Remembrance Day reflections from MP Hughes

There is no doubt that Remembrance Day is exactly the kind of celebration that wraps people up emotionally and invokes a public outpouring of both gratitude and nationalism. Surely, these heart-felt reactions are genuine enough, but in the absence of special days or significant events the well-being of our veterans is not as much of an ongoing national concern as it should be.

This may sound cynical in the shadow of the grisly deaths of two Canadian soldiers killed on our own soil in recent weeks, but it is a sad fact. Even the most patriotic among us manages to forget about the real plight of many veterans when we are not reminded of their circumstances regularly. Too often veterans have been the target of government penny-pinching which is one of the consequences of an era where tax cuts are the biggest political carrot. The budget at Veterans Affairs, like all other departments, was indiscriminately slashed by 10 percent to make up for overly generous corporate tax cuts. Now, as we enter into a supposed federal surplus, that shortfall is not being addressed.

There have been other controversial cost cutting moves that save us money but make us look like lick-penny misers in the process. Young service members who are injured in the line of duty or suffer from PTSD are being ushered out of the forces to save the government from providing them pensions later in life. While many are given lump sum payments the problems associated with that and the finality of the response does not match the commitment these individuals made or the gratitude we say we have to those men and women who have made sacrifices on our behalf.

In this era of social media and instant response too much emphasis is put on how things seem, as opposed to how they really are. Although we may wear a poppy or change our Facebook status to show support for our veterans and our troops, it is also important to speak up against things like the closure of regional Veterans Affairs offices and in support of items that veterans themselves deem important. That message has to be made to our government or they will mistake the lack of it as consent for their tight-fisted approach.

This is not meant to doubt the sincerity of people who don a poppy for Remembrance Day, but it is a challenge for everyone to up their game in support our veterans of all ages and circumstance. Despite our challenges, Canada is a rich and blessed country. When the government walks away from our veterans in their hour of need, it speaks volumes about what kind of society they are creating. If we continue on this trend the phrase ‘Lest we forget’ is in danger of becoming ironic. I doubt that is what anyone really wants.