An Act to amend the Department of Veterans Affairs Act (fairness principles)


John Brassard  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Defeated, as of Feb. 14, 2018

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-378.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Department of Veterans Affairs Act to require that, in exercising his or her powers and in performing his or her duties and functions, the Minister of Veterans Affairs take into account certain principles in relation to, among others, persons who have served in the Canadian Forces or merchant navy or in the naval, army or air forces or merchant navies of Her Majesty as well as in relation to their dependants or survivors.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Feb. 14, 2018 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-378, An Act to amend the Department of Veterans Affairs Act (fairness principles)

Department of Veterans Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

February 12th, 2018 / 6:15 p.m.
See context


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be here as the critic for Veterans Affairs on behalf of the NDP, and I want to thank my friend and colleague from Barrie—Innisfil for tabling this very important bill.

Bill C-378 recognizes what all Canadians know and believe. Specifically, this bill recognizes that our veterans, as well as their dependants and survivors, should be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness, and that the uniqueness of the person's profession and the obligations and sacrifices such a profession demands also impact the experiences of their families, and that any decision regarding the care, treatment, or re-establishment in civilian life of the person and the benefits to be provided to them be made in a timely manner. On these points, we will find little disagreement among Canadians and certainly not among New Democrats.

However, this bill, as well intentioned and agreeable as it is, represents somewhat of a missed opportunity to state unequivocally that the government, acting on behalf of the people of Canada, recognizes that we have a sacred obligation to our veterans. Canadians, of course, love our veterans and their families, and we thank them for their service and sacrifice. At one time, this love and respect was obvious in the treatment bestowed upon veterans by the government. Lifelong pensions, the creation of Wartime Housing Limited, and complete coverage for all disabilities incurred during service were once the ways this love was shown to veterans by the government on behalf of all Canadians.

Indeed, it is widely agreed that at one point in time, the government firmly believed that it had a “sacred obligation” to veterans and their families. This obligation was a clear acknowledgement that when a woman or man entered into the service of our country and put their health and lives on the line for us, the government would be there to care for them for the rest of their lives. I say that we believed that at “one point in time” because I am no longer sure this is the case.

The Harper Conservative government made an effort to modernize the rights, services, and benefits provided to Canada's veterans, but in reality, it inadvertently made life worse for many. In the 2015 campaign, the Liberal Party promised to make things right for veterans. The Prime Minister, before he was Prime Minister, made lofty goals and raised expectations for so many people in need, but sadly, the government is failing to live up to its own commitments and the expectations of Canadians who put them in government to finally make things right. We can and must do better, and New Democrats will always work with other parties in the best interests of veterans.

Bill C-378 also fails to address in any way the many specific issues facing veterans and their families today. There are, of course, limits to what legislative bills or amendments can be tabled, debated, and adopted by individual members, but it would not have been impossible to explicitly recognize some of the specific injustices perpetrated upon military personnel and veterans over the course of many governments.

We must never forget our own collective failings as a society and a government to take care of and look after veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange, nuclear radiation, and other lethal and debilitating toxins and agents in the course of their service; the horrific sexual trauma that has been endured by many military personnel, particularly women, over the course of their military service; the serious psychiatric side effects associated with the use of the anti-malarial drug mefloquine; the widespread prevalence of operational stress injury and post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological challenges faced by active and retired armed forces personnel; and the unconscionable transition gap, which denies benefits to so many veterans who are transitioning from active duty to civilian life.

Veterans Affairs Canada acknowledged late last year that there were about 29,000 applications for disability benefits in the queue waiting to be processed at the end of November, and nearly half of those cases took longer than 16 weeks to process. That is a 50% increase over the last eight months.

A particularly stark example of how governments have changed the way they serve veterans is with housing. Today, veterans are camping out just blocks away from here, in the cold, to raise awareness about veterans living on the streets of our country. Wartime Housing Limited was created after World War II to transfer 30,000 affordable homes to veterans, but today there are more than 770 veterans that the government classifies as homeless and living on the street. However, the number we hear from Veterans Affairs Canada is over 5,000 and, shamefully, we know that number is rising with the current housing crisis in our country.

Improving support programs for families and dependants of veterans who are also suffering and who also carry a very heavy burden on behalf of our country is another unaddressed issue, as are the unintended and negative consequences experienced by veterans as a result of changes under the new veterans charter, including the ongoing court battle with Equitas and its effort to re-establish lifelong pensions for veterans, which began under the Harper Conservatives and which the Liberal government has now adopted.

The list of challenges and injustices facing veterans today that could have been referred to explicitly in this bill goes on and on. In spite of all these omissions, I would like to thank the member for Barrie—Innisfil for tabling this bill, which we will be supporting at second reading.

Department of Veterans Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

February 12th, 2018 / 6:25 p.m.
See context


Phil McColeman Conservative Brantford—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a true privilege to stand today and speak to this private member's bill from the member of Parliament for Barrie—Innisfil.

Recently in Victoria I was privileged again to meet with veterans at a veterans' round table. We had a fairly lengthy discussion about the issues that they were facing, and these were people who have been advocates for veterans and assist in their dealings with Veterans Affairs Canada. There was one word that was said over and over again, and then right at the very end when we were wrapped up, one of the veterans' wives said, “If you have heard anything, please remember one word, and that is respect.”

Recently at a town hall with our Prime Minister, he basically delivered the message to veterans of the reason they are in court. During the election campaign the Prime Minister stood with veterans and promised them that they would never have to fight their government in court. That is a broken promise that shows an utter disrespect to veterans. In terms of this particular private member's bill that my colleague has tabled in the House of Commons, he has referred to it as the military covenant bill, but it is an extension of a sacred covenant that goes back to 1917 and our prime minister, Sir Robert Borden, who after the First World War, the Great War, said that Canadians have a special bond with veterans and are responsible for veterans' health as they returned home from that Great War. He was the first person to express in this place that sacred covenant.

What my colleague is trying to do with this bill is to use his accumulated knowledge in the role of veterans shadow minister or critic as he travelled across the country and listened at various round tables to veterans. When I took the role on, I got the three eight-inch-thick binders with every comment that was made and transcribed during those round tables. The common thread that weaves through those discussions when listening to veterans is the fact that they were promised by the current government not to go back to court, yet we have veterans right now appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada to be able to take the government to court on a class action lawsuit for failing to give veterans what they have so rightfully earned, in many cases the equivalent of pre-2005 pension benefits, and not scale it so that some who are more moderately injured and have been injured in their duty to this country would receive far less than they would have received through that pension plan that once existed.

