Veterans Affairs Canada: Military, RCMP Veterans Call for Department Changes
Military and RCMP veterans are calling for changes in Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) – a message made clear Thursday at a meeting in Dartmouth, NS.
“This is about a lack of leadership within the department and within the government of Canada,” says veteran Dennis Manuge.
Prince Edward Island Member of Parliament Lawrence MacAulay became Minister of Veterans Affairs in 2019. Manuge says access to services declined for veterans during that time.
“The minister has lost the trust of both veterans and his own employees. It’s time for the minister to step down and step aside,” said Manuge.
Those in attendance say the federal government has promised them since 2007 that wait times for physical and mental health services will be addressed. Rollie Lawless, who attended Thursday’s rally, says many are still struggling to access the help they need.
“Benefits and services are accessible, but again, if you’re already in the system, it’s not difficult. It’s the ones trying to get into the system that seem to be the hiccups, the first requests for the first wait times,” says Lawless.
Part of the blame is placed on the privatization of veterans’ services.
In July 2021, the federal government awarded a multi-year contract to Lifemark Health Group to provide rehabilitation and occupational services. A year later, Lifemark was bought by Loblaws.
“By transferring services to Lifemark, Lifemark must make a profit. That means millions and millions of dollars that should have gone into veterans’ benefits are now going into the private pocket of Galen Weston and his affiliates,” said Peter Stoffer of the Veterans Legal Assistance Fund.
Other concerns include Veterans Affairs Canada staff offering medically assisted deaths to at least four veterans and the unspent billions of dollars earmarked for veteran services.
“If you haven’t spent $2 billion in matured funding since 2006 and you want to know why, you’re in trouble,” says Stoffer.
Issues that prompt this group of veterans to speak out.