Friday, January 28, 2011

Remembering Canada's forgotten veterans

Remembering Canada's forgotten veterans

Flight Officer Donald Urquhart, left and Cadet Sargeant Darlene Barkley are just two Canadian military members that were left out of a book of remembrance.
Handout; Dave Brunner for National Post
Flight Officer Donald Urquhart, left and Cadet Sargeant Darlene Barkley are just two Canadian military members that were left out of a book of remembrance.

Kenyon Wallace, National Post · Friday, Jan. 28, 2011

It was a clear July day, in 1952, when Donald John Urquhart climbed into the cockpit of his P-51 Mustang bomber at the airfield at Watson Lake, Yukon.

With a pair of 500-pound bombs tucked under each wing, the 27-year-old pilot, a reservist attached to the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 402 City of Winnipeg Squadron, deftly steered the aircraft onto the runway, guided it into the air and headed west for a practice bombing run with a dozen other Mustangs, as was the plan.

When the target came into sight — a raft floating in the middle of Teslin Lake, about 250-kilometres west of camp — Flight Officer Urquhart brought his Mustang to 9,000 feet, tipped the aircraft toward the ground, and began a vertical dive, as he had done many times before.

But when the aircraft reached the bombing altitude of 2,000 feet, instead of releasing its bombs and pulling out, as was procedure, Flight Officer Urquhart kept going straight down, plunging into the lake.

“I think he was mesmerized by the target,” said Herb Spear, a pilot with Calgary’s 403 Squadron who was part of the bombing runs that day who remembers Flight Officer Urquhart well. “Don was the life of the party in the officer’s mess at night. There was piano in the mess and we had a pretty good piano player and Don was always entertaining.”

What Mr. Spear, now 87, can’t understand is why Mr. Urquhart is not included in In the Service of Canada: The Seventh Book of Remembrance, the official record of those whose deaths are attributable to military service since the Second World War.
The young pilot is just one of several Canadians who died while serving in the Armed Forces whose names are missing from the official record, omissions that veterans advocates say illustrate a lack of commitment to the commemoration of Canada’s military dead.

The book lists 1,700 Canadian Forces members who have died since 1947 while serving their country, but Veterans Affairs Canada concedes there are still names missing, a result of staff hindered by a lack of funds and a system that relies on voluntary submission of names from the public.

“Should the Minister of Veterans Affairs be aware of any omissions in this sacred and most honourable book of remembrance, it is his duty to prioritize the correction of this error,” said Michael Blais, a former soldier and founder of the group Canadian Veterans Advocacy. “It is vital that those names are included with all due haste, for they have earned this in blood and sacrifice. To delay or to make excuses when an inappropriate amount of time has passed is unacceptable.”

The Seventh Book of Remembrance sits in the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower. The Department of National Defence determines if a member’s death was attributable to military service by convening a board of inquiry. Whether or not the death occurred in battle, during training, off base or while off duty, if the the death is ruled attributable to military service, the member’s name is supposed to be included in the book.

Yet after years of research, there are names still missing. More than 4,200 files have been reviewed, of which about 1,700 deaths were found attributable to military service.

Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn conceded there is more research to be done, and encouraged any Canadians who believe they know of Canadian Forces personnel whose names are worthy of inclusion in the book to contact his department.

“We imagine that it will probably never be finished,” Mr. Blackburn said. “We may always find new names.”

Canada Remembers, the division of Veterans Affairs responsible for the book, has just one salaried employee tasked with researching names, and relies primarily on tips from the public.
The department is aided in its efforts by John Stuart, a retired Gulf War veteran who has dedicated countless volunteer hours to tracking down missing names — a difficult task given the long history covered by the book, spotty record-keeping, and the tendency for many fallen Canadian Forces personnel to share the same name.

He is currently working on 14 names for inclusion in the book, including Donald Urquhart.

Military historian and former Canadian War Museum Director Jack Granatstein says part of the challenge faced by Veterans Affairs when trying to track down the names of dead Canadian Forces members is dealing with the Department of National Defence. “DND, in my experience, knows very little about anything except what’s happening now,” Mr. Granatstein said. “It’s the biggest department in government, it’s dealing with people who go into the service, leave, are killed in action or killed in accidents, and who are somehow lost in the files because records aren’t kept properly.”

