It is there every time Lt.-Col. Archie Steacy gets in his vehicle, veterans licence plate number 001VAA.
Now the 38-year military veteran is trying to protect the definition of veteran that was in place when he received the province’s first such honourary plate.
The B.C. government is in the midst of public consultation to decide whether retired RCMP officers should also be eligible to receive the special plate.
“I am very, very proud to be given that particular plate,” said Steacy. “Having served in the armed forces for a period of 38 years I feel really good when I am driving my car and people stop me to say thank you.”
“One cannot deny that RCMP members become veterans — veterans of the RCMP. They are policemen. They are not soldiers, sailors or airmen.”
Steacy, along with members of the B.C. Veterans Commemorative Association (BCVCA), met with Attorney General David Eby on Monday to say the RCMP should not be eligible for the special plates. The BCVCA are currently involved with reviewing the applications and have approved over 57,000 military veterans to receive the plates in British Columbia.
WATCH: Proposal to extend veteran licence plates to RCMP
“The veterans licence plate is a revered honour for military veterans. It is a public acknowledgment that the public is appreciative of the valour and the sacrifice our veterans made. It is very sacred to them,” BCVCA member Sheral Fraser said.
“Veterans took up arms, left their homes to go overseas without knowing if they would come back or not. This little public symbol reminds them to ask the question, what is a veteran? What is this licence plate? It has a long-lasting meaning to keeping our young people understanding out freedoms because of these sacrifices that were made.”
The plate is honourary and some communities allow veterans to park for free on Remembrance Day. Fraser said veterans have told her they will turn in their plates if former Mounties are eligible to apply.
But the Royal Canadian Legion has made the argument that the definition of veteran is changing. The legion has opened the door to former RCMP officers to become members and have led the charge to change the licence plate rules in Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
“I think the traditional definition of veteran is changing,” Dave Whittier, Executive Director of the BC/Yukon Command, Royal Canadian Legion, said. “And if you take a look at veteran affairs, members of the RCMP are eligible for benefits under the veteran affairs program.
The legion has sent a letter to the province mentioning it has “authorized the use of the poppy symbol on these plates based on our definition of a veteran instead of disenfranchising a large number of retired and currently-serving regular members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.”
The legion has not ruled out taking away the right to use that image if the program is not expanded.
The public consultation will run until Sept. 4.
Attorney General David Eby said one of the priorities is hearing from the general public because these two groups are so deeply divided on the issue.
“Our hope is to go out to British Columbians and get feedback from them about who they feel should be included for this group for recognition of licence plates because there is some disagreement between these groups on the best way forward,” Eby said.