The other part of their application to the Supreme Court that the advocates have told me is that they are asking the court to consider the sacred covenant, the covenant that my colleague is talking about here. It has been done in other countries. The United Kingdom in 2011 put into place through legislation the Armed Forces Covenant. It goes so far as to require the government to report annually on the treatment of veterans in the U.K. Bill C-378 aims to have similar fairness and unique principles in the legislation as that which created the Department of Veterans Affairs in the first place.

We are looking at something here that wants to put three principles into legislation that puts obligations on the government. My colleague from the NDP read them and I want to add them to my transcript today.

Veterans and their dependants or survivors are to be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness. We need to recognize the uniqueness of veterans' duties and sacrifices and the impact on their lives. Decisions regarding care, treatment, and transition to civil life should be made in a timely manner The member has coined it in the legislation as a “military covenant”.

This has been talked about in this place on many other occasions. This is the first occasion we as legislators from all parties will be able to do the right thing for veterans.

I am going to go back to the word “respect”. I am going to talk not with my own words, but with the words of people who every day are involved in the veterans community, to describe where they are today and what the landscape is today on the Liberal broken promises.

The first quote is on fighting our veterans in court. Don Sorochan, the lead counsel for Equitas Society, said on CBC News on January 31, 2018:

The position taken by the government was astonishing. For them to stand up and say we don't have any special obligation to veterans was completely contrary to everything they had been saying in Parliament, on the election campaign.

Mark Campbell, a veteran and Equitas plaintiff, and a member of the Minister of Veterans Affairs' policy advisory group, said on restoring lifelong pensions, “The new pension for life is nothing more than a shell game.” He was advising them what to do, and they took an opposite direction.

Here is another quote relating to lifelong pensions. This was said by Sean Bruyea, a veteran and veterans' advocate:

[T]he government merely resurrected the ghosts of Christmases past with a hodgepodge of benefits that amount to recycled, remodelled and repackaged programs that already exist.

Here is another quote from a different individual:

It's fair to say the disappointment (with the new plan) has been immense because it just didn't do the trick.... If you're going to make a promise to provide lifetime pensions, then do it.

That was said by Brian Forbes, the executive director of War Amps Canada and chairman of the National Council of Veterans Associations of Canada.

The Prime Minister told veterans that they are asking for more than the government is able to give right now. The Prime Minister said that to a veteran during a town hall meeting. The veteran lost one leg in Afghanistan to an explosive device and 80% of the use of his other leg, for which he has been having all kinds of surgery to even get 20% of its function. He looked back at him and said that veterans are asking for more than the government is able to give right now. In commenting on that, the Royal Canadian Legion said, “These sorts of words are extremely insensitive”.

Colin Saunders, a veteran and veterans' advocate said this about the Liberal record. “The reality is veterans aren't seeing that money”

I will wrap up quickly and underscore what I believe everyone in the House should, without reservation be voting for, and that is respect for our veterans. Let me repeat that everyone should be voting for respect for our veterans.

Department of Veterans Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

February 12th, 2018 / 6:30 p.m.
See context


Frank Baylis Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the House today to Bill C-378, a bill to amend the Department of Veterans Affairs Act.

The welfare of veterans and their families is an important issue to me and to our government. It takes more than recognizing sacrifice on Remembrance Day. It is our duty to take care of those who have served and protected our great nation.

The government launched consultations on issues affecting veterans, which has helped us gain a better understanding of their needs and those of their families.

The Minister of Veterans Affairs also created advisory groups made up of veterans, veterans groups, and experts, including the Royal Canadian Legion; Brian Forbes, who has advocated for veterans as the chairman of the National Council of Veterans Associations of Canada; retired General Joe Sharpe; and veterans who served in Afghanistan, such as Aaron Bedard, Mark Campbell, and Willy MacDonald. The six ministerial advisory groups focus on the following government priorities: policy, service excellence, mental health, families, care and support, and commemoration.

As part of the electoral platform in 2015, the government has been hard at work to uphold its promises made to veterans and their families.

To provide better support, the government has introduced the program pension for life. This monthly tax-free payment will allow more financial liberty to ill and injured veterans and their families. This benefit could be the difference between being able to pay rent and homelessness, and a financial safety net for a veteran who is transitioning to life after service.

The pension for life includes three different component programs. The pain and suffering compensation will be available to veterans who suffer because of an illness or an injury resulting from their service. The additional pain and suffering compensation is another benefit for veterans who experience obstacles in their reintegration due to a severe and permanent service-related disability. The income replacement benefit streamlines existing benefits, such as earnings loss benefits, supplementary retirement benefits, and retirement income security. It offers income to veterans who face hardship on their road to re-establishment due to health-related issues.

The government has also introduced the new education and training benefit, which comes into effect this April. I am proud to say that this program allows veterans who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces for six years or more to pursue post-secondary education. The government will spend a total of $133 million over a period of six years to support the continuing education of our Canadian veterans.

Furthermore, the government has made considerable investments to enhance the following services addressing veterans and their families, including the disability award, the career impact allowance, the career transition services, the veteran emergency fund, and, lastly, removing limits for eligible spouses and survivors so they can access the rehabilitation and vocational assistance program when and if they need it.

Our government also recognizes that helping veterans and their families goes beyond monetary assistance. It is equally important to provide mental health and caregiver support. As such, we have increased funding for the veterans family programs in all 32 military family resource centres, and the veteran community now has access to free mental health first aid training.

Moreover, the 2017 budget included services and benefits such as a monthly tax-free payment of $1,000 to family caregivers who assist veterans. The government has also formed a partnership with organizations like VETS Canada to address the issue of affordable housing and homelessness.

Additionally, our government has reopened nine veterans affairs offices, a new office in British Colombia, and has extended outreach efforts to veterans in the territories.

All of the initiatives undertaken by our government are based on respect and our recognition of the sacrifices made by our veterans and their families.

Amidst the conflicting priorities and limited resources of any government, we have made it a top priority to work hard for veterans and their families. We also recognize that this file is an ongoing process and that the well-being of veterans must and will remain a top priority for this government.

I had the honour this summer of attending the Invictus Games, which are the games put on by Prince Harry for veterans who were injured. The Invictus Games are based on a poem called, Invictus, and there is a line in there which I truly think is wonderful. It says:

I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

My grandfather, Frank Baylis, who I am named after, fought in the First World War and was buried alive. He fought in the trenches and when the trenches collapsed, he just had his hand out. Luckily for him, his comrades in arms saw his hand and dug him up. He was obviously hospitalized, but he had an unconquerable soul. I thank my grandfather for his unconquerable soul. I stand here today because of it.