All inquiries to DND about the process of tracking down names of dead military members were directed back to Veterans Affairs. The ministry says there are now systems in place with DND to provide the names of any soldier who dies in the line of duty.

Pat Stogran, the former Veterans Ombudsman, is more blunt in his assessment of the situation: “The system doesn’t give a s--t.” said the retired colonel.

“The commitment of the person who puts on the uniform today is every bit of that of the service person going off to World War One and World War Two. You go where you’re told, you do what you’re told to do, you die for your country. We don’t have that sense of empathy for the sacrifice.”

Col. Stogran says Veterans Affairs should be actively hunting down names for inclusion in the book.

“These are our loved ones.”

Other forgotten veterans:

On August 5, 1977, Stephen Jenuth awoke at 5 a.m. to do his daily inspections of the gliders belonging to the regional cadet gliding school at the Rivers, Manitoba air base.

After inspection, the then 17-year-old took to the skies with the rest of his squadron, returning before noon to ensure the next squadron had ample time to conduct their exercises.

Not long after he returned to the barracks, Mr. Jenuth learned one of the gliders had been involved in an accident and crashed.
“That led to the worst hour of my life because I had done the inspection of the glider in question,” said Mr. Jenuth, now a Calgary lawyer. “I thought, good lord, did I miss something? Was I careless? I was sure at that point that I had caused a death. I was mortified.”

The cadets were later to learn, however, that the glider was functioning perfectly and had in fact collided with the tow plane, a Piper Super Cub, killing the pilot, reservist Lieutenant David Joseph Stamp, 21, and the cadet, Paul M. Trach, 16.
Mr. Jenuth said the cadets were supposed to fly their gliders in a large, rectangular circuit that would eventually bring them back to the runway. Instead, Paul Trach had been blown out of the regular circuit and was making a long, wide turn when his glider collided with the tow plane.

Veterans Affairs has no record of Lt. Stamp’s death in the Seventh Book of Remembrance, despite the fact that it occurred while he was on duty.

Cadet Trach is not eligible for inclusion in the book because he was not a full member of the Canadian Forces at the time.
Mr. Jenuth believes Lt. Stamp’s name should be included in the official record, not only because the pilot appears to meet the criteria for inclusion, but because of Lt. Stamp’s last act.

“The last thing he did was to reach up and pull the emergency lever to release the glider he was towing, saving the life of the cadet flying it,” Mr. Jenuth said, his voice cracking. “I think that was an incredible act of bravery. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be in the book of remembrance.”
Darlene Leona Barkley joined the military the day she turned 17.
The teenager with a wide smile had always been interested in the Canadian Forces. She joined her local Airborne Cadet Corps in Edmonton at age 12, later attaining the rank of Cadet Sergeant and becoming a qualified ground-trained parachuter. In 1977, she joined the reserves, choosing the military police platoon of the 15th Service Battalion at CFB Griesbach, an army base in the north end of Edmonton.

That summer, after obtaining her military driver’s permit in Ontario, Darlene was sent to CFB Dundurn in Saskatchewan, about 40-kilometres south of Saskatoon.

Sharon Barkley-Clark, Darlene’s younger sister, was home alone on July 27th, 1977, when a military police officer phoned asking for her step-father.

“I knew it was something bad,” she recalled.

They were told that Darlene, who was by now a private, had been put on duty immediately after arriving at the base. In the middle of the night, an order came down for a roadblock to be set up following a report of a stolen vehicle containing guns and ammunition. Pte. Barkley was the only one on duty with a valid military driver’s licence, so was tasked with driving three other soldiers to the site of the roadblock along the dusty dirt road leading south from camp.

While the quarter-ton jeep she was driving was in good condition, Pte. Barkley was inexperienced. The poor condition of the road and the pitch black didn’t help.

The jeep began listing, Pte. Barkley over-corrected, panicked, and pressed the gas pedal. The jeep flipped into the ditch.
The three passengers were thrown from the jeep, but Pte. Barkley held onto the wheel; her body was crushed in the wreckage.
She was still alive when the military ambulance arrived, but later died of a ruptured spleen. She had only been in the Forces, legally, for seven days.

The military paid for the funeral and burial at Evergreen Memorial Gardens in Edmonton.

