Jody Wilson-Raybould kept word to visit veterans despite resignation from Veterans Affairs

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VANCOUVER—Just two days after resigning as Minister of Veterans Affairs, Jody Wilson-Raybould was still keeping up with plans to visit with veterans.

On Thursday, Wilson-Raybould visited the George Derby Centre, a senior care centre located in Burnaby, B.C., to help distribute Valentine’s Day cards made by students. The visit was planned while she was still in office.

Wilson-Raybould visited a senior care centre in Burnaby where she met with veterans and heard their stories.
Wilson-Raybould visited a senior care centre in Burnaby where she met with veterans and heard their stories.  (Casey Cook/Twitter)

Casey Cook, president of the board of the George Derby Centre and who was present during the visit, said that despite being in the middle of national political controversy, Wilson- Raybould did not mention politics and kept her focus on the veterans that day.

“I was just impressed with her, for operating in what must have been an extremely stressful situation … she never mentioned politics, she asked all the veterans where they were from and where they served; she spent considerable time with them,” Cook told The Star.

On Tuesday, Wilson-Raybould, who is also the MP for Vancouver-Granville, handed in her resignation has head of Veterans Affairs, just a month after she was moved to the job from her previous post as Attorney General. The move has been viewed by many as a demotion, possibly influenced by the Prime Minister’s Office to prevent the prosecution of Quebec company SNC-Lavalin.

Cook estimated that Wilson-Raybould spent close to two-and-a-half hours speaking with “every veteran in the room,” which he estimated to be approximately 40 in total. He thanked Wilson-Raybould for her visit on Twitter.

Read more:

Wilson-Raybould resignation stokes anger, frustration within veterans community

Trudeau admits Wilson-Raybould challenged him on SNC-Lavalin

The SNC-Lavalin affair: meet the main players

Cook said that it was the first time that he knew of, in over 10 years serving on boards of senior care homes in the Metro Vancouver area, that any representative from the federal ministry had visited veterans.

“Frankly, I have not even seen a federal minister come to a centre,” he said. “I would venture to guess 90 politicians out of 100 would have cancelled this appointment.”

In her statement of resignation on February 12, Wilson-Raybould underscored her commitment to veterans.

“To Canada’s veterans and their families: I have the deepest admiration and respect for you. This decision is in no way a reflection of my desire to see your service and sacrifice upheld and honoured.”

With files from David Ball.

Cherise Seucharan is a Vancouver-based reporter covering health and safety/youth. Follow her on Twitter: @CSeucharan

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‘Revolving door’ of ministers in the veterans affairs department causing worry

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OTTAWA—In the political controversy engulfing Justin Trudeau’s government, advocates fear that the revolving door atop the veterans affairs department means that veterans and their priorities are getting short shrift.

Jody Wilson-Raybould on Tuesday announced her resignation from cabinet after serving barely a month as veterans affairs minister.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will also take on the role of veterans affairs minister after Jody Wilson-Roybould left the federal cabinet on Feb. 12, 2019.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will also take on the role of veterans affairs minister after Jody Wilson-Roybould left the federal cabinet on Feb. 12, 2019.  (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

She quit cabinet amidst allegations that Trudeau’s office had pressured her in her former role as attorney general to mediate a settlement with SNC-Lavalin rather than pursue criminal charges.

In the wake of her announcement, Trudeau said that Harjit Sajjan, who is the defence minister, would take on the role of veterans affairs minister too. He becomes the eighth minister to hold the position since 2010 and the fourth since the Liberals took office in 2015.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” said Scott Maxwell, executive director of Wounded Warriors Canada.

“Who can possible effect the real substantive reforms needed in any ministry under these time frames. The answer, of course, is nobody,” he said.

“Our message is that veterans and their families deserve better,” said Maxwell.

In the wake of Tuesday’s resignation, the Royal Canadian Legion called on the government to create one department to merge Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence to ensure seamless oversight of military personnel “from recruitment into retirement.

“We have witnessed several puzzling changes to VAC’s leadership in recent years, and we now question just how committed government is to Canada’s veterans,” the legion said in a statement.

“On their behalf, we ask that the veteran portfolio overall be treated as a vital one, and that government take swift action so that critical issues related to our veterans’ well-being are dealt with immediately,” the statement said.

