December 15, 2018 12:00 pm

COMMENTARY: We shouldn’t have to be shamed into supporting Canadian veterans

Conservative MP Erin O'Toole demanded during Question Period on Thursday that the Liberal government step up in the case of Capt. Kimberly Fawcett, who was injured in an accident that killed her son.

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Taken separately, the stories of Christopher Garnier and Capt. Kimberley Fawcett are upsetting and concerning for different reasons. However, when the two stories are placed side by side and viewed together, the situation becomes truly outrageous.

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Christopher Garnier is a convicted murderer serving a life sentence for the brutal strangling death of 36-year-old off-duty police officer Catherine Campbell, whose body was found in a compost bin in Halifax in 2015. He claims to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a direct result of Campbell’s horrific death. Garnier has never served a day in the Canadian Forces, yet because his father did, Veterans Affairs Canada is covering the cost of his PTSD treatment.

Capt. Fawcett, on the other hand, has proudly served her country as a member of the Canadian Forces, including two separate deployments to Afghanistan. Capt. Fawcett continued to serve her country, despite suffering the tremendous emotional and physical toll of a horrible and tragic accident in 2006 — an accident that claimed the life of her nine-month-old son and cost her one of her own legs.

READ MORE: Military, Veterans Affairs won’t pay for Air Force officer’s prosthetic leg, leaving her with $34,000 bill

Capt. Fawcett was eventually fitted with a prosthetic limb but she was also saddled with the bill for it: $34,151. The Canadian Forces refuses to pay, claiming she wasn’t technically “on duty” when the accident occurred.

Either way, it’s certainly the case that her duties put her on that road in that spot that fateful and tragic morning. Capt. Fawcett and her husband were both in situations where they could be deployed simultaneously and on short notice, thus requiring them to have what’s known as a “Family Care Plan.” Capt. Fawcett was bringing her son to his grandparents for that very reason.

It seems remarkably petty to be splitting hairs over the specific circumstances of why she was on that highway at that specific moment, even though documents obtained by Global News confirm that the initial military assessment was that she was on duty. Were it not for her military commitments, she would not have been there that morning.

WATCH BELOW: Charity offers to help pay for veteran’s prosthetic leg

So what kind of message is this sending to would-be recruits, especially those who have or intend to have families? If we’re not going to be there to support our soldiers and veterans, how can we ask Canadians to step up and make that sacrifice for us in the first place?

For Capt. Fawcett, it has instead been nearly 10 years of fighting for fairness and nearly 10 years of being stymied by the Canadian Forces. I do not know the exact cost of the PTSD treatments for convicted killer Christopher Garnier, but I suspect they have well surpassed the $34,000 that Capt. Fawcett has had to pay for her prosthetic leg — the very prosthetic leg that allowed her to continue serving her country.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to support Capt. Fawcett, and given the outpouring of support from Canadians to the story it’s entirely possible that such an initiative could make a considerable difference. But it shouldn’t have to come to this. The generosity of Canadians shouldn’t let the federal government off the hook here.

READ MORE: Veterans Affairs to stop giving future benefits to family members in prison; Chris Garnier case unchanged

Ultimately it may be that reaction from Canadians that shames the government into finally doing the right thing. It’s the flip side of what happened earlier this year when the outrage over the Garnier case prompted a government review and subsequent changes (although Garnier’s case remained unchanged).

Conservative MP and former Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole has called on the government to intervene in this case, and in fact says he raised the matter with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan four months ago. For his part, Sajjan says he’s looking into the file and Canadian Forces officials have since told Global News that they are willing to sit down with Capt. Fawcett.

So as of this writing, a favourable outcome seems likely. However, that doesn’t undo the 10 years of hell that Capt. Fawcett has had to endure. Those who have given so much to this country deserve so much better.

Rob Breakenridge is host of “Afternoons with Rob Breakenridge” on Global News Radio 770 Calgary and a commentator for Global News.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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