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CARE FOR VETERANS

I rise today to speak about an issue close to my heart. In recent weeks the media has been full of stories of our brave veterans of the Second World War being denied care at veterans facilities across Atlantic Canada.

Petter Blindheim, a 94-year-old decorated sailor from the Royal Norwegian Navy, moved to Nova Scotia after the war. He has been commended for his bravery during his service. He ran to the deck of his ship before the ship sank to disable the depth charges so they wouldn't kill his fellow crewmen.

He never gave a lot of thought to what would happen to him when he was older. He assumed our government would take care of him when he needed it.

Our veterans' support system and that of our allies allows for benefits to be provided to those who served on our side no matter where they live.

Sadly, Mr. Blindheim was abandoned by the bureaucrats at Veterans Affairs who interpreted obscure rules to deny him access to a bed at the Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Building in Halifax.

In another case, Frank Rusling, a former member of the Royal (British) Navy who spent 30 years as a Canadian Pacific Police Officer, was faced with a similar denial.

Donald Osborne, a Canadian veteran of the battles in France and Italy who suffered a head wound from enemy machine-gun fire, has faced difficulties getting the support he needs.

The response from Veterans Affairs has been contradictory. First they said Mr. Blindheim was Norwegian and since Norway had surrendered, he could not enroll in a Canadian veterans hospital. Then when challenged on that, they claimed the determination was a matter for the provinces. After the Nova Scotia premier pointed out there were designated spaces for veterans available at Camp Hill, Veterans Affairs resorted to claiming it is not always possible to take care of our veterans in the facility of their choosing.

Colleagues, this issue has unfortunately been plaguing the veterans community for years.

It is not just those who served in the Second World War who suffer. Over time, Veterans Affairs has downloaded their responsibilities to the provincial health care systems by closing or transferring ownership of veterans hospitals and relying on increasingly restrictive standards for defining who is a veteran and eligible for care and who is not.

Our veterans deserve the highest standard of service and comfort when they need it, not just those who served in the Second World War but all of those who have served.

 

It is time for Veterans Affairs to get its act together and take responsibility for the people it is mandated to support. Our veterans deserve one standard for all and fulfilment of the sacred pledge made by Canada after the horrors of the First World War to leave no veteran behind.