The Soapbox: Like the U.S., Canada is failing its veterans

Justin Crann
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Satire can be ruthlessly effective when pointed in the right direction.

Justin Crann

A perfect example would be Jon Stewart's ongoing and stellar attack on the United States government's continued bungling of its Veteran Affairs portfolio.

For at least three of the past seven episodes of The Daily Show, segments — primarily in the A-block — addressed the Obama administration's mishandling of the VA file, and the long and time-honoured tradition of giving veterans in that country a raw deal.

The segments hit a particularly strong stride on Thursday night when Stewart decided to showcase the country's bipartisan tradition of mistreating its veterans, donning period-appropriate costumes and delving deep into American history — right back to the country's founding, in fact.

It was an effective takedown of the ongoing problem, but it painted a pretty bleak picture — even for Canadians.

The simple fact is, Canada's own record on Veterans Affairs is leaving something to be desired.

The latest issues to befall our own VA department include the laying off of hundreds of employees and more than $100 million in cuts in a shift toward online services that, from the horse's own mouth, "will not meet the needs of veterans, Canadian Armed Forces members, and their families."

That conclusion, drawn in a Veteran Affairs Canada report brought to parliament in March, was accompanied by other concerns — particularly that service quality could slide as the VA department leans on third parties to assist.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper clearly hasn't received any such memo.

In a statement to the House of Commons on Jan. 28, he said the closure of nine VA offices would lead to "a significant increase in service" through the Internet.

Meanwhile, symbolic gestures toward those who this country should honour most — the kind that present a pretty face but require little financial commitment — are in vogue.

A memorial of the War in Afghanistan championed by Palliser MP Ray Boughen was passed unanimously by the House of Commons several months ago.

The entire country — including Moose Jaw — came together to mark the Day of Honour on May 9.

These are nice gestures, but they ring hollow when delivered by a government that is systemically making life harder for the same individuals they aim to celebrate by slashing — to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars — funds and jobs from the Veterans Affairs department.

Almost 100 years ago, Robert Borden — then this country's Prime Minister — told veterans, "you need not fear that the government and the country will fail to show just appreciation of your service."

Nearly a century later, he may very well be turning in his grave.

You can follow Justin Crann on Twitter.

Organizations: Veterans Affairs, House of Commons, Canadian Armed Forces VA department

Geographic location: United States, Canada, Afghanistan Moose Jaw

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