This week we gather to remember the men and women who've made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure freedoms we take for granted by wearing poppies, exchanging stories of loved ones who have fought in hopes of making the world better and observing a moment of silence.
November 11 was set aside as a day to pause and reflect on those who died in battle. We also take the time to thank those who returned.
But it's become increasingly clear that although we'll let them get to our hearts, we won't let them get to our pocketbooks - that is if the government's attitude is any indication.
Former Canadian Veterans Ombudsman Pat Strogan is sounding the alarm over the deplorably negligent and downright heartless approach Canada's Veterans Affairs department is taking towards veterans with disabilities related to service with the Armed Forces.
Strogan's observations have led him to conclude that the department's top level staff is more focused on discrediting support claims of honoured soldiers, thus saving money, than ensuring their needs are taken care of.
There are numerous cases of lack of support leading to homelessness among veterans. We'd like to provide some statistics on this subject, but the lack of Canadian research has created an information gap. And this conveniently causes many to assume it's not a significant problem.
International research, however, indicates that the number of homeless people in the veteran community is quite significant, so in June 2008 the ombudsman launched Leave Nobody Behind-a campaign to raise awareness and stimulate change.
But it's been a slow progress. There's still plenty of evidence showing the government would rather sweep needy veterans under a heap of bureaucratic blockades than help ease their suffering.
The Veterans Ombudsman office criticizes Veterans Affairs Canada for refusing aid to those without documentation proving current medical conditions are linked to service.
Since homeless veterans seldom have documentation, this system disadvantages them even more than veterans in mainstream society.
And even when documents are provided, Veterans Affairs drags its feet, despite having programs that could provide emergency services, coping skills and treatments which could go beyond that which community service providers can offer.
We have to wonder how our bureaucrats have strayed so far from our society's conscience while skewing the intent of the War Veterans Act?
As a way of explaining this disgrace, Strogan offers the theory (which he picked up by speaking with insiders) that supporting returning troops is not politically expedient since it does not generate votes.
What does boost the polls is the leadership shown by spending billions on war machines and deploying thousands to war-torn areas.
But money spent helping individuals heal from physical, mental and emotional trauma? Those are wasted dollars - politically-speaking.
It falls on the public to force the government back to our conscience. We can no longer claim ignorance. We can no longer believe Canada has our veterans' backs.
To those who honour the fallen this week, take a few minutes more to write your MP demanding support for our soldiers.
- Sylvie Paillard