Watch above: Hundreds of veterans are gathering in Edmonton this week for a national conference. Recently, relationships between veterans and the federal government have been rocky. Fletcher Kent has more.
EDMONTON – As the relationship between the federal government and Canadian veterans remains on somewhat rocky ground, Canada’s Minister of Veterans Affairs was in Edmonton Sunday to help kick off a national conference.
About 1,200 Royal Canadian Legion members took to the Shaw Conference Centre for the 45th Legion Dominion Convention.
The conference formally began with a march through downtown and a ceremony to honour the fallen.
Discussions at the three-day convention will focus on those who have come home and need help, as many Legion members say getting that help is becoming more difficult.
“A lot of my friends are having a hard time getting their pensions – to get the whole process started,” said Legion member Wayne Willis.
After a series of ugly confrontations over the last six months, the relationship between Canada’s veterans and Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino seems to be at the point of no return.
Fantino was on hand Sunday to address Legion members. He will also be meeting with members on Monday.
“It’s just a matter of working the issues through,” he said. “We’re not running from anything.”
In January, veterans scolded the minister for closing down nine veterans affairs offices.
“There’s 800,000 veterans in this country, so there is bound to be the odd little hiccup here and there. But we try and work those out, we try and work through them,” explained Fantino.
Legion members will make suggestions at the conference on how to resolve these issues. A big demand will be to re-open the nine regional offices, and quickly implement 14 recommendations found in a new Veterans’ charter.
“I know in my two years as Dominion president I’ve been advocating very strongly to the government that they have to get off their backsides,” said Gordon Moore, Dominion President of the Royal Canadian Legion.
Moore believes progress is being made, but there is still skepticism, which was evident when veterans spoke about Fantino.
“I would rather not say,” Willis said when asked about Fantino. “You would probably have to scrub most of it.”
Legion members say another priority of the conference will be to find ways to attract new members.
With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News and The Canadian Press.
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