Courtenay-Alberni MP demands support for veterans service organizations

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns has called on the Liberal government to fulfill Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to provide emergency support to Canadian Legions and other organizations providing essential services to veterans during the COVID pandemic.

“We were encouraged when the prime minister promised that help was coming to veterans service organizations during one of his daily updates in June,” Johns said. “There has been nothing since then, and veterans are increasingly isolated and in need of mental health and other services that have been interrupted because of the pandemic.”

There are seven Legion branches and one Army, Navy and Airforce club in Johns’ riding, which includes Courtenay and Cumberland. All of them provide important services for active members of the military and their families, and thousands of veterans who have retired in Courtenay-Alberni. The riding, on mid-Vancouver Island, has the oldest average age in all of Canada, and the Legions have provided important services to address issues such as social isolation and mental health throughout their history.

In an Aug. 10 letter to Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay, Johns states: “We were heartened by the prime minister’s promise last month that the government was working towards supporting veterans service organizations but it has not materialized. These organizations are currently facing significant financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic but are not able to access many emergency services because of the eligibility criteria.”

Johns reminded the minister that the veterans service organizations provide valuable assistance to his department, which is struggling to reduce a massive backlog in disability applications from eligible veterans and their families. Services provided by the organizations include addressing homelessness, social isolation and mental health issues such as PTSD.

“I respectfully request that this issue be treated urgently and that we not place those who have sacrificed so much for Canada at further risk,” Johns wrote to the minister.

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