleet to be grounded. If you go to the base you can see the LAVS sitting there under piles of snow. Recent wars have shown that mechanized infantry has been proven to be essential to modern warfare.

To my knowledge there were no Canadian units that deployed to Kandahar in a light infantry role. This is just like the lack of ammunition to train with. The ability to be an effective force is conducive to being able to operate with the equipment required to do ones job. If the soldiers are not able to use the LAVs then their confidence in operating them is reduced and the overall effectiveness is greatly diminished.

As bad as it is for the regular force the budgetary cuts are even worse for the reservists. At one point reservists were making up to 30-40 per cent of the numbers deploying to Afghanistan. Since then the life of a reservist has been reduced to make-believe bullets and shoe-string budget exercises.

The Essex and Kent Regiment just had a change of command parade and could not form three ranks. The level of frustration has reached such a point that in years since the Afghan mission’s conclusion that the E&K has had to endure the loss of key leadership soldiers that represent over 15 tours of experience. To be fair the economic woes of the Windsor area can be seen as a factor into this, but the inability to replace the numbers lost does not. “Those who would follow them into uniform are being stymied by a woefully inept recruiting system where it takes an average of 166 days to be processed.”

The budgetary cuts have come swift and fast in June of 2014 another round of cuts were announced where, “Only the navy said it could absorb a four per cent cut, while both the air force and army warned even that reduction would have dramatic impacts on their respective capabilities not just today, but for the next two or more years.”

Canada spends 1 per cent of its GDP on defence spending , just slightly ahead of financially-troubled Spain, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg, Lithuania, and Latvia. The Harper government, which styles itself a hawk on military spending, found itself in the unusual position of resisting pressure from allies to boost defence spending.

The budgetary cuts easily plays into the next reason that the Canadian Forces can’t maintain a fighting force of 68, 000. The dilapidated state of the equipment is no secret. The submarines that don’t float or sink. The naval vessels that need to be towed home. Or the plane parts being taken out of museums.

The F-18s are 40 years old — a full two generations removed from being relevant. The Sea King Helicopters that require 100 hours of maintenance for every hour of flight time. It seems that more Sea Kings are falling out of the sky lately than Geese in the month of October.

Thus the lack of training and the poor state of our equipment would leave anyone to surmise that the probability of taking casualties is greatly increased. Then you would suppose that Veterans Affairs would have to compensate for this. Every Canadian knows that this is not the case. The Department of Veterans Affairs Canada is mired in a quagmire of incompetence at epic proportions. From the 1.13 billion in lapsed funds, to the suicides that surpass the death toll of the Afghan mission . The Auditor General’s report or the 1,000 less employees in the department since 2009. The bonuses to the management for laying off VAC employees, and the failure to fill the mental health positions. The insurance company mentality that the department has adopted presenting itself as a faceless organization when dealing with those maimed fighting for its country. The closed VAC offices, or the 200 million in spending that will not be spent in six years as the press conference stated but rather 50 years instead . The most recent tactics adopted by the department is accusing ex-soldiers of exaggerating their injuries.

This all under the watch of Minster Julian Fantino, who is late to meetings with veterans begging for their local VAC offices to stay open and then angrily walks out on them. Even the wives of soldiers suffering from PTSD are not safe from his scorn. Those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice are not even safe from the budget cuts, the state of the headstones of the fallen fail to meet the standard that Canadians hold true. The current state of Veterans Affairs has caused soldiers to rely on the charity and good will of organizations like the Royal Canadian Legion, True Patriot Love, and Wounded Warriors. Just as the Auditor General’s report was released rather than being at a three-day conference about PTSD attended by all of the leading experts from across the country the minister is in Italy laying wreaths. His actions so close to an election year has seen the PMO’s office replace Fantino with Erin O’Toole. As a former veteran himself O’Toole will have to walk a tight rope between towing the party line and the friendships forged in his time in the military. His 12 years in the Canadian Forces as part of a Brotherhood of Warriors, Forged in battle Baptized by fire Quenched in tears is on the line.

The blog “Canada Eighteen Sixty-Seven” by Benjamin Berman says that to top it all off the words of Sir Robert Borden established a verbal contract with Canada’s veterans, vowing that a grateful nation will provide adequate care and support to those who served, while forever honouring those who gave the greatest sacrifice. This solemn promise still echoes today across the war graves of the fallen; from France to Korea, from Bosnia to Afghanistan. However, the Conservative government rejects this social contract with veterans.

The current government does not believe there is a moral obligation to those who answered the call of duty and fought in Canada’s name. Berman writes:

“In fact, it has tasked federal lawyers with openly challenging this idea in the courts. Six disabled Afghan war veterans have filed a lawsuit against Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, in an attempt to reverse the decision to replace lifelong pensions for injured soldiers with a one-time payment.

