Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, home to Garrison Petawawa, training ground of the Warriors, I am honoured to rise in this place on behalf of the women and men who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces. I appreciate the trust I have earned from our women and men in the forces.
During question period, I asked the scandal-ridden government a question regarding the mistreatment of our veterans and the fact that the Prime Minister could find over $10 million to give to a convicted terrorist. While I may have expected a lack of response from whoever was the minister of veterans affairs at the time of the question, there have been so many, Canadians expect better treatment of their soldiers and their veterans. I implore the latest Minister of Veterans Affairs, who will not be minister for very long, to become an advocate for veterans, which has been lacking in this scandal-ridden government.
My question referred to the decision by the Prime Minister and his party to play politics with military pensions. The policy decision to cut $8 billion from the defence budget and play partisan politics relates to the fact that the budget has not been increased, as was promised to soldiers and veterans.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer confirms that veterans are paying for this scandal-ridden government's mistakes. Veterans with severe and permanent injuries will be worse off, by an average of $300,000, with the latest pension shell game. In the last election, the “thank you for your donation” Prime Minister promised our veterans that he would restore lifelong pensions and that veterans would not need to fight the government in court. The Liberal Party broke that promise and has already spent nearly $40 million, which could have gone to veterans, fighting veterans in court.
The critical injury benefit is another example of the mistreatment of Canadian veterans. While I have raised the case of Afghanistan veteran and retired warrant officer Roger Perreault on more than one occasion, and the shameful treatment of that individual, his cries for help have been met with silence.
In the last year of the Conservative government, 2015, 114 veterans qualified for the critical injury benefit. From December 2018 to date, only four veterans have qualified for the critical injury benefit under the Liberal government.
In the last three years, 55 veterans who suffered a traumatic incident that qualified for the critical injury benefit received a total of $4 million for their pain and suffering. Compare that treatment of Canadian veterans to how the Liberal Party rewarded convicted terrorist bomb-maker Omar Khadr by giving him $10.5 million tax-free.
The new veterans charter brought in by the Chrétien government added a detention benefit for soldiers who, while serving in the forces, were detained by an enemy, opposing force, or person or group carrying out a terrorist activity or who evaded capture or escaped from any power.
I have been contacted by a serving soldier who was detained by Serbian forces for 18 days while serving with the UN in Yugoslavia, back in 1994, with 54 others. I was shocked to find out that the federal government will not consider a claim until a soldier has been a detainee for greater than 30 days. As a consequence of setting such high arbitrary rules to qualify for the detention benefit, this soldier and others in a similar circumstance cannot quality.
I was shocked, but not surprised, to learn that the Chrétien government refused to recognize the heroism of all but one member of the Royal Canadian Dragoons battle group, which was held hostage and participated in Operation CAVALIER, or CANBAT 2.
Where is the justice in the Liberal government coming up with the arbitrary number of 30 as the cut-off for the detention benefit announced in the new veterans charter? It would appear that this is another example, like the critical injury benefit, of the Liberal government announcing a benefit that excludes soldiers and veterans who should qualify.