Library and Archives Canada records obtained by Calgary-based military historian and retired reservist Darrell Knight indicate that the accident occurred “2 miles south of CFB Dundurn Camp Boundary on road going from camp to town of Dundurn, Sask.” The records also show the date of Pte. Barkley’s death as July 27, 1977.

Earlier this week, the National Post contacted Veterans Affairs to ask why Pte. Barkley’s name was not included in the Seventh Book of Remembrance. Her name was added to the book on Thursday.

“It certainly took them long enough,” said Ms. Barkley-Clark. “I don’t know what they’ve been doing for all this time. But it’s better than nothing.”
National Post

Monday, January 17, 2011

Afghanistan 2010 casualty list raises serious credibility issues for Government's treatment of Vets.

On January 12th  the Canadian News Service released the casualty statistics for Afghanistan for the year of 2010. During this period of time, 331 Canadians sustained non-battle injuries, the highest annual toll of the mission to date. 86 were wounded in action, blessedly, significantly down from the 124 WIAs of 2009. Two died by non-action conditions, testimony of the danger that always lurks in Afghanistan. 14, tragically, were KIA, the profoundly sad military acronym for killed in action. 

These numbers are disturbing, particularly when one considers the amount of casualties Canada has sustained since the Afghanistan mission began and the context of Minister Blackburn’s litany of as yet unfulfilled promises in response to Veterans Ombudsman Pat Stogran’s press conference on August 17th. 1244 Canadians have been injured under non-battle circumstances. These include traffic accidents, accidental weapons discharges, illness or repatriation for medical or compassionate reasons.

615 valiant Canadians have been Wounded in Action, injuries incurred from IEDS, mines, rockets and direct contact with the enemy. Those who have been wounded in friendly fire incidents during combat ops and those who have suffered severe psychological trauma as a consequence are also included in this equation.

18 Canadians have been killed in Afghanistan in what is noted as Deaths. These are the non-combat casualties.

136 have been killed in action by the end of the reporting period, December, 2010.

Lest we forget!

The dead. And, considering the acknowledged state of disconnect at the Veterans Affairs ministry, the living, incredibly patriotic Canadians who have paid the price or war in Afghanistan on Canada’s behalf with great sacrifice, blood and treasure. During the fall of 2010, Minister Blackburn informed Canadians that thousands of veterans are and have been living in substandard conditions. 2000 disabled veterans desperately require the $40,000 minimum annual salary, hundreds, perhaps thousands, will be accorded the $1000 Catastrophic Injury Award. He would speak of 3500 veterans, many who have been DENIED the ELB, with promises of re evaluation under new criteria. Yet regardless of the urgency, regardless of the need for immediate help these veterans NOW, the bill was not pushed forward prior to parliaments extended vacation from the House of Commons. Colonel Stogran righteously noted that none of these awards were retro-active, accordingly,  every month of delay saves the government hundreds of thousands of dollars while concurrently depriving seriously injured Canadian veterans and their families the quality of life they have earned in blood.

Lest we forget!

The numbers! Collectively, Afghanistan WIAs-NBIs accounted for 1859 casualties to the end of 2010. Surely not all are the 2000 privates/corporals the 40000 dollar minimum annual salary proposal was created to assist? And how could have 3500 veterans be eligible for the ELB program when less then nineteen hundred have been officially wounded? I understand the potential for post mission issues such as PTSD and diligently champion support, but there are varying degrees of OSI, PTSD and not all levels result in permanent disabilities or an incapability to maintain a job and a, with support, good wuality of life.

There are other aspects of Minister Blackburn's proposals deserving of scrutiny. The Earnings Loss Benefit, as often boasted by the government, replaces up to 75% of the disabled soldiers wages. BUT… The Manulife SISIP LTD policy already  makes up to 75% of the soldiers wages, or will until Minister Blackburn’s proposed ELB legislation, should it pass, take effect . At this point of time, Manulife simply deducts the amount of the ELB, the PIA and/or the $40,000 wage minimum from the LTD payments they pay to the disabled soldier. This is tragic on several levels, foremost being the veteran is not really accorded any new source of income through this policy. 75 percent is 75 percent, because the burden of responsibility for the 75% thresh hold has simply been removed from the insurance company, to which the soldiers contributed all his career, and placed it squarely onto the taxpayer still results in the 75% payment. Fiscally conscious Canadians might question just why our soldiers are ordered to contribute into Manulife’s LTD insurance policy when the prospect of receiving compensation after a serious injury overseas has been negated by Minister Blackburn’s legislation.

