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Veterans and their families have always been there for us in our time of need at home and abroad. Canadians must stand up for them in their time of need. Last week we had a devastating reminder of this as six Canadian families felt heartache, sacrifice and the devastation that is too often associated with military service.
Conservatives reject Justin Trudeau’s belief that our Veterans and their families are asking for too much, or it is more than the government can afford.
Our Veterans should not be asked to fight in another battle —this time with government officials or the courts on home soil — over support to which they are entitled.
To fix what is broken, I believe we need to begin by directly engaging with Veterans and their families in the design and delivery of support programs. Not just today and not just on a single issue, but on an ongoing basis.
In a Conservative government that I lead, we will engage, listen, respond and deliver.
There was a time when recognized Veterans’ organizations had regular input into the development and review of Veterans’ programs. Under the Trudeau government, many of the advisory groups to support this work were dissolved, or their advice was ignored. A Conservative government led by me will make our recognized Veteran organizations an essential link not just to Veterans Affairs but to the Prime Minister.
The service given to our Veterans and their families has deteriorated over many years. They tell me that it feels like they are dealing with an insurance company as opposed to the government they served under. Veterans and their families deserve to speak with someone at Veterans Affairs who will advocate on their behalf and offer genuine and personal help.
The commemoration program at Veterans Affairs Canada has eroded and does not recognize more recent wars and conflicts, including Canada’s contributions in Cyprus, Bosnia, Croatia and Macedonia. A Conservative government will restore the funding to the commemoration program and it will recognize our Veterans for the work that they have done for Canadians at home.
While changing how Veterans Affairs does its work, I believe we must make several investments and policy changes. We will:
- Keep our injured personnel as serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces until all of their benefits and services have been confirmed and are put in place, so there is no gap in their transition to civilian life.
- The Canadian Armed Forces and not Veterans’ Affairs will determine whether an illness or injury is caused or aggravated by a member’s military service, with full transparency to the Veteran. And whenever there is a grey area, we will always land in favour of the Veteran.
- Negotiate in good faith to resolve all court proceedings regarding mefloquine used in the prevention of Malaria. We will conduct an independent inquiry into the use of mefloquine in the Canadian Armed Forces, relying on scientific study and hard evidence in the area of its impact on human health.
- Dramatically reduce claims backlog and wait times at Veterans Affairs and meet the long-established service standards.
- Restore funding and establish clear guidelines for the Veterans’ Service Animals’ programs, including support for veterinary and other costs.
- Transition injured personnel to other roles in the military wherever possible.
- Ensure that government departments will appear before a Parliamentary Committee to explain how they are bringing ex-military into their ranks.
- Provide tax credits and incentives to private sector employers who bring ex-military into their ranks.
- Follow the success of the Alberta “pocket suite” veterans housing initiative and make it a national program. No veteran needs to go homeless, hungry or destitute.
- Enhance the compensation of the Caregiver Recognition Benefit for Veterans. This includes ensuring mental health injuries are recognized.
As Canada’s longest wartime Minister of National Defence, I have heard the plea from our Veterans who are frustrated and have a sense they are being ignored and forgotten. This will change if the Canadian people elect me as Prime Minister. Supporting our Veterans will be a government-wide priority.