Dear friends: We set aside November 11 as a day to remember the sacrifices that Canadians have made through the years to ensure our nation remains a land of peace and freedom, of respect and tolerance.
We think of those who have gone to battle during the Boer War, the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War and the Afghanistan mission. We are mindful of the peacekeepers who have put their lives on the line in the hotspots of the world.
We remember the sailors in the merchant marine, so many of whom lost life and limb in the struggle to supply troops and civilian populations. We keep in mind the sacrifices of those on the home front: those who worked in the factories, who raised funds, who knitted clothes – and who, all too often, lost dear ones overseas.
A million Canadians have gone to war. Thousands lost their lives. Thousands more were wounded. Many have suffered the terrible consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder.
We admire their courage, we remember their sacrifice and we thank them for keeping Canada safe.
But our remembrance and gratitude must transcend warm thoughts and good wishes. Our veterans need our help to ensure they have medical supports to deal with the physical and mental scars of war; to ensure they have financial supports to live decent lives; to ensure they have educational supports to further their career aspirations.
The Conservative government was notoriously callous towards our returning servicemen and women. It closed veterans’ offices, even as it failed to spend more than a billion dollars allocated to veterans’ affairs. Further, Canada’s Auditor General has uncovered the previous government’s scandalous failure to give veterans the mental health services they need and are entitled to. Tragically, 59 Afghanistan veterans have taken their own lives since returning home.
The Liberals promised to reopen the shuttered veterans’ office, to restore the option of a life pension for injured veterans and to hire 400 more service delivery staff to serve former soldiers. We will not forget their promises. We will ensure they are kept. We will not break faith.
This Remembrance Day, let’s make a difference. I urge everyone to wear a poppy, visit your local cenotaph – and be mindful of our veterans’ need for dignity and support. Lest we forget.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union