Why is the taxpayer financially sponsoring, at great expense, a program that the members of the forces contributed thousands of dollars throughout their career to provide?

There was a time when conservatives, particularly during tough economic times, would have rallied to protect the taxpayers’ dollar from such waste instead of saving a non-governmental insurance company millions upon millions of dollars. Then again, there was a time when conservatives stood up for their wounded warriors, not abandoned them to substandard conditions created through the enactment of the New Veterans Charter and Canada’s life-time obligation to those who have suffered the horrid consequences of war in Canada’s name.  

Michael L Blais CD
Founder, Canadian Veterans Advocacy.  

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mission Statement - Canadians Veterans Advocacy. 14-1-2011

Canadian Veterans Advocacy

Founder                       Michael L Blais CD
Commissioned            December 6, 2010

Canadian Veterans Advocacy Mission Statement

To advocate for Canada's sons and daughters as they serve in Harm’s Way.
To advocate for the abolishment of the lump sum award and restoration of a lifetime pension.
To advocate for an end to the widows tax.
To advocate for a comprehensive, family inclusive, PTSD program.
To advocate on behalf of all Agent Orange victims, CFB Gagetown.
To advocate on behalf of all veterans exposed to chemical agents at CFB Suffield.
To advocate for RCMP and police officer veterans who served beside our troops abroad.
To advocate for the crew affected by the fire on HMCS Kootenay.
To advocate for an end of the system clock back on 6500 veterans VAC pensions.
To advocate for an end to the reduction of service/CPP disability pensions at age 65.
To advocate for substantive change and improvement to the New Veterans Charter.
To advocate for veterans and their wives in nursing homes to be united, not separated.

There are many other smaller issues that the Advocacy is willing to address on veterans behalf. Do you have a veterans related problem that you feel needs to be addressed? Do you have a suggestion that might improve efficiency at VAC? Do you live in Ontario, where the Advocacy has formed a relationship with the Ontario Trial Lawyers to provide free representation.

Please, the Canadian Veterans Advocacy is very active on the veterans file and is committed to attaining our primary mission – TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF LIFE OF OUR VETERANS!  

Canadian Veterans Advocacy History

My name is Michael L Blais CD. I am a veteran of the Canadian Forces, joining in 1977 and serving a majority of my military career with the 1st and 3rd battalions, The Royal Canadian Regiment. After sustaining a lower back injury while on UN Peacekeeping operations in Cyprus, 1984, I was air evacuated to NDMC and after surgery, medically reassigned to the Canadian Forces Dental Services. A medical release would follow in 1993 after a second lower back operation in Germany while completing my second NATO tour at CFB Baden Soellingen.

On August 17, 2010, I would become a reluctant veterans advocate after viewing former PPCLI Colonel Patrick Stogran, Canada's first veterans ombudsman, extraordinary press conference. I believe that it is my duty as a veteran to stand up for those to who I have passed the torch and when I was apprised of the hardships they were enduring, I felt I had no alternative but to act. Many military, RCMP and police veterans share these loyal convictions and rallied to the Advocate’s call to unite and participate in the Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest, a successful national event that occurred  at 11 AM local, 6 November, 2010. Across the nation, thousands of veterans representing small and large communities gathered at their federal parliamentarian’s riding officers to respectively demand that they Stand Up for Canada’s Sons and Daughters by restoring the lifetime obligation, the Sacred Trust between soldiers and nation the government abandoned in 2006 through the enactment of the New Veterans Charter. Amongst other issues!

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy was born of this successful mission, a veterans association guided by the One Veteran, One Standard motto and Canadian veterans’ patriotic zeal to defend Canada's military heritage and those currently on guard in the Canadian Forces. Our duty, ladies and gentlemen, does not end when we turn in our uniforms. Our duty, my brothers and sisters in arms, is and always will be to those who have followed in our footsteps and with great honour taken their places in our regiments, squadrons, the ships of the navy and the Coast Guard, the RCMP/police officers who deploy abroad and the veterans who have been injured and wounded on behalf of Canada.

