Lest We Forget
Every year on July 1 and Nov. 11, we gather at our local Royal Canadian Legion branch to remember those brave men and women who have served, passed on as well as celebrate those still with us.
We listen to the politicians talk about the importance of respect and honour of those who made it possible to allow us to freely live and enjoy this great country.
They use words and phrases such as "today on this Remembrance Day, members of the armed forces are to be saluted, commemorated and memorialized." But on Jan. 29, 2014 you can mark it down as a sad day in the history of Canadian politics.
The federal minister responsible for Veterans Affairs Canada, Julian Fantino, announced the final closing of eight Veterans Affairs offices across the country, including the closure of the office in Corner Brook, which serves our Labrador region.
My stance on this issue? I was never so disappointed, disheartened, dismayed and discouraged to hear such a backward move by a sitting government.
How dare they!
People from right across the country have expressed their strong opposition to this so-called budget reduction move. The federal government will tell you that programs and services will not be affected. Hog wash. They have forgotten our veterans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Canada official web site proudly promotes its mandate as: "the department exists to repay the nation's dept of gratitude toward those courageous efforts who have given us the legacy and have contributed to our growth as a Nation."
It further lists and defines how the department assists our veterans by providing a long list of much-needed programs and services such as; Disability and Treatment Benefits; Career Services; Veterans Independent Programs; Financial Support and Injury and Illness Assessments.
There are many more but I am sure you get the point. The federal government is attempting to defend, rationalize and justify the closures by saying that these offices were not busy enough. In other words the stats and numbers don't substantiate having an office.
Although we all appreciate fiscal prudence and downsizing when necessary, this is not one of those cases and it is nothing more then a slap in the face to our veterans.
From the participation in the world wars to the modern day veterans, Newfoundland and Labradorians have paid the ultimate price and continue to this day to serve our country overseas in less friendly countries.
Our renowned DART team is one of the best in the world and continue to assist countries with humanitarian initiatives. We, as the general public, need to speak up and let the federal government know: this is not acceptable.
The federal government on this one has lost sight of what is most important to all of us, as Canadians.
Last week my column made the direct correlation between sports and politics, in jest for the most part. But I can tell you that I have never been more serious. The federal government representatives, including the prime minister, should take a page out of Don Cherry's book. There are not too many Saturday night NHL games that Don Cherry does not take the time to honour and mention those that are currently serving and our veterans.
You can think what you like of Don Cherry - good or bad - when it comes to hockey, but he has a deep respect for our soldiers and the sitting federal government could learn from him. Maybe Don Cherry should take over Veterans Affairs Canada and put Fantino in the penalty box.