In response, Harper sent in federal lawyers to get the case tossed out by arguing that there is no special obligation to those who’ve fought for Canada, and that it’s ‘unfair’ to bind the Harper government to promises made nearly a century ago by another prime minister. The lawyers have stated in the courts that, as far as the Conservative government is concerned, the social covenant to care for injured veterans, as explained by former Prime Minister Borden, was simply ‘political speech’ and ‘not meant to be taken seriously’. Essentially, Stephen Harper is exhausting all efforts on the taxpayer’s dime to prevent these six injured veterans from having their day in court.”

It is clear that anyone wanting to join the military must heed the current state of its affairs. While the prime minister calls out Russia and asks Canadians to pray for the soldiers fighting ISIS then cuts to the military suggest his foreign affairs strategy is all bark and no bite.

The lack of training that goes into our forces would give Gladwell fits. The soldiers are fed up and leaving in droves. How can any Canadian organization possibly think it can retain its work force without guaranteeing them that they will be taken care of if injured? Advice to any perspective enlistee that they explore all other options first. Only as a last ditch effort should you consider joining the Canadian Forces.

If you so choose to wear the same uniform that so many great men and women did generations before it would behoove you to not be a hero for the sake of you and your family’s wellbeing. The decade of darkness has given way to the generation of disgrace.

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Some veterans groups say new minister still marginalizing them

Some veterans groups say new minister still marginalizing them

Newly-appointed Minister of Veterans Affairs Erin O'Toole leaves Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, January 5, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean KilpatrickNewly-appointed Minister of Veterans Affairs Erin O’Toole leaves Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, January 5, …

If part of new Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole’s mandate was to mend the public relations fences trampled down by his predecessor Julian Fantino, he’s not off to an auspicious start.

O’Toole, who replaced the politically tone-deaf former cop on Jan. 5, slowly has been reaching out to veterans organizations, but at least a couple of the more vocal dissidents say they have a feeling they’re going to remain frozen out.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper demoted Fantino to junior defence minister last week as he prepared the Conservative government for its anticipated fall re-election campaign. Fantino’s apparent insensitivity to the concerns of disabled veterans and inability to sell policy changes by his department made him a political liability in what had become a high-profile portfolio.

O’Toole, a one-time RCAF navigator turned Toronto corporate lawyer, is supposed to reset the government’s relationship with veterans, whose problems generally get a sympathetic reception from the public.

But the Hill Times reported Monday O’Toole has told at least one veterans group it’s not going to have the minister’s ear unless it restructures its organization.

Canadian Veterans Advocacy (CVA) head Michael Blais got a voicemail message, in response to a tweet, from the new minister last Wednesday, two days after he was appointed.

“I actually think you and I have a decent relationship,” O’Toole said in his voicemail. “But I want groups that are truly non-profit fraternal organizations that have bylaws, that have boards of directors, that have votes and annual general meetings, not just a Facebook page.

“So I’d like to hear your plan on becoming that, like a legion [Royal Canadian Legion] or an ANAVETs [Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans] or or a UN-NATO or something, where the members have a lot of say on direction of policy.”

While O’Toole’s tone seems friendly, the message sounded like an ultimatum: Change or continue to be frozen out of stakeholders’ meetings.

Groups not invited to Quebec summit

CVA and some other veterans groups were excluded from a stakeholder summit chaired by Fantino in Quebec City last November. The list of those not invited mirrored one used by the legion to decide who could attend the twice-yearly assembly of veterans groups that it hosts.

At least some had been highly vocal critics of the government’s closure of regional veterans affairs offices, the implementation of a Liberal-originated policy replacing disability pensions with lump-sum payments and its inadequate response to the problem of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide among modern vets.

On the eve of last Remembrance Day, a coalition of six dissident veterans groups announced they’d be boycotting government photo ops and news announcements until their concerns were addressed.


Blais told Yahoo Canada News it appears O’Toole’s job is less to improve service to disabled vets than to spruce up the department’s public image before the scheduled October general election.

Blais said O’Toole has tried to smear the CVA by suggesting it was backed with union donations and operating from NDP veterans affairs critic Peter Stoffer’s Ottawa office. All untrue, he said. Fantino and his predecessor, Stephen Blaney, previously accepted the organization as a legitimate veterans representative.

“Now we have Erin O’Toole dictating terms about our existence if we want inclusion,”  Blais said, as he insisted his CVA met all the legal criteria of a non-profit organization set out by the Conservative government in 2012.

Blais said the kinds of structures the minister wants are rigid and unnecessary in a web-connected age.

“No modern veterans organization is into that crap anymore,” Blais said. “That’s why we don’t join the legion.”

O’Toole’s office would not comment, but the minister’s call was portrayed as cordial, friendly and not intended to suggest the CVA would be shut out of future discussions.

Still, representatives of disabled veterans say they’re concerned the Quebec precedent will stand.

“There’s three injured veterans that used to sit at that table,” Don Leonardo, president of the 7,600-member Veterans of Canada said. “And they’re the ones that get kicked out of the meetings.”