Successive governments have faced criticism that the benefits provided to veterans fall short at the very time that government is faced with a wave of veterans suffering the mental and physical wounds from Canada’s extended mission in Afghanistan.

Kent Hehr was the first politician to hold the post in Trudeau’s government, followed by Seamus O’Regan, then Wilson-Raybould and now Sajjan.

Each change means a steep learning curve for the minister and their staff as they get up to speed on the issues facing the department, the complex array of veterans benefits and get acquainted with stakeholders. That inevitably means delays.

Sajjan at least comes into the portfolio with some familiarity with the issues, thanks to his time as defence minister and a veteran of the Armed Forces himself. But it still means that the job of veteran affairs minister is now a part-time role, held by a minister juggling two departments.

Maxwell noted that a few ministers have stayed in their portfolios for a prolonged period, including Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Sajjan and questioned why veteran affairs doesn’t merit the same stability. “It’s time that it did and it needs to,” he said.

NDP MP Gord Johns, the party’s critic for veterans affairs, said that veterans have grown frustrated with “revolving door” of ministers for the department.

He praised Wilson-Raybould as a “capable” minister and said expectations were running high that she could make headway on the issues facing the department. “I think a lot of veterans were very excited of her stature and her CV,” said Johns (Courtenay—Alberni).

He met with Wilson-Raybould just last week and agreed to meet again to work together on veterans issues. “She was open and willing to work on issues with me,” Johns said.

“Veterans are tired of rhetoric. They want a minister that is committed to working on their issues,” he said in an interview. “Veterans are really being lost in all of this.”

Even when she took on the post in a January cabinet shuffle, Wilson-Raybould had to push back on suggestions that the veterans affairs role was a demotion in the hierarchy of cabinet positions.

“I can think of no world in which I would consider working for our veterans in Canada as a demotion,” Wilson-Raybould told reporters on the day of the shuffle.

Trudeau himself declared that day that serving as veterans affairs minister is a “deep and awesome responsibility.”

Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier

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New Edmonton centre one stop shop for veterans’ services – Edmonton

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For many of Canada’s veterans, the transition into civilian life can be difficult.

Edmonton’s veterans are getting help connecting to mental and physical health supports in the area. The Edmonton Veterans Service Centre was launched in December 2018, and offers veterans affordable transition housing and assistance in the search for jobs.

“If somebody comes in and they are in immediate need for food services then we can provide them with food cards, grocery cards,” Debbie Lowther, chair and co-founder of Vets Canada, said.

READ MORE: Are the Liberals really turning their back on veterans?

“If they are in need of getting to a medical appointment, we have bus tickets here on site. We can provide services like emergency housing.

“If somebody comes in today, we can have them housed tonight,” Lowther said.

Retired Maj. David Blackburn is an injured veteran who served as an armored officer until 2011.

He says the issue for members leaving the military is the loss of identity.

“They are a highly skilled demographic but they don’t recognize what that skill set has to offer.”

Blackburn transitioned from an armored officer into four different jobs: health care contractor, environmental consultant, heavy equipment operator for landfills and now consults with veterans to find their next career.

“When you leave the military — whether you’re leaving from an injury or an illness or you’re leaving because you’re at the end of a contract — you’re losing that identity that you’ve had,” Blackburn said.

Since 2016, Calgary based non-profit Prospect Human Services has connected almost 1,200 transitioning military members, veterans and their families to find work through their employer network.

READ MORE: Disabled Edmonton veteran has to prove again his legs are still gone

The range of partnerships between the service centre and Prospects is just one of the many agencies aimed at connecting transitioning military members to veteran-serving organizations.

Debbie Lowther, chair and co-founder of Vets Canada says the centre is the first of its kind in Canada.

“To be able to offer them all of the support that they need in one location is amazing.”

Other partner organizations include the Royal Canadian Legion, Alberta NWT Command and Forces@WORK.

READ MORE: Meet Harjit Sajjan: Canada’s new defence minister and Afghan combat veteran

The Edmonton Veterans Service Centre is located at 12325 97 Street.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Veterans Affairs $165M gaffe headed to Federal Court in proposed class-action lawsuit

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A proposed class-action lawsuit has been filed against the federal government over the $165-million accounting blunder by Veterans Affairs Canada, CBC News has learned.

