ADVISORY COUNCIL OTTAWA MISSION (May 7-9, 2013)
Last year EQUITAS established an Advisory Council of distinguished Canadians to provide us guidance and stature in this Society’s quest for equitable treatment of our country’s disabled “New Veterans”, which the New Veterans Charter [NVC] is not delivering. Council Members include two former Speakers of the House of Commons – Progressive Conservative Hon. John Fraser and Liberal Hon. Peter Milliken, a past Deputy Commons Speaker – New Democrat Hon. Bill Blaikie, and the President of the World Sikh Organization of Canada, Mr. Prem Singh Vinning.
Three of the four Council Members, accompanied by me, went to Ottawa in early May to advocate before all federal political parties in favour of the NVC changes that EQUITAS seeks. Our main goal was to bring reason and sensibility to the process of communicating the needs of disabled veterans to the Leaders and veterans spokesmen of all political parties in Parliament. We sought to gain support that would obviate any need for Court action such as what six representative plaintiffs seeking a class-action lawsuit had commenced last Fall.
The good news is that Messrs. Fraser, Milliken and Vinning (Mr. Blaikie was only able to participate, via video-link, in the Council’s appearance on Evan Solomon’s ‘Power & Politics’ show on CBC-TV) met 38 parliamentarians – both MPs and Senators representing four Parties – over two days. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, Official Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau all extended enthusiastic and unqualified support for the EQUITAS Cause. Both Official Opposition N.D.P. Shadow Veterans Critic Peter Stoffer, MP (Sackville-Eastern Shore, N.S.) and Liberal Veterans Critic Sean Casey (Charlottetown, P.E.I.) pledged their continuing interest in addressing the deficiencies of the NVC. without delay.
Regrettably, while we did have the opportunity to register our concerns about the NVC with National Defense Minister Peter MacKay and with several of his ministerial colleagues we intercepted in the Parliament Hill corridors, the Harper Conservative Government declined to meet the Advisory Council. The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to our meeting request, and Minister of Veterans Affairs Steven Blaney together along with his Parliamentary Secretary, Eve Adams, MP – on behalf of the Conservative majority of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs – refused to receive our delegation because of, according to their communication, the Court action instituted by veterans supported by EQUITAS.
EQUITAS Director and Vice-President