- Reaction score
National Post ePaper offers current issues of National Post ePaper.
When Trudeau turned his back on veterans National Post - 7 Dec 2021 - Rex Murphy
The year was 2018, before the pandemic hit the world. The month was February. The place was Edmonton. In Canada, February is cold all over the place. In Edmonton, “cold” is a useless adjective. To take an approximate reading of outside temperatures, thermometers have to be held over an open fire so the mercury can thaw. Penguins, on holiday in Edmonton, don long johns and check into heated motels. All of which is whimsical prelude to a story not at all whimsical.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was holding a town hall that day. Out of the assembly, a retired corporal in the Canadian Armed Forces arose, a veteran of the conflict in Afghanistan. His name was Brock Blaszczyk. In Afghanistan, Blaszczyk was wounded in an explosion. Very seriously wounded: the explosion took one of the young soldier’s legs.
Cpl. Blaszczyk rose in that town hall to ask the prime minister a question. John Ivison’s column from that time sets the stage: “He asked Trudeau why his government is fighting a legal battle with veterans (the Equitas class-action lawsuit), even though the Liberal election platform said ‘no veteran will be forced to fight their own government for the support and compensation they have earned.’
“Further, he complained he was not eligible for the new lifetime pension option, yet the Liberals have found money to pay for the reintegration of ISIL fighters and the $10.5-million compensation payment for Omar Khadr.
“‘What veterans are you talking about — those fighting for the freedoms and values you so proudly boast about, or those fighting against?” he said. “I was prepared to be killed in action. What I wasn’t prepared for, Mr. Prime Minister, was Canada turning its back on me.’ ”
In this country, we treasure our soldiers, and especially our veterans. So Cpl. Blaszczyk’s question, grounded in his individual experience, also went to the core of Canada’s national understanding of itself. The reply from a leader who could give lessons to Bill Clinton on the “I feel your pain” barometer was uninspiring.
On that cold winter night in that northern city, Trudeau told Blaszczyk that veterans were asking “more than we are able to give right now” — implying that they were exploiting their suffering. To recap, the leader of our country replied to an amputee soldier: “Why are we still fighting against certain veterans’ groups in court? Because they are asking for more than we are able to give right now.”
Let us now jump forward to December 2021, in the midst of the COVID pandemic. Over $500 billion have gushed with cataract force and Niagara volume from this same government. Flights to the sand and surf of Tofino, B.C., have been booked for the prime minister. Hundreds of flights, hotels and expenses have been paid for to attend climate conferences. And, just as a side note, a needless election, birthed in sheer political opportunism, wasted $600 million, a sum that could have purchased a lot of supports for wounded soldiers. The cash has poured out of the Liberal treasury during COVID in sublime aggregates that only a prime minister who has no idea about “monetary policy” would ever authorize.
Now comes the veterans’ ombudsman, Nishika Jardine, a retired Canadian Army colonel who, in a recent interview with The Canadian Press, noted that many injured soldiers have been fighting for the supports they require, but the government has been refusing to provide them.
“It’s crystal clear that over the past four years, the government is falling behind in doing the work that’s required to address the inequities that we’ve highlighted,” said Jardine.
Clearly, those ill and injured vets are asking too much. How dare those who answered Canada’s call and went to a foreign land, risked their lives, suffered loss of limb and returned home, ill, amputated, mentally in torment, their families bearing all the ancillary pains and strains of loved ones dead or suffering — how dare they think their country should care for them in their time of need.
There was a gentleman who, in August 2015, a short distance from CFB Trenton, during an election campaign, made this beautiful, solemn declaration: “If I earn the right to serve this country as your prime minister, no veteran will be forced to fight their own government for the support and compensation that they have earned.”
The speaker was Justin Trudeau, and the September 2019 CP story from which the quotation was taken ends: “It was exactly what many veterans had been waiting to hear. Four years later, however, faith in the Liberals has all but disappeared.”
Since that time, Trudeau has managed to double the national debt. Yet the veterans who need support have been left to metaphorically stand in the rain with a begging bowl. Politicians who thank veterans for their service should not be allowed to thank them, if this is the way they show their gratitude.
I wonder how Cpl. Blaszczyk feels now. It’s cold in Edmonton, but in some ways, ways that bite far deeper, it’s never as cold as it is in Ottawa.