Thursday, November 07, 2013

Remembering the fallen. Part 2

In part 1 I offered the suggestion that people who were busy, uncomfortable or simply found it inconvenient to attend a Remembrance Day event should do what makes them feel comfortable. Certainly no thinking veteran will find fault in any decision along that line, keeping in mind that any and all are welcome at cenotaphs across the country.

I also included a sketched CV, so I won't bore you with it again.

This year, as in all years since 1919, a particular "class" of person will most certainly attend: politicians. (Please understand that I want to spit when I say or write that word).

The Canadian political class of the 21st century attends Remembrance Day services for one reason: optics. While there may be a numbered few who actually hold attendance at such an event a matter of sincere personal feeling, the majority, a huge majority, do not. They are there to be seen amongst the crowds, near the uniforms and to gain political traction. Too often they are offered a place of prominence or worse, a speaking part.

That has veterans rankled this year like no other year in the past. I have spent the past year communicating with thousands of my fellow veterans. I can count on one hand the number of those veterans who believe the political class of this country has any interest whatsoever in the welfare of veterans. When the question of the duty of the federal government to live up to its obligations to veterans is brought up there is one resounding answer: Failure.

The Harper government, for all its bellicose "support the troops" rhetoric, has been responsible for the worst treatment of veterans in the modern era. Denial of pensions, clawbacks of benefits and the perpetuation of lawsuits to quash legitimate claims by the wounded are just a few of the abuses heaped upon veterans by Stephen Harper and his ministers. Harper has publicly smeared veterans who attempted to voice their complaints, all the while making sure he gets a photo op amongst "the troops". And, if all that didn't make veterans mightily angry, Julian Fantino, the newly-minted minister of veteran's affairs, sealed the deal and generated pure rage when he tried to redefine a veteran to include himself.

Julian Fantino is not a veteran. Stephen Harper, who took it upon himself to lecture reporters on the conditions in the trenches at Vimy Ridge, has not one day of service. But you can make book on the fact that both of them will show up on Remembrance Day expecting a position of prominence and a speaking part.

There are approximately 900,000 living armed service and RCMP veterans in this country, a vast majority of whom find themselves enraged at the actions and words of Harper, Fantino and, to be completely frank, politicians generally. The current Veteran's Charter which is responsible for hacking disability benefits to veterans was introduced by the Liberals, supported by the NDP and implemented by the Harper Conservatives. No party is clean.

So, while I have heard a loud suggestion that politicians should stay away from Remembrance Day ceremonies and I understand the sentiment, I would disagree. No one should be refused attendance.

However, they should take great care as to how they appear. A place at the back of the crowd would be most appropriate but that's not likely. What is not appropriate though is a place in the front or on a podium. Given their abysmal treatment of veterans they would do well to keep a very low profile. If they intend to deliver a wreath they should do so in absolute silence.

And, if they think a speaking part is due them because of their high office they should be aware that a movement is in the works to have groups of angry veterans turn their backs on them.

Right now an elected school board trustee would have a tough time gaining political traction with veterans and it gets worse as one works up the political back-stabbing pole. Given the recent behaviour of prominent politicians most veterans have one wish for the Canadian political class: A plague on all your houses; you have broken faith with us. 

The print version is here.

Thanks to Alison for the video link.


Simon said...

hi Dave...well said. As you point out all governments have let down veterans. The treatment of those suffering from PTSD, which I am only too familiar with, has been an act of betrayal on a trail of desolation. But this shorting of pensions is the absolute limit. And as for Fantino declaring himself a veteran I don't know whether to laugh or cry. That pompous pathetic Con asshole, who does he think he is? Oh well, good luck on Remembrance Day, I'll be thinking of you all, and about the other veterans who touched my life.
But right now I'm thinking how great it is to see you blogging again. I missed you...

UU4077 said...

Should any senior member of the Harper government try to speak in any official capacity, all in attendance should turn their backs to them in silent protest.

Kirby Evans said...

And about 80% of those veterans voted for Harper and most will vote for Harper again. This is why Harper doesn't care how he treats them. He knows that the vast majority would never be involved in an orchestrated movement against the Conservative Party, and he knows that he can do almost anything he wants and he will still get the vast majority of their votes. In the past ten years I have met maybe between two or three hundred vets and I have asked many of them which party they support or plan to support. Fewer than ten said they would support a party other than the Conservatives.

Dave said...

Hi Simon. This will be, so to speak, sporadic returns. Cheers

Dave said...

