Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Veterans slighted

I was utterly disappointed to learn that retired Col. Pat Stogran, who became Canada's first veterans ombudsman in November 2007, won't be reappointed this fall by the Harper government.

Stogran commanded Canada's first battle group in Kandahar in 2002. His job as veterans ombudsman has been to act as an independent voice working "to ensure the fair treatment of veterans, their representatives and their families."

He has done an outstanding job, working tirelessly in the best interests of veterans and their families.

He has been vocal about supporting our veterans and has been critical of a bureaucracy that fails to provide the support needed.

His concerns are justified. Despite an influx of disabled veterans returning from Afghanistan and earlier missions who suffer physical, mental and psychological concerns, Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn said Aug. 6 that Veterans Affairs Canada will be downsizing.

This decision was made despite the express concerns of the ombudsman about the system's inability to meet the ongoing needs of our veterans.

Stogran has been effective in identifying systemic issues and providing suggestions to the government on how improvements can be made. Yet he is being dismissed -- and, by association, so too are our veterans.

I worked with Stogran and his wife at the Vernon Army Cadet Camp during the summers of our university years. He is an outstanding Canadian and I am angry he has been treated with such disrespect.

Sadly, this is a pattern we are becoming familiar with, as the Harper government demonstrates repeatedly its lack of respect for those individuals who seek to perform their duties for this country.

Renee Hetherington
North Saanich
Item: "Harper's MPs should start counting license plates." Veterans' license plates, writes Dave at the Galloping Beaver, those being ubiquitous in...Saanich-Gulf Islands apparently. Everywhere, he writes.

Hetherington, by the way, is the Liberal candidate in Saanich-Gulf Islands. So sure, she's running for election, but it sure as heck sounds like she knows Stogran well and has just gained a bit of extra motivation. Sounds like it could be a bit of welcome trouble for the Minister of Ski Hills.