The court action, which has yet to be certified, was filed on Tuesday by former soldier Dennis Manuge, who successfully took the Department of National Defence to court a few years ago over the clawback of military pensions.

The new case involves the miscalculation of disability awards and pensions at the veterans department, a fiscal gaffe that went on for almost eight years, starting in 2002.

In 2010, the department discovered and corrected the indexing mistake, which affects about 272,000 elderly veterans, but quietly fixed the issue without notifiying those affected until the former veterans ombudsman blew the whistle last November.

Last week, CBC News revealed documents that detailed how the error happened and some of the assumptions bureaucrats used when the issue was buried.

The lawsuit takes aim at that aspect and said the government’s « conduct in failing to disclose the calculation error once discovered in 2010 is public misfeasance in office which should be censured by a damage award, » said a copy of the statement of claim.

Peter Driscoll, the lawyer representing Manuge, said the federal government knew what it was doing and acted unlawfully.

« We say that there is a duty, among other things, upon the government to disclose such an error, make good on that error in a transparent way, and that’s what they failed to do, » he told CBC News in an interview.

Repayments coming 2020

Manuge, who was collecting disability benefits during the period in question, said he believes someone needs to held accountable for not reporting the initial mixup.

« Any Canadian can understand a mistake, but just come out and say, ‘Listen, we made a mistake, this is what happened and here’s what we’re doing to fix it,' » he said in an interview Wednesday.

The Liberal government dodged questions last week about whether it would investigate.

« If Veterans Affairs is not going to hold themselves accountable, if we cannot get a straight answer … then, you know, I am really confident that the Federal Court will find some answers for us, » said Manuge.

As part of owning up to the mistake late last year, the Liberal government promised it would reimburse those affected, but underlined the payments wouldn’t be made until 2020.

That, said Driscoll, is offensive.

« You know when a veteran owes the government money in the form of an overpayment and VAC benefits, or assistance, or whatever the case may be, they’re immediately required to pay it back, » he said.

2007 lawsuit

Driscoll said a number of veterans, in addition to Manuge, contacted their law office and claim that their attempts to get information about reimbursement out of service agents at Veterans Affairs have been met with obfuscation and the brushoff.

Driscoll said Manuge’s experience and perseverance through the previous court case involving the Service Income Security Insurance Plan meant he was the right person to front a class-action lawsuit.

Manuge was injured in an accident at Camp Petawawa, Ont. in 2001, just before being deployed to Bosnia. His condition forced him to leave the military two years later, and he suffered from lower back pain as well as bouts of depression.

At the time, his Canadian military long-term disability benefits were reduced by the amount of money he received in disability from Veterans Affairs.

He fought the clawback and filed a class-action lawsuit against the federal government in March 2007, which took almost five years to make its way through the courts.

His lawyers won a victory in 2012, when the Federal Court said it was unfair of the federal government to treat pain and suffering awards as income.

The former Conservative government decided not to appeal and negotiated a $887-million settlement with the roughly 7,500 soldiers who were affected.

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Jane Philpott takes over Treasury Board, Jody Wilson-Raybould to oversee veterans in cabinet shuffle

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Jane Philpott is the new President of the Treasury Board, replacing Scott Brison after his surprise resignation last week.

Long-time Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is also getting a new job as Minister of Veterans Affairs, formerly held by Seamus O’Regan, who becomes Minister of Indigenous Services.

READ MORE: Rumour mill ramps up ahead of federal cabinet shuffle

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffled his cabinet Monday morning in a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. The move shakes up the front benches of the government and keeps a focus on making female and younger male MPs front and centre as politicians head into a crucial election year.

But it also reflects concerns about whether the government is doing enough to attract and retain rural voters as well as those in Atlantic Canada, which the Liberals swept in 2015 and will be under pressure to keep in the fall election.

“This entire shift happened because we are losing a very valued player,” Trudeau said.

“But this really is an illustration of the depth of bench-strength that Canadians sent to this government in 2015.”

WATCH BELOW: Jody Wilson-Raybould takes over Veterans Affairs in cabinet shuffle







Philpott has been vice chair of the cabinet Treasury Board committee, a secret group that acts essentially as the government’s management board. That means she comes into the new position having already worked on government spending oversight and financial management, some of the key roles of the president of the Treasury Board.

