We remember our dead soldiers. And we forget the living ones.
In 2006, Ottawa implemented the New Veterans Charter, ostensibly to improve things for soldiers who had been maimed, mutilated and mentally damaged while fighting for this country.
But veterans who have tried to receive treatment and compensation under the system insist it nickel and dimes them.
It treats them as if they were problems.
“We were proud to fight for Canada, but we never thought we’d have to fight with Canada,” former Capt. Perry Gray recently told the Ottawa Citizen.
Which is why veterans mounted protests across the country last weekend.
It is embarrassing.
Ottawa is focused on the armed forces, reshaping Canada’s foreign policy to favour intervention over peacekeeping.
It is spending billions on fighter jets.
And it’s on the cusp of extending our stint in Afghanistan another three years.
Our military accomplishments have been given more prominence in our citizenship material.
And Ottawa has gone to considerable trouble and expense to produce ads that encourage us to remember the contribution of our vets.
We’ve even got bright red poppies stamped on our quarters.
But we’re treating our wounded soldiers like an expensive nuisance. And, when they publicly challenge Veterans Affairs policy, officials start rifling through their files looking for dirt, as we saw in the case of Scott Bruyea.
And Ottawa knows it.
So, it has announced it will retool its wounded veteran compensation system, including its lump-sum payment to veterans, which many assert is the cheapest way for the federal government to absolve itself of its long-term responsibility for the welfare of wounded soldiers.
Coming around Remembrance Day, the promise seems convenient. A hastily made assurance to keep the dogs at bay.
Canadians must ensure this fix actually benefits our wounded soldiers, that it isn’t just a face-saving exercise on the part of our federal government.
Taking that simple lump-sum payout and doling it out over several years won’t fix the problems our veterans face once they get home.
Veterans need comprehensive changes, perhaps enshrined in legislation, to reflect the challenges our soldiers face after returning home from modern warfare.
As Bruyea noted recently, we’re a nation built on fairness and equity. We order our soldiers to fight and die for those principles.
And then, when they come home damaged and distraught, we put the bottom line ahead of our national principles. That’s something we should never forget.
The nation must remember the dead. But it defines itself by how it treats the living.