Appeared in the North Shore News – November 9, 2012
IF anything could diminish the always poignant Remembrance Day, it’s the reminder of how shabbily Ottawa treats its injured veterans.
Like Daniel Scott. He was incredibly badly hurt on the job – soldiering. If only he’d been hurt on a civvy street job, then his compensation would have been far more generous. Collateral damage: The Stephen Harper government’s self-inflicted wound. Its attempt to shrink the nation’s debt is generally praiseworthy, but this is pinching pennies all too hard.
Scott, then 24, was so badly injured by a mine explosion on a training exercise in Afghanistan that he was a good candidate to die. Surgeons removed his left kidney, spleen and part of his pancreas. His career dreams were over.
Scott received a lump-sum payout of about $41,000. The Scott family’s arithmetic was that, including interest, this amounted to $140 a month for 25 years. The Workers’ Compensation Board payout for the same level of injuries to retirement age of 65 would have been $1,400 a month – 10 times as much.
A Vancouver Sun report notes that such disability pensions used to be a little more, not a lot less, than WCB compensation. But the Conservatives screwed them down – and screwed the injured vets – in 2006.
Scott has joined a class-action lawsuit on behalf of veterans injured in Afghanistan seeking parity with workers’ compensation.
Jon McComb has chased their plight hard on his CKNW show. The mentally damaged by the war in Afghanistan – a corrupt state not worth the loss of one drop of Canadian blood – suffer as well. One is haunted by the memory of the “pink cloud” when people were hit by gunfire and, ugh, exploded.
A touch of irony: Minister of Veterans Affairs Steven Blaney chose Halloween, of all ghoulish days, to repeat that the government will support a private member’s bill amending the Criminal Code to include mischief relating to war memorials.
Protecting the memory of the war dead is well merited. But Blaney and the prime minister should properly honour warfare’s walking wounded too. They sacrificed their youth and normal lives for Canada.
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In contrast, a warmly upbeat Remembrance Day item: Since its brave beginnings, West Van’s Kay Meek Centre has experienced almost as much drama in its often-disputatious boardroom as on its stages. But in the last couple of years, it’s settled down with more varied and better fare, and grown worthier of the status of its town. Artistic director Claude Giroux, who has also kept up his previous theatrical ties with Fort McMurray, has won respect.
And here’s an innovative idea: Tomorrow, Canadian armed forces veterans get free admission to the 2 p.m. performance of Theatre West Van’s Waiting for the Parade at the Kay Meek. Perfect timing on the eve of Remembrance Day.
John Murrell’s praised play is set in the Second World War, centring not on the lot of male combatants but on the lives of five women – an unusual approach to wartime plays when first staged in 1979, as the Meek’s website notes. Giroux himself directs.
Thanks to Geoff Jopson, who retired three years ago as superintendent of West Vancouver School Board and has since steeped himself volunteering in West Van’s cultural matters, for tipping me to this unusual salute to Canada’s veterans.
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The years pass, and I can’t help thinking that I’m one of the few practising newspapermen with memories of the whole Second World War. I began kindergarten the week war was declared.
A new generation of historians is harder-eyed about the war. The stature of Winston Churchill and especially U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt has declined. And too little credit – even attention – is paid to those who were architects for European peace after 1945.
High among them were those who, in 1951, founded the European Coal and Steel Community, which buried past Franco-German hatreds and was the seed for the future European Community: Frenchmen Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. The political accomplishment, short years after the second of two bloody 20th-century wars, was stunning.
They all should have received the Nobel Peace Prize. We owe them today more than most of us realize.
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Speaking of honours: City of North Vancouver councillors, not famous for warm, fuzzy harmony, unanimously agreed last month to rename Boulevard Park in honour of the late Ray Perrault.
Ray led the B.C. Liberals in the early 1960s, thankless years in the political wilderness, when W.A.C. Bennett squashed all rivals. He went on to serve in the House of Commons and Senate, where he was majority leader. He was a director of the Vancouver Canucks (remember them?) and laboured hard but vainly to bring major league baseball to Vancouver.
Good for CNV council. Why is West Vancouver perennially reluctant to bestow similar honours?
© Trevor Lautens, 2012