Are you a retired member of the Canadian Forces, an RCMP or police officer who have attained veterans status? Did you feel the patriots call when reading this brief as have hundreds of others? Do you believe that your voice and support can contribute to the advocacy’s objectives? We need your help, only through uniting and waging our campaign on a variety of levels will veterans prevail. If so, Step Up! Join the Canadians Veterans Advocacy, add your voice to ours as we exercise our democratic rights in defence of our wounded warriors, the same democratic rights we have defended with blood, toil and sacrifice.

Next year’s Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest is scheduled for November 5th, 2011, 11 am as the hour strikes in your community. Here is link fo CTV’s national coverage of last year’s event, we are not radicals or hooligans, we are proud veterans fulfilling our duty and with all due respect, insisting Parliament’s life-time obligation to the nation’s disabled veterans, a responsibility abandoned by the New Veterans Charter and still, regardless of Minister’s Blackburn’s recent time restrictive and reactive proposals, still adrift.

Membership fees are based on the need to provide a war chest for next years operations and finance ongoing Advocacy operations, particularly expenses incurred through travel,  and a dedicated web site. Many veterans, myself included, incurred substantial expenses last November and we have been very active since. For example, we brought a carload of CAV advocates to Toronto on December 5th where I participated with an extraordinary press conference arranged by the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association.  These patriotic barristers have volunteered to provide pro-bono representation to veterans who have been denied or experienced adversarial consequences during the VAC claim process. We have been working diligently to expand this program nationwide. I also travelled to London and will be going to Toronto to meet with Ms Duncan, VA critic, Liberal party by the end of the month.

There is also a very important meeting with VAC senior bureaucrats from Charlottetown in Hamilton tentatively scheduled for the 3rd of February.  At this time, the Advocacy’s service department volunteers will be briefed on how to better serve the Advocacy’s veterans should they require assistance filling out their VAC claims. There will also be informal and preliminary discussions on a variety of issues wherein we can, for the veterans improvement in quality of care, work together.

Should Minister Blackburn’s legislation actually move forward, I have plans to travel to Ottawa and at the invitation of MP Peter Stoffer, address these issues before parliamentary committee. There will also be a lobbying campaign initiated and a national press conference.   

Membership fees have, purposefully, been kept low. I believe that we all chip in twenty bucks into the Advocacy war chest and commit to rally to the call locally when required, there will be sufficient funds to cover the expenses and we can maintain/increase our momentum to attain our objectives. Several patriots have sent more as a donation and I will express our gratitude via a special page of commendation once the web site is up and running. Be advised that I am committed to fulfilling my duty and that I receive NO WAGES to pursue the advocacy’s goals, only expenses based on reality, not inflated mileage rates or meal tickets. All funds go to operations and logistics, wages, when necessary, will be limited to the cost of a business manager and accountant. I promise you, there will be transparency.  

Be advised that the Canadian Veterans Advocacy will operate on several levels and has not been created simply to protest. This summer the CVA is planning a nation wide Support The troops rally tentatively on July 9th, 2011 in order to celebrate the end of the combat mission, honour those who have fought in Afghanistan war at a local level and raise funds for the creation of a new homeless centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. More to follow but I am currently involved in discussion with my local MPP ect ect wherein Niagara Falls would be the base for a National Veterans Rendezvous to coincide with the national event. I hope to organize a BIG concert down by the falls at night, a magnificent fireworks show and fall illuminations programs inclusive of the regimental-unit colours of Canada. The weekend event will be family friendly and include discounts on accommodations and attractions. A  Support the troops rally / BBQ in the afternoon and a concert Saturday evening down by the falls.  

Mark it on your calendar. Think about what YOU, the veterans of YOUR community, can do to support this effort by hosting a rally in YOUR town or city.

Michael L Blais CD
Founder/President, Canadian Veterans Advocacy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Canadian Veterans Advocacy – WARNING ORDER! Attention Halifax Veterans

If you have friends that are sympathetic to veterans plight, please forward this message to them. There is very little time to organize a reception for Minister Blackburn and any help you can provide wopuld be greatly appreciated.

Canadian Veterans Advocacy – WARNING ORDER!  Attention Halifax Veterans

Contact! Wait out!

It has come to my attention the Veterans Affairs Minister Jean Pierre Blackburn will be in Halifax on the 12th of January. He will be making a presentation to the Nova Scotia Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs about the inadequate proposals to correct the deficiencies, of which there are many, within the New Veterans Charter. The event will be held at the Legislative Committees Office, Committee Room One, Third Floor, Dennis Building, 1740 Granville Street in Halifax between 9 and 11 AM.