Leonardo was one of those disabled vets at the table. He said the last contact he had with O’Toole was in a Twitter exchange in December, before his appointment was announced. He said he’s left messages at the minister’s office and O’Toole’s constituency office.

“I have not talked to the minister yet,” he said in an interview. “All I can do is assume that I’m not included in the stakeholders anymore, even being the second-largest veterans group in Canada now.

“I’m not sure if I’m invited back or if I’m going to be louder on the outside than I am sitting at the table.”

No one speaking for modern-day injured veterans

Leonardo, who wrote an op-ed piece for Monday’s Hill Times, said at this point there is no one at the table to represent injured modern veterans. But he stopped short of criticizing O’Toole’s outreach so far.

“The fact is Minister O’Toole is a veteran and I will debate him on the issues, but I’m not going to go around and slam him. I will leave that for others.”

Veterans advocate Sean Bruyea, who regularly attended Veterans Affairs stakeholder meetings, but is also feeling the chill since he helped organize the dissident coalition last fall, said he is not surprised O’Toole has not been more conciliatory.

“I anticipated he would just be a smoother venue for the same old political rhetoric, which is we’re telling everyone we’re doing something when we’re actually doing nothing,” he told Yahoo Canada News.

Bruyea said successive veterans affairs ministers have been unable to get control of the department’s entrenched bureaucracy to make it more responsive. He doubts O’Toole will have any better success.

But he’s concerned disabled veterans will be pushed further to the fringes if they’re not heeded and lose hope.

“I wouldn’t be surprised that veterans were to do harm to themselves because, face it, they gave everything for this government and if they sense the government’s not going to listen to them what options are left for them.”

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EDITORIAL: New Veterans Affairs minister must alter course

the chronicle herald
January 12, 2015 – 1:00am
January 12, 2015 – 1:00am
<br />
Newly appointed Minister of Veterans Affairs Erin O’Toole leaves Rideau Hall in Ottawa last week. He replaces Julian Fantino, the much-criticized outgoing minister. (SEAN KILPATRICK<br />
/<br />
CP)<br />

Newly appointed Minister of Veterans Affairs Erin O’Toole leaves Rideau Hall in Ottawa last week. He replaces Julian Fantino, the much-criticized outgoing minister. (SEAN KILPATRICK / CP)

As a former navigator with Canada’s aging Sea King helicopter fleet, Erin O’Toole knows that staying the course to reach a goal is not always about the skill of the navigator.

First there’s the weather. Then there’s the rest of the team — and how effectively the powers that be support the mission, equipment and staff.

The new Veterans Affairs Canada minister can duck bad weather but bad publicity and even worse policy decisions have been hallmarks of the department under the leadership of outgoing minister Julian Fantino.

And veterans’ groups are justifiably wary of a personable and no doubt well intentioned new minister who might not have the support of the powers that be — Prime Minister Stephen Harper — to redress veterans’ legitimate complaints.

To be fair, Mr. Fantino did not preside over all the changes that have so incensed a cohort of nation’s former sailors, soldiers and airforce personnel that they’ve signed on to bring down the Conservatives in the federal election set for October.

Among the most unfair is the New Veterans Charter implemented in 2006 that replaced lifetime financial support with lump-sum payments. Payments are now paid out over time but are far lower than those paid to earlier vets or even Canadians injured on the job.

Another big irritant is the government’s opposition to a class-action lawsuit over the charter by Afghanistan vets. Government lawyers are denying Canada’s long-honoured legal obligation to look after Forces personnel who have served the nation in peace or in war.

Then there’s the department’s failure to spend more than $1 billion of budgeted funds since 2006 as it slashed staff and closed offices that served veterans. Fantino announced new mental health services money that, it turns out, won’t be spent for decades. Critics point to a system that leaves the most severely injured vets in poverty after age 65 and pays substandard benefits to many wounded ex-soldiers.

A prominent lawyer, Mr. O’Toole is better equipped than the former Toronto police chief to handle veterans and family members with complaints or requests for help.

Last January, Mr. Fantino let a delegation of unhappy vets, including Cape Breton veterans’ advocate Ron Clarke, languish in a small room before chastising one for shaking his finger at him, then walking away.

Canadian voters are far from homogenous but there is broad consensus across party lines that veterans should be respected and supported financially and that the Harper government has failed them.

The Conservatives are holding their own in the polls, but that could quickly change during an election campaign if disenchanted veterans can bring voters into their ABC — Anyone But Conservative — campaign.

So Mr. O’Toole, a lawyer who helped found a veterans’ aid group called True Patriot Love Foundation, must sharply turn government policy to free up funds to redress these wrongs or resign himself to the possibility that a group of organized veterans could ensure that his tenure as the minister of Veterans Affairs Canada will be short-lived, indeed.

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New Veterans Affairs minister cuts off veterans’ advocates from advisory role: Blais

New Veterans Affairs minister cuts off veterans’ advocates from advisory role: Blais

The Hill Times photographs by Jake Wright and Kate Malloy
Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole, Canadian Veterans Advocacy’s Mike Blais, and former Veterans Affairs minister Julian Fantino.

