Several weeks ago, the country was appalled to discover that retired Major Corporal Paul Franklin, a double amputee, had to degrade himself every year by crawling to Veteran Affairs (VAC) in order to prove he had, indeed, lost his limbs. Having had his wheelchair taken away twice after the Department of Defence (DoD) and VAC decided that the extensive paperwork required of such an item had not been filled out to their satisfaction. Franklin’s yearly submissions to VAC include doctors notes, swearing up and down that his legs are still gone, and a letter from his ex affirming his continued child support for their kid—to which the VAC inquires whether the child still lives. Apparently, when the Harper Government cut funding to the DoD and the VAC, they didn’t actually cut the “red tape” they had complained so long and hard about.
For those unfamiliar with the term, “red tape” dates back to the years before Canada’s creation. To obtain their pensions, veterans of the American Civil War, had to trek all the way to Washington and wait for their file to be found among hundreds and thousands of files all bound up with red tape—the original bureaucratic nightmare.
Franklin’s case is, regrettably, not unique among the hundreds of thousands of veterans who, despite such treatment, love the Country for which they gave so much. Franklin’s connections allowed him to make his presence known and to highlight shed light on the experience of veterans from coast to coast. After a friend of his, none other than Rick Mercer, explained the situation in one of his recent “Rick’s Rants,” the case gained headlines around the country.
While it’s sad that a comedian’s act ultimately brought this horrific, draconian behaviour to national headlines, at least it finally got out and it seems to have made a difference. In the House of Commons on Friday, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs Pierre Lemieux announced that, instead of having to confirm their disability every year, veterans would only have to suffer this degrading treatment every three years. Hoping the limbs would miraculously grow back after one year having been proved ineffective, the Harper government is determined to try giving them three years to grow back instead.
It is disgraceful for any Canadian to live life under those circumstances; for the government to let that happen to veterans—while using them as props in photo ops, and counting them as the greatest Canadians—is sickening. As Rick Mercer pointed out, if veterans need to prove what happened to them, perhaps our MPs should start proving what they’re actually doing in the office rather than explaining what they’re planning or pretending to do ad nauseam. It’s time to cut the red tape for good; these men and women deserve it.