Gov’t needs to address challenges of new generation of veterans

Opinion

To the Editor:

I was very pleased to read that Veterans Affairs Canada has reversed its decision and is now expanding access for services at Camp Hill Veterans’ Memorial Hospital in Halifax to Allied and modern-day veterans.

This is a win for Gordon Smith, a Canadian veteran who served at 17 years old with the British Royal Navy during WWII, who was denied access to Camp Hill Veterans’ Memorial Hospital in Halifax because he had not been a Canadian citizen at the time. He dedicated over 50 years of his life in service to Canada and the Commonwealth. I offer my sincere thanks for his service and wish all the best for him and his family.

This story speaks to the strength we have when we stand united against something we know is wrong. An outpouring of voices from across our country phoned MPs, MLAs and local officials, saying without reservation that denying care to a man who had followed the path of duty and service was wrong and something needed to be done. It was ultimately those voices that made Veterans Affairs Minister, Seamus O’Regan reverse this decision.

To say I am proud would be an understatement.

With the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I only last week, this story offers a glaring reminder of the unique and current challenges that exist in the way we care for our veterans. Often when we think of veterans, the image of elderly WWII or Korean War veterans comes to mind. However, the reality is that there are many young veterans living in Canada

Right here in Pictou, the Veterans Unit in Sutherland Harris Memorial Hospital currently has only 13 of its 20-bed capacity filled. That certainly doesn’t reflect the numerous veterans who are waiting for a bed; only those who meet the current criteria for assistance.

What is the future of veterans units like at Sutherland Harris when the federal government denies access to those who don’t tick the right boxes? And who is the federal government to measure what amount of sacrifice for this country is enough?

The federal government is not taking steps to address the unique challenges this new generation of veterans face. It is time to start the process of adapting our current veterans units, like the one at the Sutherland Harris Memorial Hospital.

The federal government must accommodate the next generation of men and women who have served our country in more recent times.

Karla MacFarlane

MLA, Pictou West