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Results: 1 - 15 of 62
View Jean-Pierre Blackburn Profile
Mr. Speaker, obviously, our department and the entire government are looking out for our homeless veterans. We have implemented three pilot projects in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto to try to locate our veterans and to offer them the services they are entitled to. Our pilot project has helped identify 76 homeless veterans. They are now receiving the services they are entitled to. We will continue our work to help them.
View Jean-Pierre Blackburn Profile
Mr. Speaker, I repeat that we are currently working to identify veterans who are homeless. We have identified 76 veterans who were not receiving any services, since we did not know where they were. Now, thanks to our pilot projects in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, we are seeing results.
Today, I have good news to share with the members of this House and our veterans. Yesterday, Bill C-55, which will provide new services to our seriously wounded modern-day veterans, received royal assent. This will mean $2 billion for our veterans.
View Serge Cardin Profile
View Serge Cardin Profile
2011-03-24 14:08 [p.9199]
Mr. Speaker, a group of students at the University of Sherbrooke recently took part in “Five Days for the Homeless”. They collected thousands of dollars to support services for homeless persons.
For five days, nine students slept outside and relied solely on the generosity of the public to meet their needs. Through this initiative, these young people were able to raise awareness of homeless and poverty among people in their community
People who work with the homeless took this opportunity to remind me of their fears for the future of the HPS program. Unfortunately, their fears were confirmed by the 2011 budget, with the Conservatives still refusing to index and improve programs to combat homelessness as well as social housing programs.
The Conservatives should spend a few days sleeping in the open air, and then they would realize, given the miracles that the workers achieve with these funds, that the minimum we owe them is indexing and a funding increase.
View Daniel Paillé Profile
View Daniel Paillé Profile
2011-03-22 16:40 [p.9125]
Mr. Speaker, once again, Quebec is expected to wait patiently in line while others get all the treats. Where is the $2 billion for sales tax harmonization? Nowhere to be seen. Where is the EI reform? Nowhere to be seen. Where are the flow-through shares for the forestry industry, and the loans and loan guarantees? Where is our $10 billion for the forestry industry? Nowhere to be seen. Where is the contribution for the Quebec City arena? Nowhere to be seen. Where is the support for new businesses? Nowhere to be seen. Where are the tax incentives to encourage graduates to go back to their home regions? Nowhere to be seen. Where are the homelessness and social housing dollars? Nowhere to be seen. Where is the court challenges program? Nowhere to be seen. Where is AgriFlex? Nowhere to be seen. Where will this leave us? Nowhere.
This budget and this government—
View Irene Mathyssen Profile
View Irene Mathyssen Profile
2011-03-02 16:59 [p.8564]
Mr. Speaker, I am most grateful for the opportunity to take part in this debate concerning the courageous men and women who serve and have served in the military.
When our country was in danger during World War I, World War II and Korea, or when our country called upon them to be peacekeepers in places far from home, like Somalia, Bosnia, Lebanon, Cypress, East Timor, Suez and now in Afghanistan, when they were sent to serve in NATO, or when our country asked them to help communities jeopardized by floods, earthquakes, ice storms, forest fires, our courageous men and women did not hesitate. They did what they were asked to do. They did their duty in World War I, World War II, Korea and a multitude of deployments since.
In the course of that duty our country made a covenant with them. Canada made promises that the men and women of the armed forces would not be forgotten. Our governments made and continue to make promises assuring these men and women that they would be remembered and honoured by a grateful nation. That is a wonderful sentiment.
I know without a shadow of a doubt that the people of Canada are grateful and that they truly remember and honour our servicemen and women in the Canadian Forces and the RCMP. I see it every day from my constituents in London—Fanshawe.
Sadly however, what has become painfully obvious is that the government neither honours our veterans, peacekeepers and those currently serving, nor is it willing to unconditionally provide the services, pensions, programs and special care to which these veterans, the members of the armed forces and their families are entitled.
I am extremely disappointed that after four years the government was unable to incorporate more substantial changes to the veterans charter. The changes proposed in Bill C-55 are merely cosmetic and do not go far enough.
