The 1,075 accredited delegates at the Royal Canadian Legion’s 44th Dominion Convention in Halifax got down to business Monday–and veterans’ issues were at the top of everyone’s agenda.
Dominion President Pat Varga announced $500,000 start-up funding for a nation-wide homeless veterans program.
As part of a program in cutting red tape, Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney announced veterans will be reimbursed for expenses to attend medical appointments without first providing receipts –though veterans must obtain receipts in case they are needed for proof of service later. This change will affect about 65,000 claims, he said.
Legion Grand President Larry Murray reported on successful efforts in getting veterans groups to speak with one voice to advocate for changes to the New Veterans Charter and in expressing concern about protecting veterans from feeling effects of federal budget tightening. Improvements to funeral and burial costs are next on that agenda.
Veterans Review and Appeal Board Chairman John Larlee said the board had listened to advice of veterans’ organizations and the veterans ombudsman, and appointed two new members with Canadian Forces and RCMP experience.
Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent received a round of applause when he said he looked forward to working with the Legion to achieve the ideal of One Veteran–where veterans hurt while serving their country will all receive the same services in the same way. The former search-and-rescue technician, who said he would not be where is is today without the continued support of his wife, also received a loud and sustained round of applause when he talked about including consideration for families “in recognition that they are impacted just as much as we are.”
But convention reserved its loudest and longest ovation for Tim Laidler, Dr. Marvin Westwood and Dr. John Whelan of the Veterans Transition Program. B.C. /Yukon Command has funded the program for more than a decade. That command gave the three a standing ovation upon introduction. Delegates watched a moving video of veterans suffering from operational stress injuries whose lives had been turned around by the program and listened as the trio explained how the program worked and its effects.
Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command has just funded a pilot project introducing the program to the East Coast. The trio made an appeal for help in rolling the program out across the nation. They received a lengthy standing ovation from delegates and observers, and a hint from Varga that “in not too many days, they will be pleased at the support they are going to get.”
On day two of convention, delegates will tackle more than 80 resolutions, many aimed at improving the lot of veterans.