She had previously served as Indigenous Services minister since August 2017 and was health minister from November 2015 until then.

Philpott also becomes Minister for Digital Governance as was Brison before her.

WATCH BELOW: Treasury Board President Scott Brison announces resignation






The decision to move O’Regan out of the veterans portfolio comes after he was criticized for his handling of several matters there.

In December 2018, he came under fire for comparing the difficulties he said he faced while transitioning from his career in journalism to one in politics to the challenges faced by veterans leaving the military.

He was also blasted in September 2018 for comparing leaving $372 million allocated for the department unspent to getting a credit for prepaid gas.

READ MORE: Veterans minister likens leaving $372M unspent to getting credit back for prepaid gas

O’Regan also took the brunt of the criticism levelled at the government for the decision by Veterans Affairs Canada to cover the cost of mental health treatments being received by convicted murderer Christopher Garnier, who never served in the military but is the son of a veteran who did.

Wilson-Raybould, on the other hand, has overseen the legal handling of several major files since she was first named Minister of Justice in November 2015.

Those include assisted dying, legalizing marijuana, and leading a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

She is a high-profile cabinet member who has generally avoided coming under the kind of criticism that has plagued some other members and her move raised questions on Monday about whether the change was a demotion.

“The work done by Jody on major issues was exceptional and we really need someone now who’s very strong and can deliver for our veterans,” said Trudeau when asked whether that was the case.

“I would caution anyone who thinks that serving our veterans and making sure they get the care to which they are so justly entitled from any Canadian government is anything other than a deep and awesome responsibility.”

Wilson-Raybould also would have been the minister responsible for making a final decision on how to proceed with the possible extradition of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou if the courts authorized that to go ahead.

READ MORE: Trudeau’s justice minister will make final call on Meng Wanzhou extradition — if court approves it

That responsibility will now fall to Montreal-area David Lametti, former parliamentary secretary for innovation.

Lametti will also be joined by Nova Scotia MP Bernadette Jordan as one of two fresh faces around the cabinet table.

Jordan, previously parliamentary secretary to Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould, represents the rural riding of South Shore-St. Margaret’s.

Jordan becomes Minister of Rural Economic Development, a new portfolio being set up in a cabinet made up heavily of MPs representing more urban areas.

“It will play a major role in the lives of rural Canadians and their families,” said Trudeau on Monday about what the new role will do.

“Small towns are not facing the same challenges as large cities. We have to take a different approach. That is why we have created this portfolio.”

Jordan’s appointment keeps the gender balance in cabinet at 18 women and 18 men, including the prime minister.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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WWII sailor denied spot at Halifax veterans hospital finally gets a bed

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After decades of helping veterans receive proper care, Gordon Smith has finally won his own battle. 

Smith was told Monday there’s a bed for him at Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Hospital in Halifax.

« When he called me, he was very excited, » said his granddaughter Sabrina Smith. « I could tell by his voice when he called that he had good news. »

Gordon Smith initially applied for a bed in May, but was denied because he wasn’t a Canadian when he served in the Second World War. The 91-year-old was with the British navy at the time, but immigrated to Canada after the war and served in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a firefighter for 18 years.

Upon retiring from Canada’s air force, Smith volunteered for another 20 years with the Royal Canadian Legion, visiting veterans in long-term care to ensure they were getting the care they needed.

When he was initially rejected from Camp Hill, his family thought it was an isolated case. Sabrina Smith said they never imagined his story would spark national public outcry.

« I think for me, and for my family, and especially for my granddad, it was really heartening to know that Canadians still value what had been done so many years ago, what they had gone through, and what they fought for, » she said. 

Gordon Smith, second from left in the back row, after a mine-sweeping operation in the North Sea in 1945, when he was with the British navy. (Submitted)

Veterans Affairs reversed the decision in mid-November, opening up more than two dozen beds to allied and modern-day veterans. At the time, there were 30 people on a waiting list, so Smith wasn’t guaranteed a space in the hospital.

« Hopefully we’ll hear more stories of people who have moved off the list in the future, » said Sabrina Smith.

Gordon Smith and his family will visit the hospital on Friday and make arrangements for his move. Sabrina Smith said the family is grateful for all the public support.

« It was really heartening to see the population could move the government so quickly, » she said.

