Mr. Speaker, today our Conservative caucus is shining a giant spotlight on an egregious error that needs to be rectified.
Since the news that a convicted murderer is receiving assistance from Veterans Affairs Canada, the reaction from veterans and everyday Canadians has been swift and overwhelmingly negative. Some were in shock that such a thing could happen. One would think that the person who approved his paperwork would have immediately took this up the chain of command and said that something must be done. I would hope that he or she said that the policy should be changed and the decision must not stand. No one faults the original crafter of the policy, as who could have ever imagined that Veterans Affairs funding could ever flow to a convicted murderer. There is never a wrong time to do the right thing. The House is now seized with this issue. We are here now. Let us deal with this matter once and for all.
When the news went public about what had happened, I thought there had to be a terrible mistake. I agree with the Minister of Veterans Affairs when he said that people are frustrated with how this happened. I know he understands that this is inappropriate, but what I do not know is if he wants to change the policy.
Like most Canadians, I shake my head and wonder how a convicted murderer could be able to receive funding from Veterans Affairs Canada so he could go through private treatment while in jail after he brutally killed an off-duty police officer, but somehow it happened. Veterans Affairs Canada is actually paying for his private treatment. Somehow the promised review of why this was carried out is taking weeks to finish.
Somehow the Prime Minister saw fit to stand in this House and refuse to answer questions. Well, I have news for the Prime Minister. Not only will our Conservative caucus continue to stand up and ask the tough questions, but we will force him to vote on them. We want the Prime Minister and the entire Liberal caucus to support our motion to revoke the Veterans Affairs funding that is going to pay for the private treatment of a convicted murderer, someone who never served a day in the Canadian Armed Forces, who never wore the uniform, who never served our country, and who most certainly is not entitled to any private treatment paid by Veterans Affairs.
With this motion we want the Prime Minister to send a strong message to the entire veterans community that what happened is wrong and must be fixed immediately. It will also be an opportunity for every member to be on the record as to where he or she stands, and if the member wants to fix this egregious application of Veterans Affairs policies. We have to seriously think about if we do not revoke this funding, what sort of message it will send to every veteran out there who is wondering how this could have happened.
I will quote retired sergeant Colin Saunders, who organized a protest this year on Parliament Hill over veterans benefits:
In this circumstance, I find it really hard to chew on that we're spending taxpayers' money like that to help someone when we also have veterans that are having a really hard time getting treatment through VAC. Certainly, there's lots of veterans whose family members need help or need services and they're not getting it.
He is right. Sadly, there are those who are currently appealing decisions on why they are not receiving benefits, yet Veterans Affairs has the funding to pay for the PTSD treatment for a convicted murderer.
To stress the failure of how this happened, if the convicted murderer had in fact served in the Canadian Armed Forces, he would have been kicked out with a dishonourable discharge and probably would never have received benefits. However, in this case, because the convicted murderer was not actually a veteran, he gets to continue to receive assistance.
I will quote another veteran, Medric Cousineau, who is the founder of Paws Fur Thought, which helps place service dogs with veterans who need them. He said:
How can you have a department who will bend over willy-nilly and yawn to support that, who will drag its feet toward supporting service dogs for veterans.
He is absolutely right. This is the government that had almost three years to ensure that veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder could be paired with service dogs, and we just learned there will be further delays as a result of their inaction. Our veterans deserve programs and benefits designed to meet their ever-evolving needs, and yet under the Liberal government we have seen nothing but more backlogs and delays.
The Liberals have repeatedly demonstrated they do not intend on honouring all the promises they made to veterans during the 2015 election campaign. While we are not here debating the promises the Liberals have failed to implement, we are here to rectify a very serious error in the application of veterans benefits.
This decision is wrong on so many levels, and the longer it takes to fix it, the more veterans and Canadians will continue to lose faith in the system. They are losing faith in the Prime Minister who had the gall to tell veterans, “They are asking for more than we can give.”
Not only did he make that flippant remark, he refused to apologize for it. The reason that comment stung and made people's blood boil is that we see waste and out of control spending on a weekly basis. The topic of today's debate is just another example of misplaced spending that should never have happened.
While the Liberal government just wrote a $4.5-billion cheque to a Texas oil company, it has a very difficult time keeping the promises it made to our veterans, and the veterans community is paying attention. They will not soon forget the Prime Minister's comment or overlook payments to provide private treatment to a convicted murderer. They are deeply upset that after the Prime Minister promised not to take veterans to court, he did exactly that. They are angry that he did not keep his promise to establish lifelong pensions as an option for injured veterans.
While I know the Prime Minister does not like facing these tough questions, that is what Parliament is for. He can continue to throw insults and downplay the whole fiasco, but we will not stay silent. We are here to hold the government's feet to the fire and make it accountable for its actions. Shrugging this off and pretending that it does not matter will not make the problem go away. We want the funding to cease immediately, and we want the policy changed so this situation never happens again. We would be shirking our responsibilities as parliamentarians if we did not fix this in the most expeditious manner.
I implore my Liberal colleagues to vote in favour of this motion, to stand with us and send a strong message that funding meant for veterans should never go to convicted murderers. Let us be united in condemning what has transpired and pledge to never let it happen ever again.