I also stand here today because of the unconquerable soul of many men and women who have fought in the armed forces. Our freedom of speech, our values, our very way of life has been defended and protected by our veterans and people actively serving in the armed forces today. I thank all of them for their unconquerable soul. We owe them a debt of respect, which goes without saying, and we owe them our deepest gratitude.

I thank all our veterans and all the men and women who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Department of Veterans Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

February 12th, 2018 / 6:40 p.m.
See context


John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Village of Arthur in Wellington county is known as Canada's most patriotic village. It has that title because of the actions that its citizens took between 1939 and 1945.

On November 2, 1942, the Toronto Daily Star ran an article, and the headline of that article read, “Arthur Village Gives Sons and Money to Aid the War”. The article talked about how over 100 of the village's barely 800 citizens had enlisted to serve in the Second World War. By the end of the Second Word War, that number had more than doubled. The article talks about families, like the Day family, whose four sons were serving overseas, or the Colwill family, whose six of their 11 children were serving at the time, with the youngest five being too young to serve at the time. The article talks about how the Village of Arthur raised over $250,000 in mere days in the war bond program. At the time, this represented 64% of the tiny village's taxable income base, or taxable property tax value.

I raise this story about the Village of Arthur, because it reminds me of a mural that is proudly displayed in Arthur beside its fieldstone cenotaph. The mural proclaims the simple reminder that freedom is not free. It is not the actions of politicians in this place that make us free. It is not the words that we say in this place that make us free. Our freedoms as Canadians comes from those who have served our country in uniform, from the brave women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces who have served in the past and who continue to serve to this very day. To them we owe a duty of dignity, respect, and fairness. Bill C-378 would do just that.

Bill C-378 would elevate more expectation to that of a legal requirement. We owe our veterans more than we can ever truly repay, but it serves us in our requirement as legislators to ensure our veterans are provided with what they are owed. It is a very important matter that we provide them with dignity, fairness, and respect.

It is appropriate that we are debating the bill in 2018. Indeed, it was 100 years ago this year that the armistice was signed and we saw the end of the First Word War. We saw the end of the Great War. We saw the end of the war that would end all wars. We saw the first of those veterans return home to Canada.

I am reminded of one of Perth County's famous sons, the Right Hon. Arthur Meighen, one of the great orators of this place. During the First World War, he had this to say:

No one has seriously argued in this House—and in solemn truth no one seriously believes—that we can dispatch, as we have done, 350,000 men overseas, commissioned by us to stand between our country and destruction, pledge them the undying fidelity of a grateful people, watch them through harrowing years of suffering, bathe ourselves in the reflected glory of their gallantry and devotion, and then leave them to be decimated and destroyed. Surely, surely, an obligation of honour is upon us, and fortifying that obligation of honour is the primal, instinctive, eternal urge of every nation to protect its own security.

These words were uttered during the conscription debate of 1917. However, the duty we owe as legislators today to our veterans and those who have served our country remain just as strong today as the words uttered 101 years ago in this very chamber.

We have often heard phrases “military covenant”, or “social covenant”, or “sacred covenant”, the duty we owe to our veterans.

Those words and that thought came from our wartime Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden. Overseas, he said the following:

The government and the country will consider it their first duty to see that a proper appreciation of your effort and of your courage is brought to the notice of people at home, and it will always be our endeavour to so guide the attitude of public opinion that the country will support the government to prove to the returned man its just and due appreciation of the inestimable value of the services rendered to the country and empire; and that no man, whether he goes back or whether he remains in Flanders, will have just cause to reproach the government for having broken with the men who won and the men who died.

Those words remain true on this date as well. We owe so much to our veterans. My mind is drawn to the more recent veterans, those who have served our country in uniform over the past decades, particularly those who served our country in Afghanistan. There are more than 40,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces who have served in Afghanistan, and 158 who lost their lives serving our country in the pursuit of freedom.

My mind is also drawn to Master Corporal Anthony Klumpenhouwer from Kurtzville, in North Perth, Ontario, who lost his life as a member of JTF2 and was the 54th casualty in 2007 in our battle in Afghanistan. My mind is drawn to those veterans who served us in Afghanistan and who continue to serve us. We owe them our undying gratitude. More tangibly, we owe them a duty of fairness, and that is exactly what this bill would do. It would enshrine in law for all Canadians to see and parliamentarians to respect, the principles of dignity, respect, and fairness.

It is my great honour to support this bill, and I hope all parliamentarians will do the same.

Department of Veterans Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

February 12th, 2018 / 6:45 p.m.
See context


Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity today to speak to Bill C-378, which is an act to amend the Department of Veterans Affairs Act.

I would like to thank our colleague from Barrie—Innisfil for his ongoing attention to the welfare and well-being of our veterans. It is my passion too. My dad was on a corvette. My mom repaired airplanes at No. 10 Repair Depot in Calgary. Both my grandfathers served in the First World War for Canada. My great-grandmother got the keys to the City of Vancouver for sending eight of her boys off to fight in World War II.

I think all members of the House would agree that the well-being of veterans and their families is important to them, and that Canadians want the best for these men and women should they fall ill or become injured. We all want what is best for this country's proud veterans, and I am pleased to be able to speak to how far this government has gone.

We have heard from veterans and their family members. We have spoken to thousands across this country and the comments are always in the same vein. When soldiers come home, all they ask for is to have the services and care they need for themselves and their families. We could not agree more. This is what our government promised to do when we came to office just over two years ago, and this is what Veterans Affairs Canada endeavours to do every day as it delivers benefits and services to over 190,000 Canadian Armed Forces veterans, Royal Canadian Mounted Police veterans, and their families.

The proposed amendments to the Department of Veterans Affairs Act speak to the principles that guide our government every day, the principles of action that guide Veterans Affairs Canada and its commitment to ensure veterans and their families receive the care, compassion, and respect they deserve, and principles similar to those already enshrined in the Veterans Bill of Rights. They are the same principles that the Minister of Veterans Affairs leads his department by, and which led to the announcement in December of the new pension for life. However, they are not objective principles that should be written into law, which is why we cannot support Bill C-378. This bill offers no benefits or services for veterans or their families.