Once her grandfather is settled, she fully expects him to continue advocating for veterans. 

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More than 3,000 veterans waited over a year for Ottawa to process disability claims

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Well over 3,000 veterans waited over a year for their disability claims to be processed, reassessed or reviewed by Veterans Affairs Canada during the last budget year, according to new statistics tabled in Parliament.

Those long waits impose an unacceptable burden on the most badly injured former soldiers, said a veterans advocate who suffered through the same treatment just over two years ago when he filed his post-traumatic stress claim.

« You’re sitting there in limbo, » said Don Leonardo, a former peacekeeping soldier.

The figures, released last week in response to a written question posed by the Conservative opposition, revealed that in the 2017-18 budget year Veterans Affairs received 36,437 applications for benefits.

Of that number, 15,949 applications — 43 per cent of the total — were completed within the department’s self-assigned target timeline of 16 weeks. A further 17,650 (48.2 per cent) took between four months and a year; 3,110 (8.5 per cent) of the applicants waited more than 12 months.

‘Dysfunction in the department’

The files completed on time were likely « the easy ones, » said Leonardo, adding he believes they probably involved simple claims such as hearing loss.

The more « complex » injuries are the ones that take more time — and they’re the ones that lead to extraordinary hardship when they’re delayed, he said.

« If you’re waiting for a year, you can’t start your treatment, » said Leonardo, referring to the long-standing Veterans Affairs policy of not paying for services until a claim is approved. « You’re basically in limbo until you’re accepted. »

Conservative veterans critic Phil McColeman said the backlog — the number of cases that don’t meet the 16 week service standard — is a sign of « dysfunction (in) the department » that would never be tolerated in the private sector.

« It’s depressing to see these numbers, frankly, » he said. « If I was in business and saw these numbers, I would have to say there is something dreadfully wrong. »

A spokesman for Veterans Minister Seamus O’Regan said the department has seen a 32 per cent increase in applications and a 60 per cent jump in the number of first-time disability benefits claims since 2015.

« We won’t look to the previous government for advice on this matter where they, as the auditor general put it, were ‘not doing enough’ to facilitate veterans’ timely access to mental health services and benefits, » said Alex Wellstead, referring to Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s 2014 review of veterans mental health services.

Wellstead noted the department has hired an additional 470 staff and committed an extra $42 million to tackle the backlog.

« More complex applications can take time, » he said, adding that measures have been taken to simplify the application process.

A backlog built by policy?

Leonardo, however, said he believes some of the backlog — a perennial problem since the Afghan war and the concurrent introduction of new benefits — has been made worse by the requirement that Veterans Affairs conduct its own medical assessments, instead of relying on diagnoses by physicians at National Defence.

« If you’re getting out the military on a medical release, why are they adjudicating the claim again when you have military doctors saying that he’s unfit, or she’s unfit, for service? » asked Leonardo.

There have been cases of former soldiers, bounced from the military over a medical condition, being denied benefits for that illness by Veterans Affairs.

That disconnect between National Defence and Veterans Affairs has long been a sore point with former soldiers and recently-retired Canadian Forces ombudsman Gary Walbourne — who repeatedly took both departments to task over a policy he said didn’t make any sense.

No move has been made to change that policy since. Leonardo said that should serve as a caution to newly retired veterans.

« The system is built for no. It’s not built for yes. »

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Former military member honours veterans at Halifax business – Halifax

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As customers enter the Home Depot on Lacewood Drive in Halifax they’re greeted by the smiling face of John Kilbride, a former Air Force Firefighter standing in front of a 20-foot-tall display he created.

The tribute honours our veterans and military personnel, something Kilbride is passionate about.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia students to mark Remembrance Day honouring graves of Canadian soldiers in The Gambia

“My father and my uncle have served in the war,” he explained. “My son and daughter in law, there’s so many families that have a long history of military service.”

Last year was the first time Kilbride created the tribute which has grown considerably this year. Photos, berets, wreaths and flags are all placed throughout the display, many of which were donated or lent to the cause.

Kilbride says the response has been nothing but positive.

“This has been received very favourably from the management all the way down to all staff as well as the public coming in,” he said.

As Remembrance Day nears the display will soon be taken down, but Kilbride plans to continue the newly-made annual tradition going forward and hopes in time he won’t be alone in doing so.

