WATCH ABOVE: In the first of what promises to be many protests over the next few weeks, Canadian veterans took to Parliament Hill on Wednesday to call for a Royal Commission to take on the Veterans Affairs Dept. Shirlee Engel reports.
TORONTO – Veterans and their families rallied in Ottawa on Wednesday, protesting what they are calling “Canada’s abandonment of her veterans.”
Rally organizers said “Rock the Hill” will be the largest demonstration of its kind since the First World War.
The grassroots initiative – “unlike the politically scripted photo ops of military members and veterans which have inundated Canada’s media the past eight years,” said organizers – will bring together veterans and their families for a motorcycle ride in front of Parliament, followed by a march and keynote speeches from veterans advocates.
Organizers said the demonstration is in protest of the “total breach of trust” the federal government has shown veterans and to dispel misinformation surrounding veterans “with documented proof.”
“We’re not talking to Stephen Harper. We’re not talking to Julian Fantino. I am talking to the Canadian public,” said Linda Magill, a veteran and wife of a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“You have to know what is happening to us because we’re the ones who had your back – and you need to have ours,” she said.
Magill described the bureaucratic hoops that she and her husband have had to jump through as a “war of attrition” and said others in need of care often give up pleading for the benefits they’re entitled to.
The rally comes one day after a House of Commons committee released its review of the federal government’s New Veterans Charter.
The report was presented to Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino and received unanimous support from all three parties on the committee.
The committee made 14 recommendations to the charter, rather than wholesale changes, admitting the changes wouldn’t satisfy everyone.
“All we’re asking is for people to look at it as an honest, collective effort by all members of all parties across the political spectrum to get things right,” said Conservative MP Laurie Hawn.
“Will it ever be perfect? No, it won’t, but we’ll continue to try and make it better.”
The months-long review came amid harsh criticism of the charter from veterans and advocacy groups who said the document meant to care for Canada’s veterans was failing them.
Last week, Fantino argued before the Commons committee that the government has injected an additional $4.7 billion into the veterans system since 2006.
“The seriously injured veteran is eligible for thousands of dollars each month, up to and including after age 65,” said Fantino.
“In some cases, a veteran can receive over $10,000 a month in financial compensation. This is in addition to two major tax-free award payments totalling in excess of up to a half-million dollars.”Follow @heatherloney
With files from The Canadian Press
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