This is an ideal opportunity for veterans in the Halifax area to continue their collective advocacy to rectify the plight our disabled serving soldiers are confronting through the disrespectful lump sum award and the issues that are confronting all generations of veterans today. I would encourage you to focus on the five principles Canadian veterans protested over during the Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest on November 6, 2011. It is our duty to stand up for those who cannot speak, Canada sons and daughters who serve today and it is our right to peacefully assemble in order to continue our protest against the dishonourable manner our government has abandoned their lifetime obligation to those veterans who have been injured during the course of their duty.

This meeting is open to the public and as such I also hope to ensure that the public galleries are well attended by veterans who understand the issues and are capable of addressing the inadequate measures Minister Blackburn will undoubtedly present.

Our duty is clear. The lump sum must be abolished and replaced with the honourable, LIFE TIME standard that served veterans prior to 2006. The widows tax must be repealed. The government must be encouraged, particularly now that the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in veterans favour reference the SISIP class action suit , to accept their responsibility to the 6500 veterans they have profoundly disrespected by denying, at great expense, the justice these veterans deserve. We must insist that all veterans exposed to Agent Orange are compensated, not those who identified in a seven day restricted period between 1966 and 1967. We must bring the government to account for allowing Bill C101 to fail after being passed in the House of Commons. This bill would've relieved the reduction in pension veterans experience upon reaching age 65. And let us not forget, the homeless veterans, those requiring the assistance of food banks to survive, the disabled vets who are living in poverty as a consequence of the New Veterans Charter.

Our fight is just! Only through uniting as veterans and Canadians who support their troops can we effect change. On January 12, 2011 between nine and 11, let us unite as patriots to stand up for our troops and our veterans.

Michael L Blais CD
Founder, Canadian Veterans Advocacy

Canadian Veterans Advocacy Mission Statement

Canadian Veterans Advocacy

Founder/Chairman Michael L Blais CD
Date commissioned November 6th, 2010

Canadian Veterans Advocacy Mission Statement

To advocate for Canada’s Sons and Daughters as they serve in Harm’s Way.
To advocate for an end to the lump sum and restoration of lifetime pensions.
To advocate for an end to the Widows tax.
To advocate for a comprehensive, family inclusive PTSD program.
To advocate on behalf of all Agent Orange Victims, CFB Gagetown.
To advocate on behalf of all veterans exposed to chemical agent testing at CFB Suffield.
To advocate for the survivors of HMCS Kootnenay.
To advocate for an end to the SISIP Claw back on 6500 veterans VAC pensions.
To advocate for an end to the reduction of service/CPP disability pensions at age 65.
To advocate for change and improvements to the New Veterans Charter.
To advocate for elderly veterans and their wives to be united until death.

Canadian Veterans Advocacy History

My Name is Michael L Blais CD. I am a retired veteran of The Royal Canadian Regiment and served briefly with the Canadian Forces Dental Services. I was medically released in 1992 after a second lower back operation while posted to CFB Baden Soellingen. On August 17th, 2010, I would become a reluctant veterans advocate after watching Colonel Pat Stogran, Canada’s first Veterans Ombudsman, televised interview. Through this advocacy, the Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest, a successful Canada-wide event, was conducted at 11 AM local, 6 November, 2010. Across the nation, thousands of veterans, many times small groups of ten to forty in strength, gathered at their parliamentarians riding offices to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves and our retired veterans about the inadequacies of the New Veterans Charter.

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy was born of this successful protest. I would encourage you to join us as veterans standing up for veterans, united under one cause, our fundamental duty to those to whom we have passed the torch.

God Bless our troops, our veterans and their families.

God Bless Canada

Michael L Blais CD
Canadian Veterans Advocacy

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Canadian Veterans Advocacy - Situation Report, 4 January 2011

Greetings from Niagara Falls.

Happy New Year's!

I hope that everybody has had a blessed Christmas with good cheer, love of family and great tidings for all. Now that the batteries have been recharged, I trust we are motivated to carry the fight for veterans' justice into 2011.

