House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was heritage.

Topics

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Madam Speaker, what can I say? I think the hon. member has put it in a clear perspective.

He drew attention to the fact that we were only a couple of weeks away from Remembrance Day. Every Remembrance Day as all of us stand around memorials in our ridings, we think of those who paid the sacrifice. We see the few remaining veterans, and in the words of that great song the Band Played Waltzing Matilda written by Eric Bogle, every year their numbers get fewer and some day no one will answer at all.

Even though we have very few veterans, it seems we have more veterans widows because many of the people who went to war did not return and many who did return were so weakened that their deaths came prematurely. These people stand at the memorials thinking and remembering at a time in their life when most of them have very little on which to live. The small benefits that these widows receive makes a lot of difference to them, yet we are going to discriminate against one because her husband died before someone else's husband died.

This should have nothing to do with time. This should be based upon need and fairness. I agree totally with the comments made by the hon. member.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Madam Speaker, I also concur. I want my hon. colleague to know that all members of our veterans committee voted in favour of what was brought before us, but we also all voted in favour of an amendment. We put forward a motion indicating that we wanted every widow across the country treated equally.

I have received a letter that I would like to read to the House. It states:

I am writing concerning the VIP Program for Widow's. My husband was Neil Alexander Beaton..., he was a D-Day soldier with the 3rd Division R.C.A.S.C. He saw a whole lot of action. He returned home in 1945 and spent two years in the hospital and was discharged with a 60% disability.

We were parents of five children. My husband could not pass a medical for the purpose of getting a job with any amount of wages [whatsoever]. He could not get life insurance either because of his disability...

My husband was hospitalized many times over the years as a result of his disability, for as long as six months at a time. Life was not easy.

I cared for my husband at home the last four years of his life. In the end the days seemed 40 hours long as he had developed dementia. There was little wonder he developed this dreadful disease after all the surgery, medication and suffering he had endured.

He was on the VIP Program when he passed away April 27, 1990. I feel he earned everything he ever received from Veterans Affairs. I feel as does everyone I've spoken to, that I have earned the VIP Program by caring for my husband for over 45 years.

This is the worst case of discrimination anyone has ever heard of in Canada.

She has asked that the minister and the Prime Minister to think again. No veteran I have ever known has been discriminated against more than Mrs. Beaton and her husband.

That is why every member of this Parliament feels that it is an honour to have veterans like Mr. Beaton and also an honour to have wives like Mrs. Beaton. We cannot tell these wives that we will not give them the VIP benefits but we will give it to everyone after the June date. I cannot believe this has happened in the House of Commons and that this is what we as elected people would allow to take place.

What does my hon. colleague think will happen in the future to Mrs. Beaton?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Madam Speaker, I recognized earlier the efforts by the hon. member for Saint John on behalf of veterans and their widows over the years. Many of the benefits they have obtained, they obtained simply because of the hard work she has put into this, and they recognize that fact.

The example my colleague gave is one of many. It is an example similar to those many members have received from people who are going through a terrible time simply because they have been forgotten by the government.

I find it very hard to understand, when the issue was addressed and when government developed this program to help widows, why it included a cut off date. How can we say to one group that we will provide them with pensions and then say to another group, whose husbands fought side by side, that they do not count any more? I am sure it was an oversight, whether it was in the bureaucracy or whatever, but the minister should have picked up on it.

Lack of money is not an excuse as it is only 5% of the gun registry or 10% of the amount that would be paid just to cancel a contract. That should not be the excuse. It is not an acceptable excuse.

What will happen those people? With the efforts of members collectively in the House, let us make the government change its mind to look after those widows as well as the others who now fit under the program.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

There is one minute left. The hon. member for Saint-Jean.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be brief, so that my hon. colleague can reply. With regard to this program, which could be extended and could apply to the 23,000 widows who have been ignored, I would like him to explain to the House how that could have an impact on the quality of life of these women, that is, being able to keep their homes because of the amounts provided for household and garden upkeep. It seems to me that this is as important a concept as the widows' quality of life.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Madam Speaker, very briefly, the member is correct. Many of these people are living on very little income anyway. Even though we are talking about a few thousand dollars, a few thousand dollars to a person who is already living on only a few thousand dollars makes a tremendous amount of difference. A thousand, or two thousand or three thousand dollars in rural Canada, or even in urban Canada, could make the difference between someone having comfort in their home or not having comfort.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

moved:

That the House do now proceed to the orders of the day.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen: