Sunday, February 9, 2014

SAD DECISION AT VETERAN'S AFFAIRS


 

            I guess I just happened to be in the right place at the right time as I was in the Kipling Goodtimer’s Dressing room at the Kipling Arena right before the KW Oil Kings playoff game last Friday night when I glanced at the TV that was tuned in to the Winnipeg Jets’ home game against the visiting Vancouver Canucks and there were Paige Lawrence and Rudi Sweigers conducting the ceremonial face off for the game! Good for them! With the level of pride that has been displayed from the skating pair’s home towns and local skating clubs I can only imagine how their immediate families are feeling. Wow!

            The XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia will begin on the 7th of February and I am sure that Paige, Rudi and the entire families are absolutely thrilled with their inclusion on the team. Like them and the rest of  The Canadian Olympic Team I can hardly wait for the games to begin.

            However, the swelling pride in the Canadian Olympic Team and the support for all things Canadian that accompanies these kinds of events was tempered by the Conservative Government’s handling of the Veteran’s Affairs Department’s budget cuts and the closing of eight Veteran’s Affairs regional offices across Canada, including one in Saskatoon, which many are calling a betrayal to men and women-young and old-who have served their country.

The office closures, which provide support services to veterans across Canada, are part of a move by Veterans Affairs to shift more services online and to Service Canada outlets which Veteran Affairs says will enhance veteran services. Many Veterans don’t agree with this assessment and feel the cuts and closures will diminish the support that they now receive.

Exacerbating the veteran’s outrage was Veteran Affairs Minister Julian Fantino’s actions when he was to meet with seven ex-soldiers to discuss the Department’s budgetary decisions. First of all Fantino was late for the meeting and then he was confrontational while discussing the changes with the seven veterans during the discussion. Many, including the ex-soldiers, called Fantino’s behaviour “shameful” and “disrespectful”. Fantino has since apologized for how the meeting with the vets was handled but, apparently, the apology doesn’t extend to the budgetary decisions.

The Conservatives portray it as increased efficiency; the opposition parties, public service unions and veterans groups call it cost-cutting to the detriment of those who put their lives on the line for their country.

I am not sure how much “cost savings” there will be in the closures and cutbacks in the Veteran’s Affairs Department but, in my humble opinion, no monetary considerations should be given when discussing the support for our troops who have given so unselfishly of themselves so we can enjoy the freedoms that we have in this country.

            There isn’t a person in Canada that hasn’t been affected by our Armed Forces whether they have served in the Forces personally or they have a family member serving in the Forces or they have lost a family member while he/she was serving in the Forces or they have recently become a Canadian citizen or even if they just moved to Canada last week. Everything, and I mean everything, that we are so proud of as Canadians can be attributed to the sacrifices of our Armed Forces. Lest we forget.

“It’s penny-pinching on the backs of veterans who sacrificed all for this country.” Chris Malette, The Belleville Intelligencer.

 

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