(Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Ombudsman calls for national consultations, plan for supporting veterans

The current ‘Pension for Life’ scheme was rolled out by the Liberal government last April

The watchdog for Canadian veterans is calling for nationwide consultations to develop a much-needed vision and plan to support veterans and their families with all their needs.

The call by veterans ombudsman Craig Dalton follows more than a decade of anger and broken political promises over the financial compensations available to those hurt in uniform through the three benefits regimes that have been in place at different times over the years.

The current ”Pension for Life” scheme was rolled out by the Liberal government last April and provides more money to most former military personnel than the “New Veterans’ Charter” it replaced.

Yet both have been blasted for offering less money than the original Pension Act, which the Charter replaced in 2006. That is despite the Pension for Life and New Veterans’ Charter having additional rehabilitation programs and other supports to try to offset the difference.

Dalton believes the bitter debate around the three regimes misses the mark. Rather than talking about how much money veterans can receive under each, he said, the focus should be on whether veterans and their families are getting what they need.

The challenge, he added, is there is no clearly articulated vision, let alone a plan, for what the government wants to achieve for veterans.

“There’s been considerable investment in veterans’ programming in recent years, and there’s no doubt that investment has made a difference in the lives of veterans and their families,” Dalton said in an interview with The Canadian Press this week.

READ ALSO: Federal money to help veterans find housing, basic services

“But that investment is still taking place in an environment where we do not have a clear strategy, a clear vision for what we are trying to achieve for veterans in this country.”

It is in this context that Dalton would like to see the government hold nationwide consultations with veterans and non-veterans alike, including service providers and advocacy groups, to find out what they really need and to chart a path toward accomplishing the task.

“Government goes coast to coast to coast when they’re developing things like legalizing marijuana or talking about gun-control policy or copyright infringement or budget and everything else,” he said.

“So I think it would be great if we were to have a national conversation to say: What is our vision for veterans? That could then inform discussions about whether we are meeting their needs or not and if they’re not … where is the best place to do that.”

Canada would not be the first country to conduct such an exercise. In fact, it was the recent experiences of the United Kingdom and Australia that prompted Dalton to start thinking about the need for a broader vision for veterans.

Dalton suggests the federal government could learn a great deal from the British experience, where the government unveiled a new veterans’ strategy in November 2018 that included consultations and annual reports to Parliament as the plan is implemented.

In the absence of such a vision, Dalton worries successive governments will continue to struggle to meet veterans’ needs.

“When you look at the amount of change that’s occurred in the area of veterans’ programming over the last 10 to 15 years, it’s significant: Programs added, programs removed, programs altered, all without a real clear understanding of where we are hoping to go,” he said.

“Not that those programs weren’t addressing needs that emerged but did those discussions take place inside of some sort of a broader framework focused on a future vision for veterans?”

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Veterans affairs

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Woman comes home to ‘entirely different’ Victoria after cruise ship, military base quarantine

Melanie Sibbitt booked herself a last-minute vacation on a cruise ship hit by COVID-19

Victoria street nurse thanks public for outpouring of donations

Businesses and individuals donated gloves, masks, sanitizers and more to frontline workers

COVID-19: Victoria moves homeless into 35 hotel rooms across the city

Mayor pleads with residents to stay inside during pandemic

Wheelchair user asks people to leave space on sidewalks to socially distance

Wendy Cox says many people are not stepping off the sidewalk to allow her space

Victoria brewery uses 3D-printer to make face shields for health care workers

Phillips Brewing is teaming up with engineers to create single-use medical equipment

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Ferries working on schedule shifts to keep workers safe

COVID-19: A message from the publisher

We will be making some changes to our print editions during these unprecedented times

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Canadian ferry operators call for inclusion in COVID-19 travel restrictions

Domestic travel restrictions should include ferries, operators say

Most Read