I assure members that just as veterans and their fallen comrades sacrificed everything to safeguard our future, this government is here to safeguard theirs and that includes the work we do to deliver services and benefits to veterans. What we can and should all support are measures to increase benefits for veterans, measures like our promise to re-establish a tax-free pension for life for pain, which recognizes and compensates veterans for disabilities resulting from a service-related illness or injury.

It is important to deliver on our government's promise while also delivering on our commitment to treat veterans with the dignity, respect, and fairness they deserve, and to support them as effectively as possible, to ensure a smooth transition with a focus on well-being. “Well-being” means a veteran has purpose, is financially secure, safely housed, in good physical and mental health, highly resilient in the face of change, well-integrated into the community, proud and cognizant of his or her legacy, and is valued and celebrated. We know that each of these qualities means something different to each individual veteran, because all veterans have their own unique story and their own individual needs. That is what led to the pension for life and making this nearly $3.6 billion investment a reality.

Combined with the over $6 billion in initiatives that we announced in budgets 2016 and 2017, the result is a flexible package of benefits and programs that allow veterans and their families to decide what form of compensation works best for them. With these changes and enhancements, veterans have access to tax-free financial compensation to recognize pain and suffering caused by a service-related illness or injury, an income replacement benefit to help with financial support during rehabilitation or to make up for lost earnings, and support programs to help veterans with such aspects as education, employment, and physical and mental health. The new pension for life is a combination of benefits that provide recognition, income support, and stability to members and veterans who experience a service-related illness or injury.

One of the key new benefits is the pain and suffering compensation. This is a monthly lifelong payment recognizing the pain and suffering of members and veterans caused by a disability resulting from a service-related injury or illness. The monthly amount can be cashed out for a lump sum, giving members and veterans the flexibility to choose what works best for them and their families.

Additional support for those with service-related, severe, and permanent impairments causing a barrier to re-establishment in post-service life is available through the additional pain and suffering compensation provided as a monthly benefit. The income replacement benefit is another monthly program that will provide income support during transition for those facing barriers to re-establishing themselves because of health problems resulting primarily from service. In an effort to streamline services and simplify the application process for veterans, the IRB will replace six current benefits: earnings loss benefit, extended earnings loss benefit, supplementary retirement benefit, retirement income security benefit, the career impact allowance, and the career impact allowance supplement. Additionally, veterans who wish to join the workforce may earn up to $20,000 per year from employment before any reduction in their IRB payment.

With that said, we know that a successful transition requires more than money alone; it must address personal and professional growth. In fact, the most successful transition occurs when a veteran has a positive state of well-being, a balance of financial, mental, physical, and social factors. Pensions for life provide a holistic package of financial security and wellness elements to help veterans and their families transition to the next stage of their life and make choices about what they want to do next, whether it is education, work, or retirement.

Now that we have delivered a balanced and effective combination of programs and services, of which pension for life is a key piece, we are turning our full attention to delivering them with the excellence that veterans and their families want and deserve. These investments and enhancements all speak directly to the goal of my colleague's proposed amendments in his bill. I might also remind my colleagues that the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act was revised in early 2015 to clearly speak to the just and due appreciation owed to members and veterans for their service to Canada. It is gratitude shared by all Canadians and not one to be taken lightly.

Among the reasons I ran for office was to do my part to ensure that our Canadian Armed Forces members, our veterans, and their families, have access to the benefits and services they need when and where they need them. This government is proud of our brave men and women in uniform, and we are grateful for their service and sacrifice for their country. Make no mistake, treating veterans and their families with fairness, respect, and dignity is the cornerstone of the delivery of our programs, benefits, and services, which are the principles in the Veterans Bill of Rights. They are respected and embraced by the government in everything we do. It is also why they need not be written into the Department of Veterans Affairs Act.

I applaud our government's continued efforts to improve the experience of our veterans. I applaud the spirit with which my friend from Barrie—Innisfil has put forward his private member's bill as we recognize the sacrifices and contributions of veterans and their families.

Department of Veterans Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

February 12th, 2018 / 6:55 p.m.
See context


John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank everybody who contributed to this fulsome debate on Bill C-378, my proposed amendments to the Department of Veterans Affairs Act.

I want to make clear right off the start that this was not intended to coincide with the unfortunate comments of the Prime Minister, which he made in Edmonton a couple of weeks ago. This bill was introduced in October 2017 after I and my colleagues travelled the country to talk to veterans. One of the things we heard over and over again was the sacred obligation, this covenant, that the Government of Canada and the people of Canada should have, which mirrors exactly what Sir Robert Borden spoke about in advance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. He spoke about the sacred obligation and military covenant that our country has to its veterans.

I am intending to put that into the legislation by amending the Department of Veterans Affairs Act so that it does not become an aspirational thing for members of Veterans Affairs in Charlottetown to be looking at. It is for the current and future governments to be reminded of that sacred obligation that we have to our veterans, and it is being done with the sincerest of attempts.

I will remind everyone again of the covenant. There is only one elsewhere in the world, and that is in the United Kingdom, which has the military covenant act. It deals with veterans, as well as their families and survivors, that they be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness. Veterans and their duties are unique among Canadians, and I think all of us in the House can agree with that. There is an obligation to care for veterans because of sacrifices made by them, and that obligation must and should extend to their families.

One of the areas that I know needs some work, and when it gets to committee we can look at this in a fulsome way, is that the care, treatment, and transition of Canadian Armed Forces in and to civil life are dealt with in a timely manner. That is the kind of work that the committee can do to deal with what exactly is a “timely manner”. I will remind the House that the backlog right now is about 29,000 cases for disability claims, and that number is going to increase as we move forward.

We talk about sacred obligation, and the Prime Minister has spoken about sacred obligation several times. On December 9, 2014, he said in Hansard, “Mr. Speaker, we have a sacred obligation to our veterans who chose to put everything on the line for their country.” Again on December 9, 2014, in Hansard, he said, “Mr. Speaker, we have a sacred obligation”. On August 24, 2015, when he stood in Belleville with his hand over his heart and made the promises we have talked about, he said, “We have a social covenant with all veterans and their families—a sacred obligation we must meet with both respect and gratitude.”

On November 25, 2014, the Prime Minister said, “Mr. Speaker, we have a sacred obligation to our veterans, but too many are struggling”. Over and over again, not only the Prime Minister but the current Minister of Veterans Affairs and the former minister of veterans affairs all talked about this sacred obligation that we have to our veterans. What I am trying to do with this bill is to enshrine that in legislation, so that not just the current government but future governments, future prime ministers, future ministers of veterans affairs, and future employees at Veterans Affairs Canada understand that it is the will of Parliament and the Canadian people to make sure that we live up to and fulfill this sacred obligation that we have to our veterans.