Newly-appointed Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole has informed an advocacy group for wounded and psychologically injured veterans that it is no longer a stakeholder adviser to the Veterans Affairs department.

Mike Blais, who helped launch Canadian Veterans Advocacy in 2011 to advocate for veterans and serving Canadian Forces members who did combat tours in Afghanistan and their families, told The Hill Times that Mr. O’Toole (Durham, Ont.) gave the bad news to the group in a voicemail he left on Mr. Blais’ phone service Jan. 7.

The information came as a shock to Mr. Blais and his group, which had been one of the most vocal critics of the department’s treatment of injured veterans and Canadian Forces members in the months leading up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) decision to shuffle former Veterans Affairs minister Julian Fantino (Vaughan, Ont.) out of the post last week, following scathing criticism from Auditor General Michael Ferguson for delays in treatment for veterans.

Mr. Blais, a former peacekeeper who suffered lifelong damage to his back in a non-combat injury during a tour in Cypress, said the exclusion of Canadian Veterans Advocacy from a Veterans Affairs Canada Stakeholder Committee established in 2012 is a violation of Charter of Rights protection of freedom of expression and freedom of association.

The former serviceman said it was not the first time Mr. O’Toole, a former Air Force navigator and lawyer who, prior to his appointment, was an active supporter of other causes for veterans, has singled the group out.

Last June, Mr. O’Toole said in the House of Commons that Canadian Veterans Advocacy is run out of the Parliamentary office of NDP MP Peter Stoffer (Sackville-Eastern Shore, N.S.).

“As a veteran myself, I have been quite offended by some of the work that group does. It is not sincere. It is not based on sound policy. I understand, at committee, that they have acknowledged that their funding has come from unions,” Mr. O’Toole said on June 2.

Mr. O’Toole’s message said Mr. Blais should know how the minister feels about the CVA, Mr. Blais told The Hill Times.

“He’s always tried to label us as a union plant,’’ Mr. Blais said in a telephone interview last Thursday.

As of noon on Friday, Mr. O’Toole’s office had not responded to email and phone messages asking for a response to Mr. Blais’ description of Mr. O’Toole’s telephone call.

“He lied about us in the House of Commons on June 4, he misled the House of Commons by saying that I was using Peter Stoffer’s office and his people and stuff to contact unions and solicit them for money, and that I had organized the Rock the Hill event, and none of that was true, we couldn’t even respond,” Mr. Blais said.

“And now he leaves a message, ‘You know how I feel about the CVA,’” Mr. Blais said.

Mr. Blais said the CVA has been listed as a stakeholder on the Veterans Affairs site for three years, and has attended stakeholder meetings and offered advice. He said the group is prepared to launch a human rights complaint on freedom of speech grounds.

“We have been a leader at that table for the voice of the wounded and now Mr. O’Toole is cutting us out of the loop because he doesn’t like, or suspects or whatever, that we have union ties and that we do not speak for the wounded. That’s crap,” Mr. Blais said.

The advocacy group lobbied against government budget plans in 2012 that would have resulted in job losses at Veterans Affairs Canada, he said, after which the union representing the employees provided Canadian Veterans Advocacy a donation of $2,000.

“Every department at that time took a 10-per-cent hit except Veterans Affairs Canada,” Mr. Blais said.

“We worked hard on that and the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees made a donation of $2,000, no strings attached, just a donation to the war chest. There is not tit for tat, no, nothing, right. As a consequence to that, even though it was three years ago and a meagre $2,000, they’ve been attempting to label us,” Mr. Blais said.

He said Mr. O’Toole called his home after Mr. Blais responded by phone to a tweet Mr. O’Toole posted, soon after assuming his new post as Veterans Affairs minister, saying that he was “reaching out to stakeholders.”

“So we sent one to him: ‘When are you going to phone us?’ and then he phoned when I was not home and left a brief message, that was kind of circumvented because he ran out of time, but nevertheless in essence he said, ‘Well, you know how I feel about the CVA, it’s the same as the last three years, I have not changed my position, if you want to change your organization, more like the Legion where we have members and we have votes and all this stuff.’ Well we’re not the Legion, we’re an advocacy group and we have conformed to every non-profit regulation that the Harper government put into effect since 2012.”

A lawyer who is also a director of Canadian Veterans Advocacy emailed The Hill Times a letter condemning Mr. O’Toole’s decision to exclude the group from a posted list of 10 advocacy groups on the department’s stakeholders committee, which includes the Royal Canadian Legion.

“Freedom of conscience, belief, expression, peaceful assembly and association belong to all Canadians including veterans,” CVA director Jerry Kovacs said in the email.

“As a lawyer who worked on Bay Street, Erin O’Toole should understand the importance of these values to veterans,” he said. “Erin O’Toole must not exclude any veterans, whether they are formally associated with others or not, in the weeks and months ahead as he consults with them on issues, problems and solutions facing them and the department,” Mr. Kovacs said.