Bill C-55 states that the minister may provide career transition services; may provide rehabilitation services and vocational assistance to veterans' survivors; may on application pay a permanent allowance to a veteran. “May” is not good enough. The word must be “shall”.
Veterans have waited long enough. The Government of Canada has an obligation to ensure that after veterans have put their lives on the line they are treated with dignity, honour and respect.
Sadly, Bill C-55 is a lost opportunity. The act itself is full of equivocations. We have report after report that show the total inadequacies of an overly complex and ineffective Veterans Affairs program.
The government ignored the vast majority of recommendations regarding changes to the veterans charter, the lion's share of which came from the Gerontological Advisory Council as well as the former veterans ombudsman and the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, all of whom produced significant studies on the veterans charter.
I would like to highlight some of the problems that this new legislation ignores.
I am sure members know about the pension clawbacks that retired members of the Canadian Forces face when they reach age 65. In 1966, when the CPP was introduced, it was integrated with the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the RCMP Superannuation Act. Members of the Canadian Forces were unaware that there would consequently be reductions to their pensions.
During their working years, CF members face health hazards, long periods of time away from family and frequent moves. The negative impact of these stresses are often felt most acutely in later life. Cancelling the clawback is the best way to acknowledge the commitment and service of veterans. The government has however not been receptive to this imperative.
When a veteran dies, his or her spouse is allowed only 50% of the pension of the deceased. Many of these spouses face real hardship and as a result, legions across the country have tried to make up for what the government takes away. Legion sponsored funds attempt to support widows and widowers and their families as well as possible. The legion has fundraisers with raffles and poppy sales, dinners and hall rentals, but the legion too is falling on hard times. Its members are aging. Its numbers are in decline and it is having difficulty making ends meet.
Legions have recommended that survivor pensions be two-thirds of the original pension. That would be a tremendous help to spouses, many of whom are elderly women.
Unfortunately, the government is not interested in such a change. Even worse, if a veteran marries after age 60, the widow or widower is entitled to nothing. The Canadian Forces Superannuation Act calls them gold diggers and refuses to recognize any entitlement, refusing to recognize the importance of the love and comfort they gave to their partners. It is a sign of disrespect.
Nowhere is such disrespect more evident than in the situation faced by many ex-forces members if injuries sustained during service do not fully manifest themselves until after retirement.
Just this fall I had an extended conversation with a master sergeant. While serving overseas, he sustained injuries from a significant fall in a training exercise. He was hospitalized with a spinal fracture, and after he recovered he returned to active duty. Now some 30 years later, he suffers from neck pain caused by the fracture. He survives on expensive medications not covered by his benefits. When he asked Veterans Affairs for help, he was denied. The reason given was that he had not been injured in combat. In other words, despite medical records showing injuries from a serious accident during his service career, his veracity and the value of his service were called into question and he was refused benefits.
Bill C-55 does not provide a remedy for this injustice. The corporate insurance mentality of those administering the program within Veterans Affairs hurts those who have served their country, and hurts their families too. That mentality has to go.
Did members know there is a homeless shelter for military veterans and a food bank in Calgary set up specifically for veterans?
Last April, the Prime Minister visited that food bank, had a media photo op and talked about how wonderful it was that the community was helping veterans. Well, it was, except that a research study conducted by London based researchers, Susan Ray and Cheryl Forchuk, shows that in southwestern Ontario alone there are dozens of homeless veterans. I wonder if it occurred to the Prime Minister that it is an outrage that the people we pledged to honour and remember are homeless and forced to survive by going to a food bank.
Even with Bill C-55, veterans and retired CF personnel still face reduced pension, may have pension benefits denied and are not entitled to help for non-service-related injuries. The experience of homelessness and hunger among veterans is a common occurrence.
It certainly does not seem like a grateful government or a responsible Department of Veterans Affairs.
Finally, I want to talk about the situation at Parkwood Hospital in my riding. Parkwood was at one time the regional veterans hospital. I can remember visiting my uncles, both veterans of World War II, at Parkwood whenever they were hospitalized. Parkwood was also a long-term care facility for veterans whose injuries were so serious they would never live independently or with their families again.
