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SLOBODIAN: Canada treats its veterans disgracefully

How is it possible that tens of thousands of them are being treated so badly by the country they faithfully served?

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Arms and legs blown off…disfigured and scarred from burns…hearing impaired…visually impaired…struggling to function while suffering a myriad of debilitating emotional PTSD wounds…a higher chance of committing suicide than the rest of the population….

These are just some of the afflictions disabled Canadian veterans struggle with.

How is it possible that tens of thousands of them are being treated so badly by the country they faithfully served?

Oh, they’ve been awarded medals for their blood, sweat, and immense sacrifice. But medals don’t put food on the table or shoes on their children’s feet.

The federal government continues to callously, inexcusably betray our wounded warriors by making them wait indefinitely for their disability pensions.

More than 41,000 disabled veterans are on a shamefully long waiting list for these pensions that they earned.

It will take at least a year to clean up a backlog of claims that continues to grow, Western Standard reporter Mike D’Amour revealed Wednesday.

A year is an eternity for someone who is ill, on the verge of emotional collapse, and broke with bills to pay. And how many years have they already been waiting?

It takes cold, black hearts to let this happen to our disabled veterans.

For this pension travesty alone, Lawrence MacAuley, like a string of previous veterans affairs ministers, doesn’t merit the ‘honourable’ that’s automatically attached to the title.

There’s no honour in allowing this to continue.

It’s not like MacAuley was caught by surprise and hasn’t had time to fix this. He’s been in this portfolio for almost two and-a-half years. 

Yes, the problem began before his time, but the backlog has been ominously building under his watch.

And last September the Parliamentary Budget Office warned it would take, not one, but at least three years just to stop the backlog from growing, but not to clear it.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said it would work faster, explore innovative measures to efficiently process applications, and be positioned by 2022 with new tools, in a report entitled Disability Wait Times and Benefit Action Plan

So typical of government, time to write a useless report, but not enough time to process critical claims. 

As of May 1, the backlog of veterans’ claims stood at 41,541 with wait times for the initial review of a first-time application averaging more than 300 days last year, followed by 140 days for petitions on reassessment and another 340 days for departmental reviews.

Last November, during testimony before a Commons veterans committee, MacAuley whined about the onerous paperwork involved.

“You know this difficulty. You know about filling out forms. I mightn’t be great at it myself,” he flippantly said.

Then he blamed disabled veterans.

“But the thing is you need people (who) know how to fill out the forms. The problem you have with forms is there’s something missing, something vitally important that could be missing, and you have to make sure that it is all there,” said MacAuley.

Has it occurred to anyone that the problem lies in the procedures, red tape and ridiculously complicated forms disabled veterans must fill out despite evidence clearly presented in medical reports and obvious injuries?  

Canada has an excellent system in place for non-military citizens making disability claims. Why can their claims be processed with deposits made to their bank accounts within 120 days or less? 

A skeptic might think maybe veterans affairs isn’t a priority for this Liberal government. Look at the ministerial appointments to the portfolio. 

Certainly, MacAuley has his strengths. But is someone who formerly oversaw corn and fish really the best choice for veterans? 

Or before him, TV personality-turned-politician Seamus O’Regan, who shamed himself by comparing the “shock” of his painful departure from media to that of veterans transitioning from uniform to civilian life.

MacAuley, who has been roaming the halls of Parliament since 1988, won’t have to think about waiting for or fighting to receive the hefty pension he’s accrued, which will be substantially more than what disabled veterans are afforded.

Perhaps the next time he’s enjoying a fine meal at the Parliamentary restaurant, he could pause between bites to think about the disabled veterans distraught over how they’re going to feed their children.

Maybe he could ponder what they accomplished, what they endured, and the price they paid serving their country on back-to-back missions in hellholes they were sent to. 

They didn’t whine about anything at all when they charged into battlegrounds in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Haiti, etc. 

Mr. Minister, if you are going to accept the portfolio, the title, the prestige and pay that accompanies it – then do the damn job! Do it fast. Look after them. 

And where, oh where, is the acting chief of defence staff?

Why isn’t Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre roaring about this disgraceful treatment of disabled veterans?

Well, he’s busy concentrating doing the bidding of the Liberal government as he works on improving the “culture” of the military to make it a “truly inclusive institution.”

How about focusing on improving the culture in the lives of disabled veterans and truly including their needs in your efforts?

This is a national disgrace.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard 

lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

Linda Slobodian is the Manitoba Senior Columnist for the Western Standard. She has been an investigative columnist with the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun, Edmonton Sun, and Alberta Report. lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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Hockey arena backs down on banning unvaccinated kids

Within hours of the Western Standard posting the exclusive story, Oaten was contacted by the SLSFSC and advised of an update to their policy.

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Public pressure has brought minor hockey out of the penalty box in Cochrane.

Following an exclusive story by the Western Standard on Saturday, along with mounting pressure from the community, a Cochrane sports facility has revamped its vaccine passport policy.  

The Cochrane Minor Hockey Association (CMHA) and Hockey Alberta were not mandating a vaccine passport system, but Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre (SLSFSC) announced it would be requiring proof of vaccine status for anyone 12 and up.

Within hours of the story being posted, CMHS President Cory Oaten was contacted by the SLSFSC and advised of an update to their policy with this statement: “Youth between the ages of 12 (vaccine eligible) to 18 years of age are exempt from the REP vaccination requirement to enter the facility for the purpose of participating in a youth organized sport organization. Examples include (but not limited to) Cochrane Minor Hockey, Ringette, Cochrane Minor Soccer, Lacrosse, Cochrane Figure Skating Club, Comets, Junior Lifeguard Club, etc.”