Though Mr. Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) shuffled Mr. Fantino, 72, out of the Veterans portfolio, he kept the former Ontario Provincial Police chief, who was also once chief of the Toronto Police Service, in Cabinet as a junior associate minister of Defence, responsible for Arctic sovereignty and military and foreign intelligence.

Critics told The Hill Times Mr. Harper maintained a Cabinet seat for Mr. Fantino because of his political and fundraising clout in the Toronto region.

In an email sent at 7:38 p.m. on Friday after The Hill Times’ deadline, Mr. O’Toole’s spokesperson, Ashlee Smith, sent this quotation from Mr. O’Toole to The Hill Times, in response to Mr. Blais: “I invited him to share the recording with his contacts. I understand he intends to do that and I think that will allow everyone to understand what was said.”

Mr. Blais said on Monday Mr. O’Toole had not spoken to him personally, and instead tweeted the invitation to distribute his message to other veterans advocats. The Hill Times listened to Mr. O’Toole’s message by phone, and Mr. O’Toole states that Mr. Blais is aware of his long-held objections to the way Canadian Veterans Advocacy is structured and, just before the voice mail ends automatically, indicates he wants to know how Mr. Blais intends to conform with Mr. O’Toole’s wishes.




The Hill Times

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List of all Pensionable condition (VAC) – Liste de toute condition pensionné de ACC

List of all Pensionable condition  (VAC) – Liste de toute condition pensionné de ACC

You will need to register to get access to this information.

More importantly, this is the kind of information the ATIP Request team will be able to get. This is much valuable information, which is not avail on VAC web site unfortunately.


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Q&A: Canadian Veterans’ Advocacy president Michael Blais

Q&A: Canadian Veterans’ Advocacy president Michael Blais

Michael Blais, president, Canadian Veterans Advocacy.
Michael Blais, president, Canadian Veterans Advocacy.

Jana Chytilova / Ottawa Citizen

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Canadian Veterans’ Advocacy president has been one of the more outspoken and high profile critics of the Conservative government’s handling of veterans issues. His group is part of the four-member Coalition of Canadians for Veterans.

2014 has been a busy and fractious year on the veterans front. It saw the number of suicides among serving soldiers (at least 161) among surpass the number of soldiers (158) who were killed in the Afghan conflict. Not included in official statistics are an unknown number of recently released soldiers who have taken their own lives.

Politically, Veterans’ Affairs Minister Julian Fantino continues to face a barrage of criticism from veterans. A critical Auditor General’s report in November agreed with them on key points. Also in November, veterans groups publicly critical of the Conservative government — Blais’s among them — were excluded from a Veterans Affairs-sponsored stakeholders’ meeting in Quebec City shortly after Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed former chief of defence staff Walter Natynczyk to be Fantino’s deputy minister — a move widely seen as a mix of damage control and bridge building.

Blais sees the 2015 election year as a potentially crucial one. He spoke to the Citizen’s Chris Cobb about a frenetic and 2014 and plans for the battle ahead.

Q: Your coalition sent a letter to Prime Minister Harper in May in which you offer 14 points you say will improve the Veterans Charter, and the lot of veterans generally. And you sent another letter in the fall. Did he respond?

A: Negative. Mr. Harper has not responded. We’ve never had any substantial responses to any letters either from the minister or prime minister. When there’s a response, it’s always the same talking points. They never answer a question.

Q: Why did you send these letters to the PM?

A: Because we believe he is the de facto minister of Veterans Affairs. I watch Minister Fantino in the House reading from these talking points written for him. Fantino is the puppet.

Q: Was Natynchyk’s appointment a good one?

A: I don’t know. At first I was excited but then as an advocacy group we were excluded from a stakeholders meeting. I find myself facing a contradiction. Will there be dialogue or will he be a minion of Stephen Harper. Is it just another figurehead? I hope not.

Q: So how do you see 2015 panning out?

A: We have an agenda and we are kicking off a very aggressive campaign in the New Year when parliament resumes.

Q: What are you planning exactly?

A: It’s pre-election time. We have been in patrolling mode for the past year and now its time to go into an advance and contact mode. We are going to be aggressive in responding to the government’s (promised) the review of the new Veterans Charter if it doesn’t meet our expectations of equality, which I doubt it will. During budget time we will be organizing a large rally, probably on the Saturday before and another on budget day with other disenfranchised groups who are sharing the same burden of a nation that has lost its compassion and understanding.

Q: Why budget day?

A: There will be all kinds of freebies and giveaways, but the disenfranchised will not find justice in this budget.

Q: Budget day hasn’t been fixed. When do you expect it?

A: Late February, early March. My gut feeling is that the prime minister will want an election prior to Duffygate (trial of former senator Mike Duffy) blowing up. So it’s important for us to be proactive. We will bring veterans’ issues back to the national consciousness in the New Year despite the fact the government wants it to go away. Well, we’re not going to let it go away.