I was elected in 2015 and have had the privilege of coming into this place as one of 338 members across this country. Since Confederation, only 4,000 of us have sat in the House of Commons. When I sit here and think of the sacrifices, I think of the blood that has been spilled, the lives that have been lost, the lives that have been decimated by war, those who fought for this country, fought against tyranny, fought against oppression, fought against Naziism, and who fight against Islamic jihadists to allow us the privilege and honour to sit in our symbol of democracy. We owe them no less than this sacred obligation and I am calling on the government to live up to that obligation and support Bill C-378.

Department of Veterans Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

December 1st, 2017 / 1:20 p.m.
See context


John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

moved that Bill C-378, An Act to amend the Department of Veterans Affairs Act (fairness principles), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today in the House to speak about my private member's bill, Bill C-378. I stand in the House on behalf of the millions of men and women who have fought for our country, the 700,000 veterans. It is for them that I rise with respect to this bill.

I also rise with an understanding that the sacrifices that have been made by those men and women and their families throughout the course of Canadian history is what allows all of us who sit in our symbol of democracy the privilege to do so. I want to thank them, their families, and their memories. I hope by the time I am done here today, I will have done a good enough job explaining what the private member's bill is all about and ask for the support of the House for it.

I am looking to establish three basic principles within the Department of Veterans Affairs Act: that the person, as well as his or her dependants or survivors, is to be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness; that the uniqueness of a person's professionalism, obligations, and sacrifices such a profession demands also impacts the experiences of the individual's family; and that any decision regarding the care, treatment, and re-establishment in civilian life of the person and the benefits to be provided be made in a timely manner.

It is in the spirit of Sir Robert Borden, who spoke to Canadian soldiers preparing for that great battle of Vimy Ridge, that Bill C-378 is introduced. Our eighth prime minister said to the troops at the time: need have no fear that the government and the country will fail to show just appreciation of your service...The government and the country will consider it their first duty to prove to the returned men its just and due appreciation of the inestimable value of the services rendered to the country...

Sir Robert Borden may have been the first to talk about an obligation and duty, but he has not been the last. Veterans and current members of the Canadian Armed Forces who I met with this summer told me they wished to see these principles in place.

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to travel across the country to meet with veterans, their families, and stakeholders. Every single one of them talked about this sacred obligation, this covenant, on behalf of the government and its service men and women. When Sir Robert Borden spoke of that obligation to Canadian soldiers, there has never been an obligation to the men and women and their families enacted in Canadian legislation, and that is what I hope to change with Bill C-378.

This is not an indictment on any government. It is not an indictment on the current government and it is not an indictment on the valuable employees who work at Veterans Affairs Canada. This is about doing something for which veterans have asked.

The previous government brought in a Veterans Bill of Rights in 2007. Under the Veterans Bill of Rights, veterans have the right to take part in discussions that involve them and their families, have someone with them to support them when they deal with Veterans Affairs, to receive clear, easy-to-understand information about programs and services in English and French, as set out in the Official Languages Act, and have their privacy protected, as set out in the Privacy Act.

More importantly, the Veterans Bill of Rights has two rights that are included as principles in Bill C-378. The first principle is that the person be treated with respect, dignity, fairness, and courtesy, the benefits and services as set in our published service standards, and knowing one's appeal rights.

Canada had the Veterans Bill of Rights, but it is the 2011 armed services covenant from the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron, that was the gold standard, and continues to be the gold standard, for stating a nation's obligation to its forces.

Highlights in the U.K. armed forces covenant include that they, the men and women and their families, “deserve our respect and support, and fair treatment.” It says in that covenant, “the whole nation has a moral obligation to the members of the Naval Service, the Army, and the Royal Air Force, together with their families.” They “should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services. Special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given most such as the injured and the bereaved.”

It is also important to understand that the United Kingdom is the only country in the world that has a covenant with its service men and women.

I am proud of Bill C-378 and the principles that our armed forces members and veterans are asking for. I would like to take some time to go through the three principles. The first principle states, “that the person, as well as their dependants or survivors, is to be treated with dignity, respect and fairness;" This respect is duly earned, as the men and women who defend our democracy essentially go to work in a theatre of war where those they are battling do not recognize the rights and freedoms that Canadians expect to have.

Canadians would not have those rights and freedoms without the efforts of our brave soldiers and the sacrifices they have faced on battlefields for the past 150 years. In the words of Aaron Bedard, a veteran and someone I now consider a friend, about fairness, respect, and dignity, “I know that the principles of fairness, respect and dignity towards Canadian veterans are as important to [Canadians] as they are for veterans and our families.” I believe that in all that I am. It was Sir Robert Borden who first touched on the idea of obligation because of the duty performed by our Canadian Forces.

The second principle of Bill C-378 states that we should recognize “the uniqueness of the person's professionalism”, and “the obligations and sacrifices”, such as that a profession “demands also impacts the experiences of their family”.

It was only in recent years where the duty of a soldier's family has been recognized. This recognition is long overdue. For far too many years, families along with veterans suffered in silence with what was at first called “shell shock”, which we know now as the unseen injury of post-traumatic stress disorder.

On that note, the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George has passed Bill C-211 in the House. It has been 168 days that legislation has been in the Senate, and it is time that the bill be passed in the Senate.

In many veterans affairs committee meetings, it was the spouse or a family member that spoke out about their roles in keeping their father, brother, mother, sister alive after returning from theatres of war. Bill C-378, if passed, will forever recognize the uniqueness and obligations of not only the veterans who fought, but the families of the soldiers and our veterans.

More important is the third principle, “that any decision regarding the care, treatment or re-establishment in civil life of the person and the benefits to be provided to them be made in a timely manner.”

Many discussions in the House and in committee revolve around the care that our veterans receive. In some cases, Veterans Affairs does well, and I commend the men and women who work in VAC offices across Canada, in call centres, and in the Charlottetown headquarters, for the work that they do.

However, there must be a recognition that there are cases where gaps are located and the standard of service cannot be met.

The idea of providing benefits in a timely manner must be considered in all aspects of the care received by our veterans when they are transitioning to civilian life. There is a standard of care, but there are way too many gaps right now causing delays. We can do better, and we must do better.

Dave Bona, a veteran and mefloquine survivor said it best when he stated:

When a soldier comes home all they ask for is to have the services and medical care they need available in a timely manner for themselves and their family. Having these reasonable principles in the act will set in place the simple obligation that we ask for.