Although youth may access the facility without being vaccinated, all adult spectators, coaches, volunteers and organizers of any youth activity “must show proof of vaccination, proof of a negative test, or medical exemption to gain entry to SLSFSC premises.”

“Although this helps our kids get on the ice in Cochrane, it’s still an issue at lots of other facilities, especially in larger facilities in Calgary and Airdrie,” Oaten said.

Oaten, who works in the insurance industry, points out the “huge liability issue” this poses to his and other sports organizations.

“Originally, Spray Lakes pushed us to collect this medical documentation from our members,” he said.

The CMHA board consists of 18 volunteer members.

“They can’t put those expectations on a board of volunteers. It’s a big legal issue for us,” Oaten said, adding he and his board refuse to take responsibility for requiring proof of vaccine or the collection of their members’ private medical information.

Oaten was informed the SLSFSC will now have its own security checkpoints set up in the facility and will take responsibility for checking the vaccine status of anyone 18-plus entering the building.

Oaten anticipates families will still pull their kids from hockey and other sports programs as those who remain unvaccinated will not be permitted in the facility to accompany their child.

Hockey Alberta stated on their Facebook page they are working with the Alberta government on how last Wednesday’s announcement will affect hockey for Alberta players. Oaten has asked his members to hold off on making a decision to pull their child from the program until Hockey Alberta comes forward with their updated season plan.

The Western Standard reached out to the SLSFSC for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

Risdon is a reporter for the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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Nearly $400 million in commemorative holiday events planned for fed employees only

The Department of Canadian Heritage promises “large-scale commemoration events” for a September 30 holiday for federally regulated employees only.

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It’ll cost hundreds of millions of dollars with federally regulated employees getting ready to party like it’s 2021, all on the public teat.

The Department of Canadian Heritage promises “large-scale commemoration events” for a September 30 holiday for federally regulated employees only.

Blacklock’s Reporter says the holiday will cost $388.9 million, by official estimate.

“The department will collaborate with national organizations for large-scale commemorative events on September 30,” staff wrote in a briefing note. It is the first federal observance of its kind.

The Senate on June 3 passed Bill C-5 An Act To Amend The Bills Of Exchange Act that designates September 30 as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The paid holiday applies only to federal employees including the RCMP and Canadian Armed Forces, and federally-regulated private sector workers at job sites like airports, banks, grain mills, marine shippers, radio stations and railways.

“This new annual statutory holiday on September 30 will ensure public commemoration of the tragic history and legacy of Residential Schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process,” said the briefing note National Day For Truth And Reconciliation. Costs of planned events were estimated at $2.7 million.

Parliament passed the holiday bill without a dissenting vote though senators in final debate questioned its usefulness. “What could long-term, dedicated and stable funding mean for food security, for closing the infrastructure gap which is huge, for finally ending boiled water advisories, for dealing with acute housing shortfalls in Indigenous communities?” asked Senator Dennis Patterson (Nunavut).

“It is hard for me to hear about the hundreds of millions of dollars that will go to provide federal employees a paid day off when I think about how an ongoing commitment of what we have heard today would be $388.9 million per annum for this holiday,” said Patterson.

“It would be an insult to my family members, to my friends and to the memories of those survivors I have lost along the way if this day were to become yet another paid day at the cottage for federal workers,” said Patterson. “It needs to truly be a day of remembrance and learning.”

The Treasury Board said direct costs were $165.9 million in the federal public service. “Most of that is in lost productivity,” Stephen Diotte, executive director of human resources, told the Senate June 3.

“The balance of it is payments required for employees in 24/7 work environments like corrections or Canada Border Services or ships’ crews and officers in the Department of National Defence and Department of Fisheries,” said Diotte.

The $165.9 million figure did not include holiday pay or overtime for Crown corporation employees. “I don’t have those figures,” said Diotte.

The labour department said airlines, marine shippers and other federally-regulated private sector companies would pay another $223 million annually.

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City of Edmonton mandates COVID jabs

The e-mail did not contain what disciplinary actions the city would take against staff who don’t get jabbed.

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City of Edmonton employees have less than a month to get jabbed against COVID-19, officials said in a new mandatory vaccine policy announced Monday.

City Manager Andre Corbould said in an e-mail to all staff they will have to be vaccinated by November 15.

“Last week, I shared the results from the Employee COVID-19 Vaccination Disclosure Policy (A1700) with you. The Executive Leadership Team (ELT) used this information to determine if additional steps were necessary to protect you, keep our facilities safe and operational, and stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Corbould.

“According to the disclosure results, 72% of employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In the context of the fourth wave in Alberta and rising cases in our own employees, that level is not high enough to give us confidence that we are minimizing the hazard of COVID-19 in the workplace to the greatest extent possible.

“As a result, the City of Edmonton is introducing a COVID-19 vaccination policy for all City of Edmonton employees effective today, September 20, 2021. All employees will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (two weeks after receiving the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine) by Nov. 15, 2021.”

Courbould said he realizes the decision is bound to set off a storm of controversy.

“While I recognize this decision may be difficult for some, I expect everyone to behave respectfully to one another as this decision is implemented. ELT made this decision, not your supervisor. We will not tolerate disrespectful or abusive behaviour or communications,” he wrote.

“This is a significant step for our organization, and an essential safety measure for keeping our workplaces safe.”

The e-mail did not contain what disciplinary actions the city would take against staff who don’t get jabbed.

Earlier this month, the City of Calgary also instituted a mandatory vaccination requirement.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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