Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canada's veterans need help

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As I continue to gain public support to improve Veterans Affairs' funeral and burial program, I find much information about the consequences of military operations is not well-known. It is a disgrace to Canada that many veterans are denied a funeral and burial grant because of the intransigence of past and present governments, yet those who are called to the vocation of serving Canada continue to serve.

They need your help and support.

What may be a surprise to Canadians is that our Armed Forces may only be committed to wars and operations abroad with the consent of Parliament. In evaluating the consequences of such, the government relies upon the expertise of a number of government agencies. To merely commit military forces (the force of last resort) without an informed evaluation would be folly.

In committing military forces, governments would need to evaluate a number of issues, including the international situation, personnel costs, material costs, potential longevity of mission and overall consequences to Canada. Among these evaluations, governments would rely heavily upon the expert advice of the leaders of Canada's Armed Forces.

Among the many estimates the Forces would evaluate would be sustainment, personnel and logistics support, rules of engagement and exit strategy. What is not well-known is military leaders would also render a casualty estimate, which would allow governments to prepare for a variety of scenarios including the long-term care of casualties, whether fatal or in need of long-term medical care within Canada. The long- and short-term consequences of military operations would be conveyed to the government. Without so doing, the leaders of Canada's military would not be exercising due diligence.

One wonders what the casualty estimates were for the conflict in the Balkans, UN missions abroad and the recent war in Afghanistan. Were estimates presented to government, were plans put in place for the potential of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? Were there plans to evacuate casualties to Canada and to where? Recall Canada's government had decided years ago to abolish all of the Veterans Affairs care facilities in Canada, and through budget cuts during the so-called decade of darkness in the 1990s, few military hospitals remain.

Given the knowledge we have about wars and military operations, one wonders what Canada would do if faced with mass casualties involving just those Canadians deployed in Afghanistan, notwithstanding what the government might do with a mass-casualty situation within Canada. One wonders if the plans of Veterans Affairs Canada to transfer the care of veterans to provincial authorities are sound. More and more Canadian veterans of wars in the Balkans, Afghanistan and other places of unrest are seeking medical help as a consequence of their service to Canada. Then there remains the difference across Canada in medical services.

I consider all veterans should have the same standard of care, but in reality there are already distinct differences in health care across our land. There are surely differences between what one receives in Toronto and Montreal compared to what one might experience in Hampton, N.B. or in Parry Sound, Ont., or in the various rural communities in our great land. Is it not a federal government responsibility to render the same level of care to all veterans?

What about the final salute and tribute to a veteran who dies as a consequence of injuries sustained in the service of Canada or a veteran who, after service in the military, falls on hard times and becomes indigent? Will the government provide a dignified funeral and burial to these modern-day veterans? Surely these issues would have been considered before committing modern-day veterans to operations.

As such does not appear to be the case, it falls to the Last Post Fund and generous donors such as you to provide for a dignified funeral for veterans -- all veterans. Should you find favour with these sentiments, visit the Last Post Fund website (www.lastpostfund.ca) and make a donation. Every donation helps.

 

L.W.F Cuppens is a retired lieutenant general and chairman of the Last Post Fundraising Committee.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 25, 2013 A9

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