Julian Fantino defends his governments record on supporting Canada’s veterans

Andy Radia
·Politics Reporter

Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino is taking umbrage to the ongoing criticism against his department.

Earlier this week, Yahoo Canada News reported on a Chronicle Herald story suggesting that a large number of veterans were preparing to embark on an 'anyone but Conservative' campaign in the lead-up to the 2015 election.

The report noted that veterans were upset on a number of fronts.

It cited the New Veterans Charter — legislation introduced by the government in 2006 — which critics deride doesn't do enough to support veterans.

In a April 2013 report about the charter, the Veterans Ombudsman wrote that NVC's "most urgent shortcomings" are those that "affect the economic financial support provided to Veterans, especially totally and permanently incapacitated Veterans who are vulnerable financially."

But in a statement forwarded to Yahoo Canada News — in response to the 'anyone but Conservative' campaign — Fantino says that there's too much misinformation out there.

"Veterans are eligible for a range of services and benefits that enable them to get the financial help and support they need and deserve," he wrote citing a recent Statistics Canada report which found that Veterans receiving benefits from Veterans Affairs Canada were earning approximately $70,000 a year.

"This independent report also found that Veterans who are medically released earn approximately $60,000 a year. Both equate to $5,800 and $5,000 a month respectively. This is in addition to a lump sum given where a Veteran is critically injured."

Fantino also took exception to union-back protests, earlier this year, with regard to the closure of nine veteran service centres across the country.

"Veterans have the full support of our Government, with the more than 600 points of service across the country, in addition to home visits from Veterans Affairs staff where needed," he wrote.

Despite, Fantino's ardent defence of his ministry's record, there are a significant number of veterans who are angry at him and the Conservative government.

We've seen rallies for veterans across the country. In January, we had veterans asking for Fantio's resignation after a testy exchange between the minister and a veteran on Parliament Hill.

There was even a 'black ribbon' campaign which now continues on social media.

"Canada’s veterans are seeing their supports slashed and their benefits cut," notes the campaigns website. "Put a black ribbon on your FB profile, twitter avatar and - oh yeah … your clothing - to show you care."

[ Related: Expect Canada's veterans to be among the 'anyone but Conservative' contingent in 2015 ]

But Fantino insists that the Harper government has made new investments in in veterans' benefits and services.

"We have invested over $5 billion in new funding which flows directly to Veterans through benefits and services such as monthly financial support, medicine, snow shoveling, grass clipping and other services to keep them independent and in their own home, where they would otherwise be unable," he said.

"Our goal is to ensure that every Veteran from coast to coast knows what benefits are available to them which why we are communicating directly with Veterans and their families through a number of communication channels."

It appears that message is either not getting out to a lot veterans or is being ignored.

That's a problem for Fantino, the Conservatives and the disgruntled veterans.

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