“I’m hoping that other communities, other stores throughout our city as well as the province will honour and respect veterans by placing poppies in their stores or have a display such as this,” Kilbride said.

Follow @Jeremy_Keefe

 

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canadian veterans’ fight for more benefits, support a legacy of First World War – National

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OTTAWA – When the armistice that ended the First World War was signed and the guns fell silent on Nov. 11, 1918, Canadians wearily celebrated what they hoped was the start of a new era of peace.

For thousands of Canadian veterans, however, – particularly those wounded by bullets, shells or gas attacks – a far different battle loomed: the fight with Ottawa for support and benefits.

It’s a battle that persists to this day.

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau visits Vimy Ridge exactly 100 years after end of First World War

Much has been made about Canada’s disproportionate contribution to the Allied war effort; more than 600,000 Canadians served in uniform, which represented around seven per cent of the young country’s 8 million people.

But there was a heavy financial cost that came with fielding such a large force – a cost that Ottawa initially believed would be covered by London, but which would later be borne by Canadians and result in a $2-billion deficit by the end of the war.

While the government did create veterans’ hospitals and disability pensions and provided some land to those who served, the services were difficult for many to access and extremely limited in actual benefits.

WATCH: Dutch PM’s special tribute to Canadian war veteran who helped liberate Netherlands from Nazis







Making matters worse was the fact many veterans had a hard time finding jobs.

“There was a great fear in Canada that we might get into the terrible mess that they got into in the U.S. after the Civil War with veterans’ pensions, which were an enormous economic cost on the federal public,” says author and historian John English.

“So we always had that in mind and we were conservative. But there was a sense of great disappointment.”

READ MORE: Canadian Jon Snyder helped save 50 Afghan recruits from the Taliban. Three days later, he died

The ensuing years would see the emergence of influential veterans’ organizations demanding Ottawa increase its support – and their sheer numbers ensured the government had no choice but to listen.

Hearings were held in Parliament, federal commissions were organized and the government opened its wallet, to the point where veterans’ pensions consumed more than 20 per cent of federal revenues starting in 1920.

One question went, and remains, unanswered: What does the government actually owe Canada’s veterans?

WATCH: Susan Campbell says giving veterans benefits to her daughter’s killer is ‘a wrong’ against her







Many veterans have pointed to a speech delivered to the troops by then-prime minister Robert Borden on the eve of the battle for Vimy Ridge as the genesis of a “social contract” or “social covenant” between the government and those in uniform.

“You need have no fear that the government and the country will fail to show just appreciation of your service to the country in what you are about to do and what you have already done,” Borden said.

“No man, whether he goes back or whether he remains in Flanders, will have just cause to reproach the government for having broken faith with the men who won and the men who died.”

READ MORE: Veterans Affairs doesn’t know how many family members receive government-backed benefits

The difficulty, says Canadian War Museum historian Tim Cook, is that while Borden promised the soldiers that their country would care for them, “no one could define that during the war and that led to a post-war conflict of what was owed to the veterans.”

Despite various agreements between veterans and the government, the dispute borne of that vague commitment more than 100 years ago continues even as it has evolved to include what is owed to veterans’ dependents, survivors and caregivers.

Most recently, six disabled veterans of the war in Afghanistan cited that speech in a high-profile lawsuit that alleged Ottawa broke its contract with veterans when it replaced the disability pensions available to previous generations with a lump-sum payment in 2006.

WATCH: Confusion over who qualifies for veterans’ family benefits







Government lawyers contended that Borden’s words were “political speeches not intended as commitments or solemn commitments” and noted that there is no “social contract or social covenant” enshrined in legislation.

READ MORE: Veterans Affairs to stop giving future benefits to family members in prison; Chris Garnier case unchanged

The government’s argument was consistent with its longstanding practice, says David Bercuson, a military historian at the University of Calgary, namely that while it may have a moral obligation to support veterans, there is no legal obligation.

“In other words, ‘We’ll give you money, but you don’t have a right to that money. We have a moral obligation and also it helps to re-establish society’,” Bercuson says. “They don’t want to be nailed down to a legal obligation.”

After several years of litigation and negotiation, the courts sided with the government as the B.C. Court of Appeal struck down the veterans’ claim in December and the Supreme Court of Canada said in August that it would not hear the case.