The obligation is that care be provided when it is needed, not six, seven, 10, or 12 months after it is asked for. The obligation of getting care to veterans rests with Veterans Affairs Canada. Service provision in a timely manner does not mean using an average of 16 weeks to deliver services within, for example, but giving a realistic expectation to veterans and their families of the different care that will be delivered in varying circumstances. The principle of receiving care in timely manner takes the idea of “in a timely manner” from being aspirational to being realistic and expected. It also puts it in legislation. As research improves how care is delivered, so should the timing of when that care is delivered.

As I said, last summer I had an opportunity to travel the country with the members for Yorkton—Melville and Souris—Moose Mountain, and met with veterans and their families. I met with a Robert Gagnon, a veteran walking across B.C. to help veterans suffering from PTSD. In Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, we talked with the women and men who run the military family resource centres. I met with Medric Cousineau, who has saved 99 lives by pairing veterans with trained service dogs. In Calgary, we learned the incredible story of how the police are helping our homeless veterans. In Edmonton, we met with CAF members and veterans together, and in that meeting, a colonel helped one veteran get off the street after hearing his story at that round table.

I give all of the credit for the three principles in Bill C-378 to everyone we met this summer. It is the veterans and their families, the MFRC staff, and the volunteers and activists who helped get this bill to the House today.

I hope all members of the House will support this bill and get Bill C-378 to committee, where more voices of veterans and their families can be heard on these important principles and the need to get them put into legislation.

Finally, as I close, I will give the last words to Don Sorochan, a lawyer from Vancouver, B.C. He wrote to me and said:

I welcome this Bill to further recognize the Military Covenant. Throughout our history Canadians have put life and limb on the line to serve Canada. The Covenant is Canada’s promise that in return for this service to protect our country and its democratic institutions, those who serve and their dependents will be honoured, respected and looked after by a grateful nation. The implementation of this Covenant should not be left to the whims of bureaucrats or the other pressing demands of the government of the day.

It is important to understand that this obligation is not just to be placed on the current government, this minister, or the bureaucracy. This covenant is to be placed on future generations, future governments, future ministers, future bureaucrats, and future parliamentarians, who understand the sacred obligation, the covenant that Canada should have, needs to have and, hopefully, will have with its veterans.

Department of Veterans Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

December 1st, 2017 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne Québec


Sherry Romanado LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to debate Bill C-378, an act to amend the Department of Veterans Affairs Act.

I want to thank the member for Barrie—Innisfil for his advocacy on behalf of veterans. It is a real pleasure working with him on the committee for veterans affairs.

I do not think that there is a person here today who does not want what is best for Canada's veterans. I know that the Government of Canada respects what veterans have done for this country, and will ensure that those with service-related pain and suffering will be well cared for and supported for life.

In hindsight, it is no secret that the new veterans charter introduced in 2006 was not completely successful. Some parts of it worked, but many others did not. The matter of the transition back to civilian life was never properly addressed.

When the Liberal government took office in 2015, the Prime Minister clearly indicated that the time had come to fix that. Veterans and their families deserve our respect and gratitude, and the existing system needed a major overhaul to create a process that is easy to access, simple to navigate, and focused on the veteran.

To accomplish this, he tasked the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence with an aggressive mandate, with 20 commitments that focused on three clear points.

First, the veteran must be at the centre of everything that Veterans Affairs Canada does. Second, we have to work harder to include the veteran's family in all planning, benefits, and services. Third, we have to do whatever we can to help every veteran reach their new normal.

A big step forward in achieving these goals is to regain the trust of Canada's veteran community, which is something the department has been making strides in by engaging with veterans and taking action. I have personally travelled to 12 wings and bases since March, and I have talked to our troops, veterans, and their families about how we can work together to get this right. As part of a military family, I believe it is important to listen to our veterans, our Canadian Armed Forces members, and their families, and I will always be willing to do so.

Veterans Affairs Canada has held stakeholder summits and working groups, has created six ministerial advisory groups, and has listened to concerns, ideas, and suggestions from veterans and veteran stakeholders from across the country. That feedback helped lead to our delivering on six mandate commitments in 2016, and to the initiatives that were introduced in budget 2017 that will deliver on eight more.

In budget 2016, the government committed to investing $5.7 billion over six years to restore critical access to services, ensure the long-term financial security of veterans with disabilities, and honour the service, sacrifice, and achievements of those who served in our military.

Budget 2017 provides for a comprehensive set of measures to recognize the important role of caregivers, help more families, support mental health, and pay for the education and training veterans need to find a job.

That includes the implementation of eight measures totalling $624 million over six years.

Our work continues as we enhance the financial security and wellness elements of the new veterans charter to help veterans and their families transition to post-military life and make choices about what they want to do next, whether it be work, education, or other activities.

There is no doubt that our government has worked hard to provide veterans and their families with the care and support they need, and to commemorate those who served, all in line with the principles laid out in the Veterans Bill of Rights. Applying to all former members of the military and family members, the bill of rights includes the principles of dignity, respect, and fairness, because this government knows it is due to their contributions and sacrifices that we are all here today.

As I can confirm, family should always be a part of the discussion, because when a man or woman serves, or when their sons are serving, as mine are, the entire family serves along with them.

While the new veterans charter, introduced in 2006, received all-party support, what emerged over the years was a patchwork system of policies and benefits, which made it more complicated for veterans to get the support they needed when they needed it. This was a consistent message from the veteran community, and something the department has gone to great lengths to address. For over a year, through a service delivery review, they reviewed and assessed how programs and services are delivered to veterans and their families.

We now have a plan to provide services that are faster, more flexible, and more responsive by focusing more on veterans when they contact the department for the first time and by providing a personalized response that meets all of the veteran's needs.

Regardless of whether veterans call, visit an office in person, go online, or send a request by mail, Veterans Affairs Canada will ensure that they get the same information and have the same positive service experience.

This type of change does not happen overnight, but we have an action plan in place. It is posted on our website. It outlines each recommendation and when it will be completed.

The department has already started making some of the important changes that will make a difference now. For example, it has simplified the approvals process for certain disability claims, like PTSD and hearing loss, and has reduced the burden on veterans. This has resulted in 27% more decisions being completed in the last fiscal year compared to the year before. It is a small step, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

One of our biggest endeavours so far has been the guided support pilot project. Launched in a few cities, a group of veterans were identified to receive one-on-one assistance in applying for benefits and services to ensure that they are getting the most out of what the department has to offer. The pilot project received tremendous feedback and delivers on some of the recommendations for in-person service delivery. It also addresses the larger issue of veterans not always knowing the right questions to ask. The department does the hard work of navigating the system and provides the veterans with the specific information and advice they need. Veterans Affairs is currently looking at the next steps with the project in order to roll it out nationally.

