October 16, 2014 8:19 pm
Updated: October 18, 2014 11:45 am

What is a veteran?

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WATCH: James Robichaud claims the abuse he endured during basic training left him with long term physical and mental pain. Shirlee Engel has the story.

Global News has received many comments, emails, calls and tweets from veterans responding to our story about James Robichaud’s allegations of abuse during military training.

We thank everyone for taking the time to provide their feedback and express their views. We value input from our audience – positive or otherwise – in order to improve our service to the community.

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READ MORE: Former Canadian Forces private alleges abuse in military training

The vast majority of veterans who reached out took issue with Robichaud being referred to as a “veteran” in the story.

Robichaud began basic training in late 2009 and was unable to complete the course – he says not because he didn’t want to, but because of his injuries. He was medically discharged in 2012. He now receives benefits through Veterans Affairs Canada, which recognized his injuries were caused by his time in the military.

Global News contacted Veterans Affairs for more information about how the department defines a veteran. The response?

“In general, any individual who is injured while serving their country in uniform may be eligible for benefits and services from Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). However, for confidentiality reasons, we are unable to comment on this story or provide information on individuals that may or may not be in receipt of benefits or services from VAC.”

That didn’t answer the question. So we asked The Veterans Ombudsman’s Office. We were referred to a report from October 2012 on A National Veterans Identification Card. The following is an excerpt from that report:

“In 2001, the then Minister of Veterans Affairs announced that henceforth all former members of the Canadian Forces, including those who served in the Reserve Force, special duty areas and on domestic duty, would be recognized as Veterans provided they had met their occupational classification training requirements and had been honourably released. The definition was adopted in recognition of “…the potential risk that all Canadian Forces members are exposed to when they swear the Oath of Allegiance and don a Canadian uniform.” The definition was revised in 2008, replacing the requirement for completion of occupational training to that of simply basic training, and, to this day, stands as the official Government of Canada definition of a veteran for commemoration purposes.”

Note, it says “for commemoration purposes.”

Michel Drapeau, Robichaud’s lawyer and a retired military colonel and veteran himself, defines “veteran” in legal terms as follows:

“Generally speaking, a veteran (from Latin vetus meaning “old”) is a person who has had long service or experience in a particular occupation of field. (military, hockey, teaching, astronaut)

Using everyday language, military veterans are considered those persons who have served or are serving in the armed forces, particularly but not exclusively those who have had direct exposure to acts of military conflict who may also be referred to as “war veterans”. Using the dictionary definition, one would be a military veteran with just one day of military service, even with a dishonorable release.

However, in real legal terms, at present, whether or not one is considered a “veteran” depends entirely upon which veteran program or benefit one is applying for at Veterans Affairs Canada.

The Veterans Bill of Rights applies to all clients of Veterans Affairs including: a “Former and, in certain cases, current members of the Canadian Forces.”

Hence, Mr. Robichaud is absolutely a veteran.”

Global News presented Robichaud’s story as allegations that have yet to be proven. The Department of National Defence refused to discuss the matter.

We look forward to following this story as it unfolds, and welcome any further feedback from our viewers.

© 2014 Shaw News

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