8.18.2010

how canada supports its troops

Conservatives in every country decorate themselves with "support our troops" pins, but that support is rarely more than window dressing. In that respect, Conservatives in Canada are no different. The outgoing ombudsman of Canada's Veterans Affairs, retired colonel Pat Stogran, spelled out how the Harper government is mistreating and cheating wounded veterans and the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Naturally Harper accused Stogran of "sour grapes," but I don't think the Canadian public is that stupid - or that besotted with this arrogant government. Considering Harper already has been flooded with angry emails from his own constituents over MPs' expense audits, it appears that the ice under Harper's teflon skates is getting considerably thinner.*

The most important thing is that we stop creating veterans. The imperialist US war in Afghanistan is not worth a single Canadian - or US, or Afghan - life. But as long as Canada continues to squander our tax dollars in Afghanistan, it has to at least care for those sacrificing their health or their lives over there.

Canada Press, via Winnipeg Free Press:
The country's soon-to-be former veterans ombudsman is accusing federal bureaucrats of "cheating" war widows and saying it's better for the country if soldiers die in Afghanistan rather than come home wounded to be a burden on the treasury.

Retired colonel Pat Stogran and several disabled veterans, all of them boiling with frustration, painted a Dickensian picture Tuesday of veterans' care -- one that contradicts the Conservative government's long-standing assurance of standing behind the troops.

"I was told by a senior Treasury Board analyst, who shall remain nameless, that it is in the government's best interest to have soldiers killed overseas rather than wounded because the liability is shorter term," he told a marathon Ottawa news conference.

Stogran, who has been told by the Conservative government he won't be appointed to a second term, laid out several examples of how the bureaucracy at Veterans Affairs Canada has stonewalled and deep-sixed his efforts to improve benefits for former servicemen and women.

He says he suggested better entitlements for war widows. The idea was rejected because it cost money.

Stogran asked why Canada, unlike its allies, doesn't automatically recognize ALS -- Lou Gehrig's disease -- as a condition members of the military are more likely to develop. That's just the way it is, he said he was told.

How did the Veterans Affairs come up with its program to compensate former soldiers exposed to the defoliant Agent Orange in the 1960s? Stogran says he was handed a press briefing backgrounder.

And when he spotted what he considered to be "gross exaggeration, bordering on outright lies" in a note headed to the minister, he complained -- only to be cut off of the mailing list.

"Welcome to my world," Stogran said.

The issue of widows particularly got under his skin and he accused the department's deputy minister of "cheating" the spouses of dead soldiers.

"It is beyond my comprehension how the system could knowingly deny so many of our veterans the services and benefits that the people and the government of Canada recognized a long, long time ago as being their obligation to provide."

Much of his attack was focused on the bureaucracy and Stogran declined to lay the blame directly at the feet of the Conservatives. He said the minister was being poorly advised.

Stogran admitted to being frustrated and angry with his battles, but denied his impending dismissal had anything to do with the extraordinary outburst.

"It's absolutely clear to me that the government expected the veterans' ombudsman to behave as a complaints manager responsible to the department," Stogran said.

"Is it a surprise to anybody that the veterans' ombudsman would speak out on behalf of veterans and their families?"



* Unfortunately there can't be more than 10 people in the country who want to see Michael Ignatieff become Prime Minister.

1 comment:

L-girl said...

Stephanie re interview, please email me at the address at the top of the sidebar. Thanks.