Another recommendation was to bring back the client survey in order to ensure that all veterans and their families had a chance to provide feedback. I am proud to announce, on behalf of the department, that the results of this national survey are in, and it is clear that we are making progress.

Some of the results attest to the department's efforts to improve the long-term financial security and independence of veterans who are sick or injured. To restore critical access to services, Veterans Affairs Canada reopened 10 offices across the country last year, in addition to substantially improving access to front-line staff and case managers.

In this recent survey, 83% of veterans, RCMP members, and family members responded that they felt their case management plans met their needs. That is a significant increase from 2010, when only 24% were satisfied. Additionally, 81% responded that they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the support the department provides, and many felt that services exceeded their expectations. An overwhelming 94% found that VAC staff treats them with respect. That speaks volumes for the progress the department is making, indicating that it is headed in the right direction in respecting, supporting, and treating all veterans fairly.

The issue at the core of the bill comes down to how we treat veterans and their families in their dealings with Veterans Affairs Canada by calling on the department to treat them with fairness, respect, and dignity, and to recognize the unique experience of veterans and their families. I doubt there is a member in this place who disagrees with the importance of these sentiments.

The challenge presented by the bill is how we define these principles so they are interpreted consistently and not subjectively. These principles exist in the Veterans Bill of Rights, and if they can be strengthened, we should examine doing that. I would like to see the bill make it to committee where members can take a much closer look at these principles and how Veterans Affairs can and should apply them.

When it comes to our Canadian Armed Forces members, our veterans, and their families, we will always strive for excellence and to improve our services and benefits. Indeed, the very reason I decided to run for federal office was that I felt veterans and Canadian Armed Forces members and their families were not being treated as well as they could be. With two sons serving, I know that they, too, one day will be veterans, so I am committed to working hard for them and all military families.

I look forward to working with the member for Barrie—Innisfil to make sure that we do right by our brave men and women in uniform, those who have served, and the families who support them.

Department of Veterans Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

December 1st, 2017 / 1:50 p.m.
See context


Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, if passed, Bill C-378 would amend the text of the Department of Veterans Affairs Act to require that, in exercising his or her powers and in performing his or her duties and functions, the Minister of Veterans Affairs take into account certain principles in relation to, among others, persons who have served in the Canadian Forces or merchant navy or in the naval, army, or air forces of Her Majesty as well as in relation to their dependants or survivors.

It is somewhat ironic that this bill was tabled by a Conservative member, given that it was the former Conservative government that abolished lifetime pensions and shuttered Veterans Affairs offices across Canada. Veterans who need help in my riding of Jonquière are still suffering the consequences. Furthermore, the Conservatives laid off 900 staff at the department, forcing veterans who were leaving the department to scramble to reach case managers and receive services and benefits.

Like all my NDP colleagues, I am proud to support these changes that would enshrine respect for veterans in law, especially as it related to timely access to benefits. Far too many veterans have to wait to receive benefits because their applications can take months to process.

Currently, when wounded veterans are discharged, their benefits, services, and medical care are often still being processed, which puts them and their families in a precarious financial and emotional situation.

It can take several months before they start to receive their benefits and before they can access medical care. It is important that these women and men who fought to protect our freedom be treated with dignity. I think that their service has already caused them enough stress, so let us not make things worse for them. The government should do its duty; veterans have already done theirs.

Canadians will recall that the Conservatives are the ones who took veterans to court, refusing to admit that the government had a sacred obligation to ill and injured veterans. It is very disappointing to see that the Liberals have hired the same lawyers to make the same arguments in court.

Despite the rhetoric from a number of members on both sides of the House, both Conservative and government members, we must give our veterans all the support they need. After all, real action is worth more than words.

As a member of Parliament, I have the honour of meeting veterans and members of the Royal Canadian Legion in my riding at all of their events. With them, I travel back in time to be reminded of what transpired, whether we are talking about the great wars or about missions they may have carried out throughout their careers. This is also an opportunity to discuss their work experience and what they went through. The stories are sometimes sad, but they can also be happy.

It is also always a pleasure to participate in the Remembrance Day ceremony. I was very proud that this year, on November 11, we were able to attend a parade of members of the army, air force, navy, the Saguenay naval reserve, and the cadets. A number of veterans were there to commemorate Remembrance Day. This parade took place in Arvida, where my riding office is located. I am very proud to speak with them as their member of Parliament.

While I am at it, I want to talk about the work that members of the Arvida branch of the Royal Canadian Legion are doing. These men and women are very involved in their community. They take part in Remembrance Day ceremonies and other activities, and they make a difference in the lives of veterans and their families by helping and supporting them every day.

I want to emphasize the family part because family is important to people who are facing hardships or whose health no longer allows them to do day-to-day or work activities.

Veterans' main focus is on working with the Legion to promote Remembrance Day, but they also support serving men and women in uniform. I would like to take advantage of the opportunity I have today as we debate Bill C-378 to acknowledge all the work Arvida's Royal Canadian Legion Branch 209, with its president, Steeve Brown, and his whole team, has done. I would also like to acknowledge the work of the women's auxiliary members, who are always present at the activities and who also support veterans. I am proud to recognize their president, Annie Drolet, who is a constant presence.

I am talking about the Legion because the branch will be celebrating its 70th anniversary on December 3. That is extraordinary. I would like to share a little story. Arvida's Legion building needed some renovations and one veteran even mortgaged his home to get the money needed to redo the roof of the building where we still celebrate many events today. These are good people who are very committed. I am sure I will hear more of their stories on December 10 at the brunch celebrating the branch's 70th anniversary.

To come back to the bill, I would like to quote the Royal Canadian Legion, which said the following with regard to Bill C-378.

The federal government’s budget has checked off a couple more priorities from the Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) mandate letter, but it certainly has missed the opportunity to deliver on key recommendations brought forward by the VAC ministerial advisory groups, specifically, the need for lifelong financial security for ill and injured veterans. Budget 2017 provides vague promises and no clarity on how the government will deliver lifelong financial security for our veterans and their families.

It has to be said: this bill is a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough.