Back in 1979, Parkwood and veterans hospitals across the country were turned over to the provinces and Veterans Affairs contracted for beds and care for the World War I, World War II and Korean War vets. The agreement entered into with the province contained no provisions for modern day veterans or the estimated 200,000 peacekeepers who have served on missions since Korea. Many of these retired or soon to be retired Canadian Forces members feel they have been overlooked by their country. While there are private care homes available to them, many feel they should receive the same level of care and have the same access to hospitals like Parkwood that previous generations had. Unfortunately, the beds at veterans hospitals will close as World War II and Korean War veterans pass away. Once these beds are gone, they will not re-open.
The Government of Canada should change the mandate of veterans hospitals and allow those coming back from Afghanistan and the aging post-Korean service personnel to have access to federally supported beds. I say this because the care of veterans is a federal responsibility, a part of the covenant that I talked about at the beginning of my remarks.
These veterans have earned their pensions, their benefits, their services and programs and they have earned the right to expect their government to fulfill all of the promises made. It is time for the government to go back to the drawing board. Bill C-55 does not fix the problems with the veterans charter. The bill needs extensive amendments.
Our veterans deserve much better than what they are receiving. Let us honour them with the dignity and respect they deserve.
View Bryon Wilfert Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bryon Wilfert Profile
2011-03-02 17:18 [p.8567]
Madam Speaker, I am delighted to participate in the debate on Bill C-55.
From the outset, I want to point out that I support Bill C-55, as the son of a World War II veteran who served at D-Day and went through the battle of the Falaise Gap and Caen. My father came home with shrapnel in his legs and that was there until the day he died. He lost hearing in one ear. I know what it is like to live with a veteran who had to seek services from Veterans Affairs. I know what it is like for someone who, through no fault of his own, did not come back the same person as when he left for the war. Yet my father would say every day that he would do it again.
At the end of World War II, no country treated their veterans better than Canada, bar none.
As the vice-chair of the national defence committee and the vice-chair of the Afghan committee, I have had the opportunity to visit Afghanistan on three occasions and meet with our soldiers in the field. I have had the opportunity to meet with veterans here. As a member of the Royal Canadian Legion in Richmond Hill, Branch 375, I have talked to veterans. All they want and deserve are services that will respond effectively to their needs.
When a veteran, in his eighties, needs a new pair of eyeglasses and it takes months to get a response, that is unacceptable. When a veteran needs a new hearing aid and it takes months, that is unacceptable.
Whether these amendments are made or not, the charter still does not deal with the issue of customer service. We need to respond more effectively and efficiently to the needs of veterans. As more and more people come home from Afghanistan, we will have a larger number of veterans. The defence committee last year did a post traumatic stress disorder study. We found that there was a discrepancy in the country between east and west in terms of the services available for veterans.
I wrote the Minister of Veterans Affairs on October 25 about the $4,100 currently paid for burial. That is about 70% less than a normal burial in our country and one-third of what it would be if one was killed in action in Afghanistan. That is unacceptable. Some families do not have the money to cover full burial costs and the government only provides $4,100. I hope the minister will respond effectively on that issue.
There is no question that the bill before the House tries to address some of the issues. We know that the Royal Canadian Legion, for example, is supportive of these changes. Our party has no intention of holding up the bill. We want to ensure we move forward as fast as possible.
The charter was passed in 2005, and this is a living document. It is too bad that it has taken four years to come to this point. We need to act quickly to deal with some of the issues that are before the House and get this done.
One of the issues the government did not deal with effectively was on the lump-sum payment. That is surprising, given the minister's departmental study found that 31% of veterans were unhappy with the lump-sum payment. Although the minister said that he would improve the system, under this legislation, all the minister has really done is divide up the payment differently. Veterans have not been asking for that. That is not what that study showed.
Clearly dealing with the issue of partial payments over a number of years for recipients or a single lump-sum payment still does not address the issue that many veterans have articulated. That should have been addressed in the legislation. Again, the minister has had four years and nothing has really been done to address it.
In fact, if we look at Australia, the Australian veterans receive an average of $329,000, whereas the British receive up to $1 million. We need to address this kind of issue for our veterans.
