NDP tables new bills to end veterans’ discrimination

South Okanagan MP Richard Cannings is supporting two new bills to protect veterans' benefits

NDP Veterans Affairs Critic Irene Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe), along with NDP MP Gord Johns (Courtenay-Alberni), have introduced two bills that will amend discriminatory legislation affecting veterans and their families.

The first bill addresses the paternalistic legislation that prevents veterans, RCMP members, judges and public sector employees who choose to marry after the age of 60 from providing pension benefits to their spouses when they pass away.

“It is imperative that the current legislation be updated to reflect today’s society and relieve the burden placed on spouses who have lost a loved one. No one should be left behind and this Bill will ensure that spouses who marry after the age of 60 will qualify for the benefits they rightly deserve,” said Richard Cannings, NDP MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay.

Rick Inglis, co-chair of the Surviving Spouses Pension Fairness Coalition supports this legislation.

“Our coalition is extremely pleased that the NDP is joining the fight to change unfair legislation that has, in various forms, been hurting Canadians for 115 years. These archaic laws have no place in a modern society,” said Inglis.

The second bill aims to end the unfair reduction of service pensions for retired and disabled Canadian Forces and RCMP veterans.

“I have heard from veterans across my riding expressing their frustration and anger about reductions to their pension benefits,” said Cannings. “To systematically reduce the service/disability pension of our men and women who have given so much for our continued freedom, is unconscionable. It is my hope that all members of the House of Commons will support this important piece of legislation and show our veterans and their families that we honour their sacrifice and support them in their time of need.”

One of those veterans who agrees with the need for improvement by the government is 82-year-old Doug Pichette, from Penticton, who served for over two decades with the Canadian Armed Forces, retiring from service in 1972.

“It is absolutely terrible what the government has done to our present day veterans. Veterans from the past and the ones today are getting shafted,” said Pichette who did two tours of duty as a United Nations peacekeeper volunteer in the middle east. “A veteran nowadays can be injured where he can no longer perform, totally disabled and they give him a $300,000 maximum payout.  If you’ve got a wife and family, two or three children, how far will $300,000 go?  It’s supposed to last you the rest of your life. Its $30,000 a year for 10 years, that’s chicken feed.”