In conclusion, the NDP supports the improvement of services and pensions for veterans and their families. These changes are welcome, but they are nowhere near enough to give them what they desperately need. Action must be taken immediately to bolster pensions and mental health programs, increase the assistance offered to families, and improve career transition services for medically released veterans.

The NDP would like the National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces ombudsman's report entitled “Simplifying the Service Delivery Model for Medically Releasing Members of the Canadian Armed Forces” to become policy at the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada.

Department of Veterans Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

December 1st, 2017 / 2 p.m.
See context


Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to stand today to speak in support of Bill C-378, an act to amend the Department Of Veterans Affairs Act.

I want to make a short comment on the speech made prior to mine. The MP for London—Fanshawe is on the committee representing the NDP and I want to say what a pleasure it is to work with her. As the member for Barrie—Innisfil said, the work going on in that committee is significant and although at times it does become frustrating as we work from our various perspectives, the amount of work being done is significant, and it is a pleasure to serve there.

The new veterans charter, we must remember, was brought in by all parties within 48 hours through the Senate and back, with the unanimous consent of the House. Therefore, it definitely needs to be labelled a “living document” and there is a great deal more work to be done. I want to commend the member of Parliament for Barrie—Innisfil for putting forward such a significant private member's bill that seeks to put into law Canada's sacred obligation to our veterans, their families, and dependants.

Specifically, the Canadian definition of “military covenant” that the member is seeking states that the military covenant “is a promise by the nation ensuring that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly.” This covenant recognizes that there is no equivalent profession to that of service in the Canadian Armed Forces and the uniqueness of military service extends to the experiences of military families.

I have no connections to the military myself. I have always seen myself as a Canadian who truly supports and cares for our military. Having had the privilege of being part of the Veterans Affairs committee and serving as deputy shadow minister, I can say that my depth of appreciation and awareness has only grown, and this statement regarding an equivalent profession not existing is very true.

The bill also recognizes the obligation of the people and the Government of Canada to provide dignity, care, and respect to those members of the Canadian Armed Forces who have been disabled or have died as a result of military service and to their dependants in a timely manner. Since Prime Minister Robert Borden addressed the troops in 1917 who were preparing for the Battle of Vimy Ridge, stating, “you need have no fear that the government and the country will fail to show just appreciation of your service”, the terms “military covenant”, “sacred obligation”, or “sacred covenant” have been used off and on by governments and the government of today, and yet the term has not been entrenched in legislation as a form of respect to the members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Just yesterday, at the Veterans Affairs committee, the Minister of Veterans Affairs spoke about the investment made into developing our armed forces members into the best soldiers they can be and that the same level of commitment must be made in assisting them to integrate into civilian life when they choose not to, or can no longer, serve. The words that he spoke have been echoed in that committee over and over again over the course of the two years of the current government in leadership. This is not something new. It is something that we all agree to and our obligation expressed in Bill C-378 is seen as an absolute expectation by Canadians. It is a value that should be and can be documented for all to see. It should be formally entrenched in legislation as a form of respect to the members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

During the member of Parliament for Barrie—Innisfil's time as shadow minister for Veterans Affairs, I had the pleasure of working on committee and travelling with him this past summer, as he mentioned, on a veterans tour. Having the opportunity to go to Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Brandon, and then on to Dundurn, Saskatoon, Regina, and Moose Jaw with my Saskatchewan colleague MP for Souris—Moose Mountain, we heard first-hand from so many veterans about the challenges that they face. Some of it was very heartwarming; other parts of it were very heartbreaking. There is no question that a great deal more needs to be done, and veterans hold us accountable to that. Quite honestly, after talking to them face to face and getting to know them, they really do not care who is in power. Whoever is in power is going to hear from them and those who are not in power are going to work with them to encourage the government to move on with the next steps that need to be taken.

I just want to share a few stories that I had an opportunity to hear.

I met a veteran in Edmonton who had served for many years. His father had served in World War II and was not well when he came home and desperately tried to get the care that he needed. The veteran was the eldest of eight children. His mom was at home trying to take care of them, while his dad took care of the family financially. The veteran's dad was very ill and clearly not getting better. Thinking he had to do something, he enlisted, and began to serve. Within a year of his enlisting, his dad passed away. He told me it became his responsibility to care for the family. He gave $25 of his paycheque from the armed forces to his mom, which I imagine was a considerable amount of money then, so she could take care of his siblings,

What he told me next, I cannot even fathom because I assume that most of the problems we hear about today are from our newer veterans, while this was some time ago. He said that when the chain of command learned that he was giving his mother $25 a month, they indicated that they would be reducing his pay by that same amount, as he clearly did not need it.

What we have here is a culture that has gone on for some time. This again expresses why we need to put this into law. We need this covenant there to hold us to another level of accountability.

As sad as that story is, there is another side to it that I think reflects what I heard everywhere we went. Yes, there were frustrations and circumstances that were unfair in many circumstances, as well as situations in which the government was providing poorly and not doing the best it could do. Despite that, the veteran continued that he never regretted a day of service and was proud to serve his country. He is now in his early eighties and works at Home Depot. To this day, he wakes up at 5:30, shines his shoes, creases his pants, and goes to work. This is the kind of person we want to put this covenant in place for to show them respect for everything that they, our service men and women, do.

We are probably wiser and better off as a result of much that we do not understand or comprehend. That is why I encourage this entire House to move this bill to committee. Let us make it happen.

Department of Veterans Affairs ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2017 / 3:10 p.m.
See context


John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-378, An Act to amend the Department of Veterans Affairs Act (fairness principles).

Mr. Speaker, I rise this afternoon to introduce an act to amend the Department of Veterans Affairs Act. This legislation would introduce fairness principles to the duties of the Minister of Veterans Affairs. These principles come from veterans across Canada, veterans I had the pleasure to serve with in my role as opposition critic for veterans affairs.

The principles that I hope we will adopt by passing this bill will ensure greater respect, dignity, and fairness for our Canadian Armed Forces veterans and their families. They deserve our respect, our support, and fair treatment.

These principles form the basis of the Armed Forces Covenant passed in 2011 by the U.K. Parliament. The Armed Forces Covenant is a pledge that together we acknowledge and understand that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect in the communities, the economy, and the society they serve with their lives.

With this legislation, I hope to have these principles added to the Department of Veterans Affairs Act to guide the current and future governments in the treatment of Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans, and their families. I hope that with this legislation, all veterans will receive the obligation owed to them by the Government of Canada and all Canadians.

I look forward to speaking further on the bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)