Q: Will veterans be a big issue during the election campaign?

A: Sure. We have been talking about the reality of engaging during the election campaign in a non-partisan manner. If the other parties were as averse to veterans as the Harper government, we would take them on, too. The Liberal program hasn’t been formally released, but I have talked to Mr. Trudeau and his senior advisers and I’m confident they will meet the obligation. The NDP has a good plan. With the Conservatives there is nothing good we can report. Every headline has been a headline without substance — $200 million turns out to be $200 million over 50 years.

In the interim, people are dying and the cycle of despair is destroying families.

Q: You mean suicides?

A: Yes. How many veterans have committed suicide since Afghanistan started? Guys who have got out of the military for one or two years and commit suicide? We’ve got to help these boys, but how do we do it when we don’t know who they are? We need to implement a research program through Veterans Affairs.

Q: This is a critical time of the year veterans suffering from mental illness, isn’t it?

A: I’m worried about it. There is a malaise that hits and it’s a difficult obstacle for many to overcome. I just pray they reach out for help.

(This interview was edited for length.)



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BLOG INDEX: CAF & VAC Benefits and Services

BLOG INDEX: CAF & VAC Benefits and Services



Canadian Armed Forces – Forces armées canadiennes

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VAC Benefits Browser -Benefits at a Glance – Navigateur des avantages d’ACC – Avantages en un coup d’oeil

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  10. Réadaptation professionnelle et assistance professionnelle – Programme de réadaptation **Nouveau**
  11. Vocational Rehabilitation and Vocational Assistance – Training Expenses **New**
    1. Vocational Rehabilitation and Vocational Assistance – Training Expenses (OLD)
  12. Vocational Rehabilitation and Vocational Assistance – Training Expenses – Transition Policy
  13. Rehabilitation Related Expenses – Other Than Training
  14. Payment Time Limits for Benefits, Services or Care – Délais concernant la présentation des demandes de remboursement des avantages, des services et des soins **New** **Nouveau**
  15. Date Payable – Disability Benefits, Allowances, and Prisoner of War/Detention Benefit Compensation **New**
  16. Date de paiement – Prestations d’invalidité, allocations et indemnité de prisonnier de guerre/de captivité **Nouveau**


  1. Drug Formulary – Formulaire des médicaments
  2. Sativex (Pain and PTSD) (douleur et le SSPT)
  3. Botox for Pain Management – Botox pour la gestion de la douleur


  2. SISIP & VAC VOC REHAB: Amount (75K) and Duration (4 Years)


Program of Choice 01 – Aids for daily living


Program of Choice 03 – Audio (hearing) services

  1. HEARING AID DIGITAL (New Devices every 4 years)

 Program of Choice 07 – Medical supplies / PDC – Fournitures médicales




  1. VAC Payments and quantity of anti depressant 2003-2013
  2. VAC Payments and quantity (grams) for Medical Marijuana
  3. VAC Policy on Medical Marijuana
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2014: The Year Canadians Saw VAC’s Mistreatment of Veterans

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2014 will go down as the year in which Canadians — all Canadians — truly became aware of the debacle that is Veterans Affairs. It was the year in which pictures spoke, in which talking points failed, and in which government reports were actually read. It was the year that Conservative misdirection drove increased awareness instead, thanks to Julian Fantino.

From the start of his ministry, Minister Fantino has been a distraction. He declared himself a veteran, despite never having served in the Forces or RCMP, offending those who did. Julian’s outrageously disrespectful attitude this year has had veterans demanding his resignation, removal, or head. This works out well for the Conservatives. With veterans and supporters focused on a single person, the Harper Government can keep doing what it does best: ignoring Canadians. As long as dear sweet Julian is at the helm, he gets the blame and Harper gets a pass. At least, that’s the theory.

But Minister Fantino has served another purpose equally well: raising awareness. Various advocates have been working for years to explain to Canadians how badly veterans are treated. That’s no easy task because many of the issues are complicated, bureaucratic, and, frankly, boring to read. Then along comes bungling, offensive, incompetent Fantino. No one needs an explanation of how the Harper Government holds veterans in contempt; you just need the video clip of the Minister yelling at decorated war heroes. You don’t need a complex outline of how the Ministry refuses to address veterans; you just need to see the Minister running away from a veteran’s wife. And you only have to notice that people like Parm Gill, Erin O’Toole, Laurie Hawn, and Ashlee Smith (Fantino’s spokesperson) are fielding questions about VAC, and Julian Fantino isn’t, to realize that the Minister is not responsible.

But lest we all fall victim to this great distraction, here’s a few of the low points from 2014:

2014 rang in with despair after a series of suicides by still-serving veterans made headlines. The highest profile death was that of Corporal Leona MacEachern, who drove headlong into a transport truck on Christmas Day. On the 9th of January, her husband released a scathing indictment of Veterans Affairs. The issue of veterans suicide had been forecast to become epidemic, and in 2014 the number Afghanistan lost to suicide exceeded the total lost in battle. Last January, faced with mounting suicides and a government refusing to acknowledge there even was a problem, veterans themselves set up their own crisis hotline — staffed by veterans.

