That, given the Prime Minister has told veterans that they are “asking for more than we are able to give”, the House call on the Minister of Veterans Affairs to revoke the Veterans Affairs Canada benefits that have been extended to Chris Garnier, who is not a veteran, is incarcerated for second-degree murder and for interfering with the dead body of police officer Catherine Campbell, and is currently receiving benefits for a disability he sustained while committing his heinous crimes.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Richmond—Arthabaska.
Twenty-nine days ago, veterans learned, and were quite rightly outraged at the news, that Christopher Garnier, a convicted murderer, was having his PTSD treatment paid out of funds set aside for veterans. Twenty-nine days ago we called on the Minister of Veterans Affairs to intervene and right this wrong.
At first, the minister and the minister's office stayed silent on the matter. Departmental spokesmen were sent out to speak instead. As it became obvious that the outrage was growing, the minister finally relented and issued a statement. He told veterans that he shared their outrage and told them that he would seek answers for them. All seemed well. Pressure had been applied and the government seemed to have heard and seemed to have been acting.
However, as of yesterday, 29 days later, veterans still have no answers and the minister can only say that he is waiting for his officials to provide him with a report. The minister's lack of action, quite frankly, has become more outrageous than the original decision to give veterans benefits to this murderer.
Therefore, we did what we do in these situations. We appealed to a higher authority, in this case the Prime Minister. We asked him if he believed that Chris Garner deserved the veterans benefits he is receiving. The Prime Minister was not even willing to answer that simple question.
The Prime Minister and his Minister of Veterans Affairs have failed to address this issue and failed to provide veterans the answer they deserve. Here we are today, 29 days later, forcing a vote on whether or not to do the right thing and revoke these veterans benefits being wrongly extended to a murderer. It is shameful that it has taken this long for the government to make a decision on such a straightforward matter. Then again, veterans will say that under this government, waiting far too long for answers has become the name of the game.
Even the veterans ombudsman will say this. In fact, he slammed the Liberal government in a report just a few weeks ago, showing quite clearly that injured veterans are being forced to wait months longer than promised to find out if they even qualify for benefits. It frustrates veterans to know that, while the government makes them sit and wait for answers, a convicted murderer who has not served a day in his life in the military is having his private treatment paid for with funds set aside for veterans, private treatment for a disability he developed strangling Officer Catherine Campbell, putting her body in a compost bin and dumping her under a bridge.
Can my colleagues imagine what veterans are thinking? In fact, can my colleagues imagine what Canadians are thinking? Veterans who have served this nation honourably are being made to wait an average of seven months for a decision, many of them dealing with PTSD issues. Some are waiting much longer for benefits that they have earned. Veterans cannot even get an update on the status of their own claims.
Today, we will be forcing the government and all Liberal MPs to make a decision on whether they believe Chris Garnier should continue to receive benefits meant for veterans or if they believe that the minister and the Prime Minister should revoke them.
Today, I am fully expecting that members on the government side will claim that our side is advocating for changes, reductions, and revisions to the family benefits. If they do, this is a clear act that we are on the right track, because it is a desperate argument. We have no intention of touching veterans benefits now or in the future. This is a one-off situation. It is something which the policy-makers likely never anticipated when they wrote the policy to extend benefits. When mass murderer Clifford Olson was in prison and receiving OAS benefits, they were revoked when we were in power. They were revoked because the then prime minister had the leadership skills to know it was wrong. He had the management skills to pull into a room the key people who made the decision to extend those benefits. He said in the House of Commons that he personally would take all action necessary to have the benefits revoked, even if it meant bringing legislation to the floor of the House.
Clearly, this is a one-off situation. It is not about the extension of family benefits, which are very important to many veterans and their family members. This is about a 30-year-old individual who never served one day of his life in a military uniform, yet Catherine Campbell, the person he murdered, wore two uniforms. She wore the uniform of a police officer and she was a volunteer firefighter.
Today, as we consider the motion and bring it to a vote, make no mistake, this is about the failure of leadership of both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Veterans Affairs. It is about their lack of ability to bring the decision-makers, those who made this outrageous decision in the confines of the walls of Veterans Affairs Canada to extend benefits, to the table quickly and to get an explanation from them. That is what one normally would do in the course of managing any organization or business. One would call the decision-makers to the table and say, “Explain this to me”.
If the minister is as outraged as he has said he is, why would he not do that as the first step? Why would he not travel to Charlottetown, where the offices of Veterans Affairs Canada are, sit in a meeting room with his senior officials and management people and ask what is going on. He could then come back to the House of Commons and answer to veterans and Canadians why this outrageous situation was allowed to happen in the first place. He could make a determination and have the backbone and leadership to answer the questions in the House, which the Liberals have been unable and refuse to do. It is truly shameful not only to the veterans it disrespects but the people of Canada in general.
This is an issue that needs resolution. The Liberals can intervene. They can do it, and they are refusing to do it. Instead, they are defending this individual getting these benefits. I trust my colleagues in the government backbenches will make the right decision today to get their leadership to correct this one-off situation.