Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time speaking to this important issue with my colleague from Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.
I rise today to speak to our Conservative opposition motion regarding the outrageous and unjust payment of veterans benefits to cover post-traumatic stress disorder treatment for a convicted second-degree murderer.
My heart is with the family of officer Campbell. The murder of a loved one is something a family can never get over. Although justice has been served in the sentence of the loved one's killer, knowing this criminal has received benefits that are intended for veterans must be painful.
It is painful for me to talk about this issue as well. It is not something that I gladly rise to speak about today, but it is serious and it needs to be addressed. The Liberal government has failed to address this issue adequately.
It has been known for several weeks now that a convicted killer who has never served in the Canadian forces is receiving benefits intended for veterans. A veteran is involved, and we certainly want to respect the privacy of this individual and the family, but we cannot use that right to privacy to bypass the fundamental principle that veterans benefits are for veterans and their families, not for a convicted killer who has never served a day in his life.
There has been some movement on this issue over the last couple of hours, but a lot of my speech still applies.
I am proud to represent many communities that have significant numbers of military personnel and their families. Many of these soldiers choose to retire in my area after their years of service.They are looking for a quiet place to settle down, on a country acreage or in a small town. I have had the privilege of meeting with many of these veterans to discuss issues like their benefits. I am happy to call many of them my friends and my dearest supporters.
Today I am going to speak about two veterans I have had the opportunity to get to know over the past year. They have had a really big impact on me.
Many members in the House know of Major Mark Campbell, an infantry officer who lost both of his legs to an IED in Afghanistan. He and his comrades took the federal government to court again and again, finally appealing to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear their case. It was then that they realized that the party that had promised to never take a veteran to court to fight over benefits had broken its promise.
I bring up this example because in the past few weeks we have seen a government, a Prime Minister and his Minister of Veterans Affairs absolutely stonewall this Parliament, even in some cases refusing to answer questions and denigrating the opposition for having the audacity to hold them accountable.
They claim they are standing up for a veteran and that we should not be speaking out on this outrageous decision from Veterans Affairs for a killer who is receiving benefits and yet has never served.
Why is the Liberal government fighting against our veterans so fiercely in our courts and yet in the House defending so vigorously someone who has never served?
I often say in my riding that I am running because I want to put victims and their families first, not criminals, but too often it seems that the Liberals put criminals first, not victims and their families.
Many members in the House will also remember that back in February, when the Prime Minister came to Edmonton, he took questions from a constituent of mine, former corporal and Afghanistan veteran Brock Blaszczyk. Brock told the Prime Minister that he was ready to be killed in action, but he was not ready for his government to turn its back on him. Some of that is on us as Conservatives, but a lot of it is also on the Liberal government. The Prime Minister's response was to tell Brock that veterans “are asking for more than we can give right now”.
Today we see that resources that should be going to our veterans are being diverted inappropriately to someone who has never served, someone who, even if he had served, would not be eligible for these benefits because he would have been dishonourably discharged for his crime.
Why does the Prime Minister tell our veterans they “are asking for more than we can give”, while holding out his hand to provide for those who are not entitled to these benefits?
When this issue came up, I decided to text Brock to ask him what he thought. He messaged me back later, saying, “This is another slap in the face to veterans. The government says that every claim is treated on a case-by-case basis, but what could the case have been for a 30-year-old cop killer who never served?”
Brock has been continually denied his full benefits from Veterans Affairs, despite having lost a leg, suffering 55% soft tissue loss, 80% nerve damage in his other leg, and 30% nerve damage in his arm, and being diagnosed with PTSD from his time serving his country in Afghanistan.
Last week, the Prime Minister rose in the House to state that when members serve, their families serve with them. This is something I absolutely agree with. It is absolutely true. However, no member of the Canadian Forces who murdered a police officer, or anyone for that matter, who hid the body of their victim and who then was even caught in the process of trying to make it impossible to find the body, would be eligible for those benefits. No one who served would be given those benefits. Why should someone who has never served be treated better?
This brings me to my final example. This extraordinary woman is not a veteran herself, and her husband did not serve in the Canadian Forces. Nonetheless, he gave his life in service as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This man is the late Constable David Wynn from St. Albert, Alberta, which is just next to my riding in Sturgeon River—Parkland. His wife's name is Shelly MacInnis-Wynn. Shelly and I have known each other for a couple of years now, and despite the crime that was committed against her and her family, she has never backed down from saying what needs to be said.
The Prime Minister says that when members serve, their families serve with them. If the Prime Minister is true to his word, why does Shelly have to fight this government for funding to cover the cost of her PTSD treatments from the brutal murder of her husband that fateful day? Has she not given enough? Why does she have to fight, while this killer gets his benefits up front? Should a victim not be given priority?
Why is it that the Liberals will fight so hard to ensure that all criminals get their payout and receive their benefits, yet they throw the book at and stymie the needs of victims' families with endless bureaucracy? It is perverse. It defies logic and common sense.
Speaking for my constituents, I call on the Liberals to do the right thing, to not hide behind sympathy or some legal bafflegab but instead take action. Today, we have seen some action, but we need to get more clarity on that action. I call on them to rescind his benefits, which are benefits for veterans, not for criminals. Give him what he is due as a criminal in our justice system, but do not give him what he has not earned through service to our nation.
Immediately after this, I hope the government will work immediately to ensure that no victim and no victim's family has to fight the bureaucracy for the benefits they deserve. I call on the Liberals to stand up for victims, stand up for their families, do the right thing, rescind these benefits and get the job done.