WATCH: Liberals fail to meet own target on caseworkers for veterans







The moral question persists. Many veterans, angry at the Trudeau government for not bringing back the old pensions, hope the other parties will pick up the torch in next year’s election.

“Going forward, there’s only one solution and that solution at the current time is a political one,” said retired major Mark Campbell, who lost both legs in Afghanistan and was one of the six plaintiffs in the recently dismissed lawsuit.

“We’re not adverse to talking to the Conservatives. We’re not adverse to talking to the NDP. We’re not adverse to talking to anybody who will work to move the yardsticks forward in a positive way for the veterans’ community.”

ARCHIVES: Major Mark Campbell’s story echoes in the House of Commons







For his part, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in February defended the new system for providing compensation to veterans, which includes money for rehabilitation, job-training and career support. He added that some vets were asking for more than the government was able to give.

The comment prompted boos from the crowd in Edmonton and demands for an apology from the Tories, while highlighting the balancing act between helping veterans and fiscal prudence that successive federal governments have cited for not doing more since 1918.

The reality, says Wilfrid Laurier University historian Mark Humphries, an expert on mental health among veterans since the First World War, is that there is no real answer to the moral question because society – and veterans’ needs – are constantly changing.

“The veterans don’t simply end,” Humphries says. “They continue to age and they continue to then experience being a veteran differently depending on how far they are from that conflict.”

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‘It hits the heart’: Trio of female air force veterans honoured at Vancouver ceremony

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It was a special Remembrance Day weekend for three veterans in Vancouver on Friday.

Geraldine Grimway, 97, Colleen DeSerres, 86 and Penny Stirling, 94, all served in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The three are also clients of Holy Family Hospital in Vancouver, where they were honoured at a special Remembrance Day ceremony on Friday.


READ MORE:
B.C. remembers: Watch the 2018 Remembrance Day Ceremony live in Vancouver

The trio were each presented with a special pin and white carnation to recognize their service.

None of the women knew each other before coming to Holy Family, but have since become friends.

The three women share one thing in common alongside their service records: a love of flying.

Colleen DeSerres, 86, served in France during the Korean war.

Global News

Flying is a family tradition for DeSerres. Her great uncle Douglas McCurdy flew the first powered flight in the British Empire in 1909.

Decades later, DeSerres took up the tradition during the Korean War. She learned to fly in France, where she’d been deployed because she was bilingual, she said.

READ MORE: How Global News is marking Remembrance Day 2018

“I flew a Tiger Moth in France. It’s a single-engine aircraft. It was exciting, going down the runway and then taking off. I couldn’t believe it when I took off an looked out the window and the earth was way down beneath me,” she told Global News.

“Then, one of [the] jet pilots, they were in training for the Korean conflict, took me up in a jet. A T-33 jet. That was exciting, he let me take the controls.”

Penny Stirling, 94, said she joined the air force because she’d loved the idea of flying since she was a child.

Global News

Stirling, a World War II veteran, recalled her time in the air force as “a grand old time.”

“I was what they called the watchkeeper. That meant that every operation that was going on that day I had to report it all, and make sure it all ran smoothly,” she said.

Stirling, too, was driven to join the service because of a love of aviation.

As a child, she grew up near an airfield that fueled her dreams of flight — dreams she could turn into a reality by spending time around the runway.


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“I was always hoping to get my first ride in an airplane,” she said.

“I noticed there was a lot of flying, take-offs and landing, so I thought surely I could get one of them to take off and land me, so when he landed, I ran over to the pilot’s cockpit and he knew what I wanted, he said OK, get in, and that’s how I got my first flight.”

Stirling said Remembrance Day always holds a special place for her, and for her family, including her son.

“He’s very proud of having his mother in the forces. It has been a great experience for me,” she said.

Geraldine Grimway, 97, said Remembrance Day is always a somber occasion for her because she remembers the friends she’s lost.

Global News

Grimway, another World War II veteran, served in Ottawa and in Vulcan, Alta. “where the boys got their wings” in flight school.

Remembrance Day brings back a flood of memories.

“It is just a very sad day for me, I’ve lost so many friends,” she said.

Grimway thinks of the friends she served with and her husband, who also served in the war during the annual ceremonies.

“So it’s not a very happy day,” she said. “It hits the heart.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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