Bill C-55, Veterans Ombudsman's Speaking Notes, House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs
Ottawa - March 7, 2011
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Thank you for allowing me to say a few words today. I know that you have a very full agenda, so I will be brief.
I have followed with great interest the discussions in the House of Commons pertaining to Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act and the Pension Act. As the Veterans Ombudsman, as a Veteran with 37 years of military service, and as the proud father of a son who has served in the Canadian Forces, I am grateful to all Members of Parliament for their commitment to do right by Veterans and still-serving members of the Canadian Forces.
The men and women who put on the uniform implicitly agree to risk their lives to defend our country and the values that we hold dear. In return, they have the right to expect from their government an integrated series of measures to support them throughout their career and beyond. This country has the moral obligation to provide the very best support to them, particularly when they sustain career-ending service-related injuries or illnesses, and to their families, who, in my opinion, do not get sufficient recognition for the sacrifices they make in support of their loved ones' military careers.
There is broad, if not unanimous support among Parliamentarians, Veterans' organizations and others for the spirit of the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act, better known as the New Veterans Charter, in regard to its focus on wellness and transition to civilian life, compensation and its more holistic approach to the needs of Veterans and their families. The New Veterans Charter was seen when it came into force on April 1, 2006 and continues to be characterized as a significant improvement over the Pension Act.
Based on recent discussions on Bill C-55 in the House and elsewhere, I venture to say that this support for the spirit of the New Veterans Charter remains strong. However, there are also questions and concerns about the effectiveness of some of the programs and measures implemented under the Charter and there is certainly room for improvement.
Over the past five years, there have been consultations, and sustained efforts by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, the Senate Sub-Committee on Veterans Affairs, the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group and other advisory groups, Veterans organisations and the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman, to identify shortcomings and improvements.
The New Veterans Charter is complex. Because it was difficult to anticipate in advance its shortcomings or unintended consequences, the Government made a commitment to continuously review its programs and services and to amend the legislation, if necessary, to address emerging needs or unanticipated consequences. In this way, the New Veterans Charter was intended to be a 'living charter', and I believe that the principle of a 'living charter' is as important as 'the spirit of the charter' itself. However, it has taken five years for this principle to become reality.
On November 17, 2010, the Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Veterans Affairs, introduced Bill C-55 in the House of Commons, which is now before this Committee for review. I urge you to return it to the House for third reading as quickly as possible. Some may view Bill C-55 as modest in scope because it does not address all the shortcomings of the Charter, but it is a very important step in setting the precedent to make the Charter a truly 'living' document, as envisioned by you and your fellow Parliamentarians five years ago.
Bill C-55 may not be as comprehensive as some would like, but by passing Bill C-55, you will immediately affect the lives of the most seriously disabled Veterans receiving disability benefits under both Acts who could not receive the Permanent Impairment Allowance or the Exceptional Incapacity Allowance because of a technical flaw in the Charter. This change, combined with the introduction of a monthly $1,000 supplement for permanently and severely injured Veterans, represents significant improvements.
There is, of course, much debate about the disability award and whether or not the payment options provided under Bill C-55 go far enough to address the concerns around the lump sum payment. They don't, but it is important to remember that Bill C-55 is the first opportunity to make changes to the New Veterans Charter; it is not, nor should it be your last opportunity.
The discussion about improvements to the disability award and financial benefits is an extremely important one and it must continue. The issues raised are complex and, in order to make informed decisions, cannot be reduced to a comparison of the disability award and the disability pension in isolation of the Charter's other programs and benefits.It may be that the next series of amendments to the New Veterans Charter will address improvements to the Charter's dual compensation approach. That would certainly be consistent with the principle of the Charter as a 'living' document.
Bill C-55 is a small but important step in making the Charter a 'living' document, and bringing about changes to the legislation to better address the needs of Canada's Veterans and their families. It should be considered as the beginning of the promised ongoing renewal process that is needed to afford Veterans the care that they deserve. Other steps must follow, and soon. Waiting another five years to bring about further improvements to the New Veterans Charter would be unacceptable.
Date Modified: 2011-08-26
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September 1, 2012 1:52 PM
Three of the senior bureaucrats named in Sean Bruyea's lawsuit last fall have received promotions. Are you protesting this travesty on behalf of veterans everywhere?? You know as well as I do that if you or I had committed this offense while serving, we would have faced severe consequences NOT promotion.
March 9, 2011 8:02 PM
Capt (retd) SA Brace CD said:
Mr. Parent - please start really doing your job and go out into the real world of veterans and talk to the war torn people who are getting shafted by VAC. You will find much misery, frustration, anger, dissapointment, and growing resolve to confront the bureaucracy and politics of the organization you belong to. I too had two sons in the Canadian Forces and served for 38 years myself. I also lost a son-in-law through PTSD while serving in the RCMP. I truly hope you take this comment as deep concern for our vets and not a personal attack. see as only one example http://timestranscript.canadaeast.com/opinion/article/1380118
March 9, 2011 12:24 PM
Old Silverback said:
Mr Parent YOU HAVE LOST YOUR WAY. Your comments in your address to the standing committee is pure drival. I suggest you read agian this refrain: "There is broad, if not unanimous support among Parliamentarians, Veterans’ organizations and others for the spirit of the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act, better known as the New Veterans Charter, in regard to its focus on wellness and transition to civilian life, compensation and its more holistic approach to the needs of Veterans and their families." I am an injured veteran and I can assure you I do not support the NVA or the changes of Bill C-55. You sound like a government puppet as opposed to an Ombudsman who is supposed to represent the veterans communities. I would request what "veteran groups" support the NVA. The Royal Canadain Legion is no longer a true veterans organization. It is now a social club that allows anyone to join. They have sold out to the government. There are other "true" veteran groups which do not have a voice at the exclusive table. I suggest you speak with these groups, such as Canadian Veterans Advocay, to get a balanced view at the least. After reading your entire address I can only conclude you have sold out- enjoy your five year appiontment while the rest of us, stuck dealing with VAC wallow. Well done Mr Parent, I am sure it was a proud day for you and a sad day for veterans.
March 8, 2011 5:57 PM