The CVA is growing daily as many veterans who participated with the Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest on November 6, 2010 and others demonstrate support for the Advocacy's ongoing mission. I would encourage you to join our Facebook site as it is monitored by the government and as such, the numbers that we present as members are important for our standing. Please encourage your friends to join as well. For veterans willing to take the next step, I would encourage you to subscribe to the Canadian Veterans Advocacy and become a member of our team. We are looking for veterans who feel as do we, that the Sacred Trust violated in 2006 by the enactment of the  New Veterans Charter must be restored and Canada's sons and daughters who serve today are accorded the lifetime obligation of care and financial stability they so richly deserve. We believe in the five principles that we demonstrated for during the CVNDOP in November. Let us not falter now!!!

A couple of things on the go. First, the Canadian Veterans Advocacy is moving forward with plans to organize a nationwide support the troops rally this summer to celebrate the end of the combat mission in Afghanistan and, equally important, raise funds for homeless veterans. I would encourage prospective team leaders to consider forming a team to organize a rally in your town to coincide with this national event so that we may, united as we were on the Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest, make a difference to many needful veterans life. At the moment, I have a meeting with my MPP scheduled wherein we will discuss conducting a Veterans Rendezvous in Niagara Falls Ontario to coincide with this event. It is my hope to organize a local support the troops rally during the Saturday afternoon followed by a concert program down in Victoria Park directly across from Niagara Falls once it gets dark, the lights illuminate the falls and the fireworks begin. I am absolutely certain that I can organize special veterans packages for the weekend reference accommodations and discount prices for the various attractions in Niagara Falls. All funds will be designated to support programs for homeless veterans. Plan on bringing the family, Niagara is beautiful in summer. More to follow as the situation develops...

We are moving forward with the CVA website and hopefully it will be operational by mid month. As you might imagine, there are expenses and for those who have joined and sent their $20 subscription fee (or more, God bless you) , I would thank you. Without your contributions, it would simply be impossible at this time to financially support the tools we require to maintain the fight. Veterans wise, we have had some success already including the advocacy's assistance in helping out with several personal situations where veterans were confronting serious issues and on one occasion, homelessness. I would take a moment to thank John Percy and Peter Stoffer on the East Coast for rallying to the call in Halifax and taking substantial measures to ensure this Halifax located veteran was not abandoned. Do you know a veteran that needs help? Please contact me, there are resources available.

I would also thank our many friends in the media and would note that we have been very successful in assisting Melissa Fung of CBC for a project she was working on about the VRAB for CBC National. I suggest it will be very interesting! I have been contacted by several media organizations looking for veterans who have been adversely affected, particularly as it relates to the five principles. This includes spouses. I am accumulating names for a list so that we may present veterans willing to speak about these issues to the press and I would encourage those interested to contact me via e-mail so that I may include you. There are many issues to be rectified and rectification can only come through publication.

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy's mission to ensure legal representation for veterans in all provinces continues and I am hoping to hear back from other provincial trial lawyers associations in the very near future now that the Christmas period is over. I have received several calls and e-mails from veterans across the land and I wish to assure you all that I am working diligently to ensure that all veterans in this nation have the same pro bono legal resources that have been provided by The Ontario Trial Lawyers Association. I believe this is a very valuable tool and hope that you will refer any veterans that you may know of who are not online about this wonderful resource. Veterans living beyond Ontario's borders may contact me should they wish so that I may add their name to the provincial lists. I can use this data to substantiate the need!

I have FB-spoken with Paul Franklin earlier this evening about another flip-flop the government is about to impose on those who have been injured and continue to serve with the Canadian Forces. You will remember it was the government's catchphrase throughout the Fall how they believed soldiers who were wounded that wished to continue serving would be provided an opportunity to do so. Jodi Mitic, a fine member of the Royal Canadian Regiment who continues to serve and to represent this nation with distinction, for example. More on this story is available at Paul's blog which is here and I would encourage you to read it as this as it demonstrates yet just how our soldiers, even those who have offered great sacrifice, have been misled.

Who speaks for those, bound by protocol, cannot speak? We, the Veterans of Canada, and their supporters, do!  Once the situation is confirmed I hope you will join me in launching an organized e-mail campaign to voice our displeasure about this flip-flop and the consequences it has on veterans who have now been abandoned.

One Veteran, One standard, One Voice.