Pieces of the legislation address the concerns of a number of people and a number of associations, such as the proposed legislation dealing with $58,000 per year for seriously wounded or ill veterans, an improvement, and for those too injured to return to the workforce, a minimum of $40,000 per year no matter what the salary was when serving in the Canadian Forces for those receiving the monthly earnings loss benefit. Again, that is an important change.
These changes are necessary but, again, it is the ability of veterans to access these changes. It is the ability of veterans to get the services they need in a prompt and efficient manner.
A larger disability award is needed in line with what is provided in Australia, which is also provided to disabled civilian veterans who also receive assistance. Again, these are things we could do. I mentioned burial costs, again things we could address.
In the House we always say how important veterans are, yet when it comes to action, we have waited four years for changes, which, again, particularly because of pressure from all opposition parties, now almost at the eleventh we get this.
The new veterans charter advisory group and the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs have indicated, insistently, the need for changes and for those changes to happen quickly. Again, it is disappointing that we have waited.
On the issue of homeless veterans, it is absolutely shocking in our country that we have veterans who are homeless, who are on the streets, who have come back to a lack of support. Again, it is a national disgrace that we have homeless veterans.
Only now are the media, members of Parliament and others actually looking at this, not only as a social issue but also as a moral issue. We have a responsibility to deal with those individuals. Again, I find it very sad that we have what I call homeless heroes on the street who have no ability to deal effectively with finding work, health benefits, et cetera. We have to deal with that.
It is encouraging that many national veterans' organizations are in support of this. It is encouraging to note we are moving forward with the legislation. Some people are talking about an election. I guess that will up to the government. It only governs by the will of Parliament and hopefully maintains the confidence of Parliament. If the government is really serious, hopefully we will be able to address these issues, both now and in the upcoming budget, which the Minister of Finance has announced will be presented on March 22.
It is important that we not only respond in this way, but also that we provide more people in the field, in terms of caseworkers who deal with our veterans. We are going to see a significant increase in the numbers of veterans coming home, because of Afghanistan, and that is going to have an impact.
The number of psychiatrists and psychologists in the Canadian Forces is actually low. In fact, the services are much lower and much less effective in eastern Canada because many of those bases are further away from some of the major cities versus those in western Canada. We need to address that problem.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is not something that is always discovered on a veteran's return home, or three months later or two years later; it can be up to five years later. Again, are we ready to respond to that?
From our studies at the defence committee, the answer is clearly no. We are not ready to respond to that. On that point, I plead to the government to put the resources in to ensure we can attract the professionals to help in that regard and to help the families of those individuals.
About 10 years we did a quality of life study at the defence committee. It really responded to many of the key issues on wages, housing conditions and benefits for people. It is time we started another review and respond in terms of updating the quality of life. We ask people to go overseas and put their lives on the line, while their families are here. Do the families have the right support while those people are away? Do those people have the right support when they come home?
The answer is we do not. We have fallen a long way since the end of the Second World War when we provided the best benefits to veterans coming home after that war.
I was part of a Parliament that addressed these issues and addressed them effectively for future generations. Although we talk a lot about our responsibility to veterans, I would hope that we really show it to them, not only financially but in the other ways that I have pointed out.
I trust we can move this legislation along very quickly. Although some people have reservations, the reality is not only do we have to act at least on those changes that have been made, but we have to keep pushing on the others as well. If we do not, it will be another four years before we see any action.
Our party has pledged to do that. We are party that brought in the charter. We are the party that said it was a living document. It is too bad that it sat on the shelf for four years. Ultimately we are all collectively responsible for ensuring our veterans have the best.
View Kirsty Duncan Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Kirsty Duncan Profile
2011-02-18 11:14 [p.8378]
Mr. Speaker, Canada's homeless population is somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000, and another 1.7 million struggle with housing affordability issues.
The Homeless World Cup of Soccer brings thousands of players together in a phenomenal once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play soccer for their country and change their lives forever. Their courage, determination and tremendous human spirit to overcome obstacles should be an inspiration to us all.
Street Soccer Canada has been sending teams to the Homeless World Cup since 2004 and for the first time, will send a women's team, as well as a men's team.
I hope everyone in the House will join me in congratulating our Canadian stars in making it to the World Cup. I hope members will take the opportunity to play Team Canada here on Parliament Hill this summer and send a message that we need a national strategy to fight homelessness.