Kirby, no doubt they did just that. Back in 2006 I would say your estimate of 80% was low. However, times have changed significantly and I challenge you to speak to those same people now.

Here's another factoid. Those 900,000 veterans do not form a voting block with enough impact to be the ones to cause an electoral upset. They are scattered through every riding in the country and present no threat to Harper unless they get both vocal and political.

Kirby Evans said...

Dave - I hope you are right about the Vets' present voting intentions. I have only anecdotal evidence.

Of course, Vets (and members of the Armed services in general) don't make up enough in numbers to make a difference just in terms of votes. But if they became vocal as a group they could wield tremendous influence because if they demonstrated to the base of Harper support just how poorly they have been treated in could obliterate the HarperCons in the next election.

Filcher said...

Rudyard Kipling wrote these words in 1891, and they are as true today as then:

"There were thirty million English who talked of England's might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade."

I do not go to the cenotaph, and seldom to the services as I am of the opinion the politicians have turned them into a political platform, but I grew up taking a minute of silence to remember the sacrifices made by veterans, and I still do whenever I think of what Canada is becoming. I find that veterans typically neither ask for thanks nor talk about the role they played, so unless they are physically damaged they tend to be the background, a necessary extension to be trotted out once a year to make us non vets feel less ashamed.

I will take this opportunity to say, Thank you Dave, and all who have served in the services, no matter the capacity. You stood up when many were not able to or not willing to.

gingersnap said...

Six members of my family served in WW2. We went to war so we wouldn't have, such as Harper running this country. Harper doesn't govern, he dictates. Harper was Policy Chief for his, Northern Foundation of 1989. Harper had hired Wolfgang Droege as, security for Preston Manning.

Shame on those, who support such a tyrant as Harper. He has no right, to attend Armistice Day Services. Harper isn't welcome to attend. Most decent Canadians, detest Fascism and Dictators.

Boris said...

I came by to write a post I had in mind called "The End of Veterans" but you wrote much more that I could say. Thank you Dave, your posts have me staring at my screen.

It would be a good day if veterans were able to cross the threshold that lets them see the politicians for what they really are. Perhaps we're at or close to that point. What I worry though is that Cons will relent a bit and offer up something, and the old political loyalties will suddenly return. It's been a particularly abusive and weird relationship between veterans and Conservatives for some time.

Dave said...

Hi Boris! Sorry I wasn't able to get back to you earlier, work and all.

You're quite correct. Harper has lost the veterans ... permanently.

In the past year I have watched them go from dubious to absolutely resolute. Even if there is a tidbit of movement, they now view Harper as an enemy. He, and is minions, have no idea what kind of light that puts them in. The question is whether they will act upon their anger. Hard to tell at this point.

Boris said...

No worries, Dave. I've since moved across a sea. Thought of you the other day as I was at an event on a never-masted 46 gun frigate that smelled of very old oak.(Not at all suggesting that you're old and unmasted, but I've long suspected that you're actually made of weathered oak and bronze cannon...)

I don't think it's possible to separate the ideology of the Harperites from how they treat veterans. It isn't about saving money so much as it is about how they see the role of government and their own authoritarianism. The military in their view is only worthwhile it's in ready form wherein it can actively serve their whims. Serving and former members are seen as a social burden much like they see women, welfare recipients etc. I think if you were able to get in the heads of Harper and some of his pals, you'd find out they regard military members as naive and stupid for joining something which could get them wounded or killed at politicians' whims. They wouldn't see veterans' care as an obligation for the state given the voluntary nature of service. They dont see the nation or the state, as least as something as responsible for care for anyone but them and their corporate buddies at Lockmart et al. They don't particularly give a fuck about Canadians who happen to be in the way of a pipeline to China or who claim a right to a living wage.

If we don't want to work for peanuts, they'll import people who will or send our jobs to them. Vets? Never a recruitment shortage because all they need is 'enough' and people joining don't often think about the circumstances of their leaving.

Personal choice, drown the welfare state, something Jebus, etc.

Holly Stick said...

A good op-ed by Alheli Picazo:

"...Rather than fighting each other over the colour of a symbol of remembrance, those in the trenches of the Poppy Wars would do well to direct their energy toward fighting for a better future for our veterans..."

Holly Stick said...

In Toronto some First Nations veterans were briefly arrested: they were carrying a couple of aboriginal flags and refused to put them away when the police asked them to.