Spring saw a series of consultations on the New Veterans Charter. Harper Government representatives on the panel concerned themselves more with the political views of veteran advocates than with any suggestions they had. The final report was submitted to the Commons with a series of strongly-worded recommendations; the third submission for many of them. Nevertheless, and despite taking the full three months allowed to respond, the Minister largely declared that the recommendations required still further study, and no action was taken on them. Incidentally, in a bizarre case of spin, Julian Fantino continues to claim credit for ordering the review… despite the fact that the Harper Government had nearly violated the Charter itself by delaying so long.

August had the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman reporting that over 50% of Canada’s disabled veterans were not in receipt of benefits. Reasons offered were that the applications were difficult, and the appeal process so arduous, that many veterans simply abandoned the process.

A Sunday in late November found Fantino announcing a massive veterans’ initiative: $200 million for mental health support and new clinics. Then he flew to Italy. Then we found out that that $200 million was to be spent over as much as 50 years and also included the infrastructure costs of setting up eight offices. By the way, there are nearly a million veterans of the Forces and RCMP spread out across Canada. You do the math on how much support that works out to.

A few days later, the Auditor General released is report on Veterans Affairs. The impartial review was another scathing indictment of VAC and fully supported what advocates have been saying for years: that it was too hard for veterans to access their entitlements; that the process was cumbersome and bureaucratic; that the department was bogged down in directives; and that the cycle of reject-reapply-reject-appeal forces veterans to stop in despair.

That appeal times can run from 10-15 years. That the Veterans Review and Appeal Board is not acting as it should, not adhering to legislation, not even equitably applying policy across cases. The AG report supported the claims of bureaucratic mistreatment made by veterans. But in a stunning display of contempt, Minister Fantino was “unavailable” to respond to the AG Report, and left his office staff to field questions. Fantino was in Italy to commemorate the WWII Italian Campaign. He also visited the graves of the dead Canadian soldiers; many of which, according to the AG, were neglected by Veterans Affairs.

But the biggest scandal of all, the one Harper will be ducking and dodging right into the election, is this easily understood item: Veterans Affairs returned $1.13 billion to Treasury Board. Stephen Harper would have us believe that this is a standard accounting measure. Canadians are not that stupid. Veterans Affairs is under constant cuts and claw backs. VAC offices were closed, staff terminated, programs slashed, due to a lack of funds. Yet there was money in the VAC coffers all along. 1.13 Billion.

We found that out shortly after the Harper Government announced a $1.9 Billion surplus.

You do the math.

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Don’t Give Up the Fight – A Blog on Military Trauma and Suicide – Part 8 – Told to Leave the Facts to the Government

Don’t Give Up the Fight

Blog #8: Told to Leave the Facts to the Government

Dr. Antoon A. Leenaars


On Nov. 24 to 26, 2014, at the 5th annual Military and Veteran Health Research Forum, Mike Blais and I presented a paper, entitled “Military suicide: Counselling survivors”. We know that there is suicide among the military, soldiers and veterans. A person’s death is not only an ending; it is also a beginning for the survivors. The pain of the suicide becomes the pain of the survivors. How do they adjust to the nightmare? How can we help? Sadly there are no studies on military survivors in Canada. How can we help? Mike and I discussed some thoughts on counselling military survivors, some very distinct military factors, and what the DND, VAC, and all of us need to do. The heart of the presentation was the narratives of the psychologically wounded warriors and the survivors. As this is a blog, and I have to be short, clear, and concise, according to my blog consultant, my daughter Kristen, I will not repeat here what I all said, but you can get a copy of our thoughts by emailing CVA. I want to, at this time, address an attack that occurred after our presentation, during questioning.

A young woman stood up, and introduced herself as an epidemiologist working for the government; I think she said, DRDC. I had questioned the facts about veteran suicide. I noted that in the U.S., the VA had reported a rate of suicide equal to the civilian rate (=100%); yet, it has been proven to be 2x that rate (200%). There are real problems in the data. The reported rate of suicide among Canadian veterans is 145%; I think that it is higher. From a statistical view point, 45% higher would be well above statistical expectation, the definition of an epidemic. (Think about a hospital where the rate of deaths is 50% or even 100% higher than other hospitals in a city. That would sound alarms.) The DND keeps better records, I think. They report a rate below 100% (In the U.S. soldiers, it is 200%, like the vets). Yet, there are problems. At the end of Nov. of 2013, there were 3 suicides, a cluster. Since the start of the cluster, from Nov. 25, 2013 to Feb. 21, 2014, there were 7 Regular Force who died by suicide! There were 3 Reserve Force. That would put the crude rate of suicide in those 3 months at 4X the usual rate, so 400%. There was contagion, and I wonder about copycat phenomena. Like in other Canadian high risk groups, such as Indigenous peoples, clusters (peaks) occur, and typically, with environmental support, diminish back to pre-cluster occurrences. Fortunately, it did; however, the after wake lasts forever. Imagine the number of survivors; if we take a conservative estimate of 10 survivors for each death that would mean 100 more survivors (I think that in the military culture the number of survivors is greater than 10. What if the suicide was a General?). I warned about statistics; you can use them to present whatever you prefer to be true. Generally, they present only a fraction of the true picture, and then only the numbers, not the howling despair.

