Robyn Benson, PSAC

"Reprehensible?" We'll second that


“If ye break faith with us who die…”

Reprehensible,” says the Dominion president of the Royal Canadian Legion, Gordon Moore. I couldn’t agree more, and I doubt that I’m alone. He was referring to the Harper government’s repudiation of a promise made to veterans by then-Prime Minister Robert Borden in 1917, just before the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Here is that promise in full:

“You can go into this action feeling assured of this, and as the head of the government I give you this assurance: That you need not fear that the government and the country will fail to show just appreciation of your service to the country and Empire in what you are about to do and what you have already done.

“The government and the country will consider it their first duty to see that a proper appreciation of your effort and of your courage is brought to the notice of people at home that 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.”

Do veterans have “just cause to reproach the government” now?

As noted, the government has had the face to argue in a federal court that it is not bound by Sir Robert Borden’s promise. It is vigorously contesting a class action lawsuit by a group of Afghanistan vets in BC who believe that the government’s New Veterans Charter offers insufficient benefits in comparison to other veterans. (The Veterans Ombudsman, Guy Parent, has outlined serious shortcomings in that Charter in a recent report.)

The government attempted to have their lawsuit thrown out of court. When it was unsuccessful, it launched an appeal, claiming that Borden’s promise has a best-before date.

“Reprehensible?” You bet. But I’m not sure that word is nearly strong enough to cover the other indignities being heaped on our veterans today by this same government.

An early critic of the Veterans Charter had personal information leaked by Veterans Affairs. Then there was the government’s attempt to claw back military pensions. A plan to honour Afghanistan vets has been shelved. Military resources to help returning veterans incapacitated during their Afghanistan service are not remotely sufficient for the job. And now the government is causing further harm by closing nine regional offices across Canada where veterans have been receiving a variety of necessary services from our front-line workers.

It’s difficult to understand why a government that beat the drums to commemorate the War of 1812 and rallied support for our troops in Afghanistan at Red Friday gatherings would be so cavalier and dismissive of our troops who managed to return home. Is Stephen Harper only interested in photo-ops and monuments to the dead, and not the real flesh-and-blood veterans who need help and respect?

“I used to be true blue, through and through,” said retired Sergeant Ronald Clarke at a recent press conference that I attended. One suspects that his political loyalties these days may be wavering.

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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on October 9, 2013 8:55 AM.

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