Canada’s benefits system denies and delays until claimants die, veterans say

A loosely knit group of outraged ex-soldiers railed Wednesday against what it calls the insurance-company mentality of Veterans Affairs, demanding legislation spelling out the moral obligation Canada has towards its military veterans.

OTTAWA — A loosely knit group of outraged ex-soldiers railed Wednesday against what it calls the insurance-company mentality of Veterans Affairs, demanding legislation spelling out the moral obligation Canada has towards its military veterans.

Over the next two weeks, the group plans a series of protests on Parliament Hill to call public attention to a system they say has long been rigged to deny and delay benefits in the hope that the claimants will eventually die.

“We’re not talking to Stephen Harper. We’re not talking to Julian Fantino. I am talking to the Canadian public,” said Linda Magill, an ex-member of the military and the wife of a soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“You have to know what is happening to us because we’re the ones who had your back — and you need to have ours.”

Magill described the dizzying array of bureaucratic hoops that she and her husband have had to jump through as a “war of attrition” and said other troops in need of care often give up pleading for the benefits to which they are entitled.

The protest follows the 14 recommendations a House of Commons committee made Tuesday to make the system more responsive to the needs of former military members.

The veterans committee had some good ideas, but that’s all they will be until the government accepts and adopts them, Magill said.

The demonstrators hope to draw crowds similar in number to the demonstrations of the 1920s, when frustrated First World War veterans fought tooth and nail for recognition and a benefits system that’s been part of the fabric of military life ever since.

In its response to a class-action lawsuit launched by veterans of the war in Afghanistan, the Harper government has cast doubt on how secure that commitment might be.

Justice Department lawyers have said they intend to argue that the country has no extraordinary obligation to its soldiers, and that the current administration cannot be bound by the promises of previous governments.

That position enrages veterans, who say it violates the country’s sacred obligation to those who serve.

Among other things, the Commons committee recommended that the controversial new veterans charter be amended to include exact wording from its predecessor: that the law should be “liberally construed” in favour of veterans.

The protesters, however, say that rather fuzzy distinction is at the root of complaints about both the old and the new systems, because it has long given bureaucrats wiggle room to throw up roadblocks and deny benefits.

They say the only remedy is clear legislation or a military covenant, similar to the one in Britain which spells out that the nation has a “duty of care” to its soldiers.

“If they put it in legislation, we wouldn’t have people fighting the (class-action) lawsuit right now, where the government is saying they owe us nothing,” said Magill.

Another protest organizer, David MacLeod, who spent 27 years in uniform, said the government is guilty of spreading “half-truths” about the way veterans are being treated.

The government is quick to call on their service and call them heroes, but leaves them mired in a bureaucratic swamp when it comes time for compensation.

“If you can’t afford the wounded, you can’t afford the war,” MacLeod said.

The Conservatives have claimed they are cutting red tape at Veterans Affairs. Just last week, Fantino argued before the Commons committee that the government has injected an additional $4.7 billion into the system since 2006.

“In fact, the seriously injured veteran is eligible for thousands of dollars each month, up to and including after age 65,” Fantino told the committee.

“In some cases, a veteran can receive over $10,000 a month in financial compensation. This is in addition to two major tax-free award payments totalling in excess of up to a half-million dollars.”

Just Posted

Police probe deadly shooting that left 3 dead, 12 wounded in Toronto’s Greektown

TORONTO — Three people died in a shooting rampage that took place… Continue reading

Alberta UCP Leader Jason Kenney says hateful comments won’t be tolerated

EDMONTON — Alberta United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney, addressing party friction over… Continue reading

One in seven sexual assault cases in 2017 deemed ‘unfounded’: Statcan

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says some 3,900 sexual assaults reported to police… Continue reading

Child’s play at Westerner Days

Balloons bring out the child in everyone

WATCH: Gazebo groundbreaking in Waskasoo

Fifty per cent of the $100,000 project is funded by a provincial government grant

Fiat Chrysler is shaken without visionary CEO behind wheel

MILAN — Investors sent shares in Fiat Chrysler sliding Monday as they… Continue reading

HMCS St. John’s, Sea King return to Halifax port after overseas mission

HALIFAX — HMCS St. John’s and its 240-member crew pulled into their… Continue reading

Danforth rampage continues a deadly year of gun violence for Toronto

TORONTO — Sunday’s deadly rampage in Toronto marks the latest in a… Continue reading

Iran dismisses Trump’s explosive threat to country’s leader

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranians on Monday shrugged off the possibility that a… Continue reading

Americans in blended families cope with toll of deportation

BOCA DEL R\XCDO, Mexico — It’s almost as if Letty Stegall is… Continue reading

Residents flee forest fire near Greek capital of Athens

ATHENS, Greece — Residents fled their homes Monday as a swift-moving fire… Continue reading

Charming great white shark delights followers with return to waters off N.S.

HALIFAX — Hilton is back. The great white shark who stole the… Continue reading

Police probe deadly shooting that left 3 dead, 12 wounded in Toronto’s Greektown

TORONTO — Three people died in a shooting rampage that took place… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month