 Michael L Blais CD
 Founder, Canadian Veterans Advocacy
 6618 Harper Drive, Niagara Falls, Ont, Cda.
 L2E 7K6 // 905-357-3306

Despite Government's Promises, Veterans Issues Abandoned in 2010.

Despite Government's Promises, Veterans Issues Abandoned in 2010.

“Without substantive and enduring cultural changes to the system that mistreats our veterans, however, to any promises of improvement are as shallow as Brian Dyck's final breaths.”  Col. Patrick Stogran, 26 October 2010.

These were the words Canada's 1st Veterans Ombudsman, Col. Patrick Stogran, used to describe the effects of any proposed legislation without substantial changes in the manner Veterans Affairs Canada operates. Brian Dyck died approximately 2 weeks after Prime Minister Harper personally announced veterans afflicted by ALS a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease would be provided support through Veterans Affairs Canada. Tragically, Mr. Dyck succumbed to this insidious disease before receiving the support he and his family so richly deserved. 

There would be other unsavoury revelations, foremost being the criminal violations of Capt. Sean Bruyea’s and Col. Stogran’s confidential VAC medical records. And many others, apparently. Yet justice, months later, has yet to be served. Considering the government’s illusory Tough on Crime mantra, it is profoundly disappointing to note the government has yet to accept their responsibility as members of Parliament and instruct the RCMP to launch a criminal investigation. Are those who committed these crimes above the law? Just who is Minister Blackburn protecting and just how high up the government chain of command do these criminal violations go? One law, one nation!

 The government also made several promises to veterans since 26 October, 2010. Minister Blackburn would repeatedly claim he has heard veterans’ voices and through his corrective legislation, they would acknowledge and address the hardships. Important financial supplements, measures necessitated through the consequences inflicted through the enactment of the New Veterans Charter in 2006, would ensure that 2000 veterans would be accorded a minimum salary of 40000 (pretax). 3500 veterans who were denied financial supplementary programs in the past (WHY?) would now be eligible for the ELB.

Truly, the seriousness of the adversities would be profoundly highlighted by the creation of the $1000 Catastrophic Injury Award, the baseline PRE-TAX salary of $40,000, changes to the eligibility criteria for the Permanent Injury Award and the Earnings Loss Benefit. The government would propose $2 billion yet contradictorily, these funds will not be retroactively provided to the very veterans the legislation was designed to support. Tragically, none of these reactive measures would have been required had parliament not abandoned this nation’s lifetime responsibility for Canada’s Sons and Daughters through the enactment of the New Veteran Charter in 2006.

Over 140 Canadians have died since the enactment of the New Veterans Charter.

There have been an estimated 3000 casualties.

Sadly, there are serious flaws within the proposals Minister Blackburn and Minister MacKay have announced. First, these proposals are not retroactive and as such, incomprehensibly; do not provide financial relief for the very veterans these proposals were designed to assist! Secondly, despite the need for urgent reform, despite the acknowledgment of so many disabled veterans currently living in substandard conditions, the government did NOT address the issue within the flurry of bills pushed forward during the last week of 2010’s Parliamentary session.

 The consequences?

 There will be no financial respite for disabled veterans by next spring as many prayed. Those who have been seriously injured in the service of Canada will continue to suffer unnecessary financial hardships until the government presents Parliament the opportunity to enact Minister Blackburn’s inadequate, non-comprehensive solutions. Should there be an election this spring, any action on the Veterans file will be delayed until a new parliament is sworn in months later. Canadians must understand that every month the government allows to pass without addressing these resolutions is another month that the thousands of disabled veterans Minister Blackburn's legislation was created to financially assist will continue to live in substandard conditions.

Do you believe this reflects the lifetime standard of dignified support Canada is obliged to provide to those we have deployed into harm’s Way, to those we have deliberately exposed to the consequences of war? Single, double, triple amputees? Those who have sustained terrible injuries, the maimed, blind and deaf? Those who have been psychologically impacted? I would encourage Canadians who support our troops and veterans during this time of war to contact their Minister of Parliament and demand the restoration, through nonpartisan legislation, of the lifetime obligation parliament abandoned in 2006. It only takes a moment to call or e-mail, the addresses are available online. Feel free to simply copy and paste this letter.

Do something! Together, we can make a significant difference.

Michael L Blais CD
Founder, Canadian Veterans Advocacy.
Niagara's Falls, Ontario