The woman said that I should leave the facts to the government; they would tell the truth. She said that she was an epidemiologist. She knows how to do statistics. I was all wrong; she offered to teach me. She said that I knew nothing. Further, she added that we were doing a disservice to veterans. Certainly, a number of people after the talk, including some veterans, said quite the opposite. For example, Ron Griffis, National Past President of the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping was most positive and offered some new insights. Did you know that there have been widows of military suicides who lost their benefits and pensions? Would you tell the VAC of the death? More green (military) barriers created to resilience. I responded that I, indeed, did know how to do epidemiology. I have published over 240 peer-reviewed articles/chapters, and 14 books. I have taught public health at The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Etc. (Not that I said any of that publicly). I think that she was upset at me questioning the reported VAC stats. She stated that I should leave the facts to the government. I wonder what would have happened if my countrymen in the Netherlands listened to Hitler, and you Canadian soldiers never rescued my home country (Like all Dutch, I will be forever grateful what you did in WWII).

She was lobbying for a suicidogenic (causing suicide) environment. Dissembling! Masking! But: Silence kills. The number one question after trauma (e.g., suicide) should be: Is the environment supportive or not? My comment is about that specific person, not the DND or the military. Indeed, I have a very good relationship with commanders. I count Col. Andrew Downes, Director, Mental Health, DND, among my military friends; we often have consulted on suicide. The DND is keenly interested in suicide and survivors, although they admit more can be done. I think that it is people like that woman that give the military a bad name, not the military itself, and the very reason why we need to continue to work together for our heroes, the families, and the survivors. The survivors deserve the same respect and support as all who die from service. We just need to learn how to help them better!

Let me finish with a vignette; we are our stories: “…I have to go under a different name as I have been threatened and verbally attacked on fb over my husband’s suicide. I need your help. We need your help…”

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Veterans: dramatic increase in the consumption of medical marijuana

Note – this is a google translation

Veterans: dramatic increase in the consumption of medical marijuana

The number of veterans who use medical marijuana broke records this year with an increase of 230% in just one year. Result: Veterans Affairs Canada has secured nearly $ 2 million in marijuana from March to October 2014, an increase of 365% from 2013-2014, La Presse has learned.

Since 2008, Veterans Affairs Canada agrees to pay the medical cannabis to veterans who request it. It is the only medical marijuana program funded from public funds at the federal.

In six years, the number of veterans who have benefited from this program increased from 5 to 112 in 2013-2014. For the 2014-2015 year, there were already 373 veterans October 31.

This results in an explosion of spending for the Department. $ 20 000 in 2008, they reached $ 408,000 last year. For the current year, the costs amount to more than 1.9 million, according to documents obtained through the Access to Information Act. In total, in six years, the Department has provided $ 2.8 million pot.

Some veterans use cannabis to relieve chronic pain or to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, says Michael L. Blais of Canadian Veterans Advocacy Association, which campaigns for the improvement of the quality of life of veterans.

“In my case, I use it for neurological pain and back problems. It’s very effective and if I had not had that, my life would have been destroyed by my consumption of narcotics, “says the 57-year old soldier injured during a mission to Cyprus in 1984.

The Department is stingy with comments on the reasons for this sudden rise in popularity. “The increase in expenses for medical marijuana is due to the number of eligible veterans, approved by Health Canada, who presented claims” simply responds spokeswoman Janice Summerby. It is the same generic response served to the media every year.

Price increase

But an important change occurred in 2014 and may partly explain the increases.

Since March 31, Health Canada does not have to approve medical marijuana applications. A person who gets a doctor’s statement can turn directly to the producers authorized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The arrival of private producers also resulted in higher prices while Health Canada marijuana sold his $ 5 a gram. Mr. Blais buys cannabis today its $ 12 a gram.

Veterans Affairs Canada also anticipated the increases and had even suggested last April the Minister Julian Fantino to impose a limit of five grams of cannabis per person per day, and a refund of $ 9 gram.

Since last June, the limit is set at 10 grams per day. The vast majority of veterans consumes less than five grams per day, based on an assessment of the department.

MR. Fantino is not a doctor, he has no right to interfere in the treatments recommended by a doctor, laments Mr. Blais. When a doctor is consulted and recommends a product with a certain dosage, it is the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that we have access to the drug that relieves us.

http://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/national/201412/21/01-4830138-anciens-combattants-hausse-fulgurante-de-la-consommation-de-marijuana-medicale.php “

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