View Bryon Wilfert Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bryon Wilfert Profile
2011-02-01 14:00 [p.7537]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to all Canadian veterans, but in particular to those who have fallen on hard times since leaving the Canadian Forces.
In early 2009, the Veterans Affairs ombudsman noted the serious constraints the government faces when trying to help homeless veterans, who often require urgent assistance but lack the required proof of identification to obtain it.
More recently, a study conducted by the University of Western Ontario drew attention to the plight of some Canadian homeless veterans. Often afflicted with addiction or mental health problems developed during their military careers, the study found that many of these once-decorated Canadians now find themselves in grave need. While this study identified only a few dozen homeless veterans in two Ontario cities, there is no doubt that countless others need help in cities from Victoria to St. John's.
For this reason, I encourage all members of this House to make great efforts to identify and assist the homeless heroes in their communities, and I ask all of them to rise to pay tribute to these brave men and women.
View Marcel Proulx Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Marcel Proulx Profile
2010-12-16 14:22 [p.7390]
Mr. Speaker, all year long we have been seeing examples of obscene wastefulness: $300 million and a military base here, $1 billion and a fake lake there, $6 billion for major corporations, on top of $10 billion for megaprisons. To satisfy the whims of the ministers, the government finds billions of dollars, but when NGOs ask for a simple one-week extension of the application deadline for a homelessness program? Impossible, it says. Why?
View Diane Finley Profile
View Diane Finley Profile
2010-12-16 14:23 [p.7390]
Mr. Speaker, we have done something that has not been done in the House in a very long time. We made a full five-year commitment to fund housing and homelessness. We do that with the provinces. We work with them.
We recently developed new, more accountable programs and policy to deal with the situation, recognizing that the problems can best be solved close to home. We are working with the provinces closely to make sure that the needs of the homeless can be addressed on a local basis, where it matters most.
View Christian Ouellet Profile
View Christian Ouellet Profile
2010-12-14 14:47 [p.7248]
Mr. Speaker, Quebec will budget more money for its replacement, improvement and modernization program until 2013 in order to tackle maintenance issues in low-income housing. But CMHC will no longer honour its commitments or the part of the budget set aside for maintenance, meaning that the Société d'habitation du Québec has to cut its maintenance budget by 30%.
Will the federal government reinvest and transfer the necessary funds so that Quebec can continue its low-income housing maintenance programs?
View Diane Finley Profile
View Diane Finley Profile
2010-12-14 14:48 [p.7248]
Mr. Speaker, CMHC does a really good job in helping to keep our economy on an even keel. We saw that through the global recession. In fact, our international partners and countries around the world have raised plaudits for CMHC and the fine job it is doing.
CMHC is working with the Government of Quebec. There is a special relationship there and we look forward to continuing that relationship.
View Christian Ouellet Profile
View Christian Ouellet Profile
2010-12-14 14:48 [p.7248]
Mr. Speaker, instead of improving homelessness partnering strategy programs, the government has announced new bureaucratic requirements, which have led to uncertainty in terms of starting new projects and the end of funding for many others.
Does the government realize that its relentless, short-sighted amendments risk creating service interruptions for the homeless?
View Diane Finley Profile
View Diane Finley Profile
2010-12-14 14:49 [p.7248]
Mr. Speaker, we consulted the provinces and the territories to find out what they need, particularly in terms of homelessness. We have kept our promises. We listened to the requests from the provinces and territories and we are working with them. We guaranteed funding for homelessness programs for five years. That is more than any other government has ever done.
View Denis Coderre Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Denis Coderre Profile
2010-12-10 11:20 [p.7078]
Mr. Speaker, we are very concerned about the situation in Haiti at present: cholera, 1.5 million homeless people, problems disbursing funds, people's fragile faith in MINUSTAH, and now, electoral fraud.
There is a Haitian proverb that says, Asire ou ke se limen bouji yo anvan etenn a Alimèt, which in English means “Make sure the candle is lit before putting out the match”.
What will Canada do to ensure that the results of the presidential election truly reflect the will of the people? By the way, when will our embassy in Port-au-Prince reopen?
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