As a former Liberal Critic for National Defence, and an MP who cares deeply about Canadian veterans, I am constantly seeking opportunities to lend support, resources and care. That is why I was so excited when UBC’s Dr. Marvin Westwood from the Veterans Transition Network (VTN) asked me to organize a reception at which a theatrical performance about veterans’ psychological health could be staged.
Thanks largely to the hard work of Marv and my staff team in Ottawa this amazing event took place on Tuesday, September 20th, sponsored by Speaker of the House of Commons, the Honourable Geoff Regan. The Ministers of National Defence and and Veterans Affairs Minister both attended. I invited the Parliamentary Secretary for Veteran’s Affairs, Ms. Karen McCrimmon, plus Veterans Affairs critics from the NDP and Conservative parties to co-host the event with me.
During the reception there was a display of the lestweforgetCANADA mural and performance of Contact! Unload, a theatre performance featuring Canadian veterans telling their stories of trauma and of transitioning back to civilian life and psychological well-being.
I was thrilled to be able to help draw attention to the challenges veterans face re-integrating into civilian life and the very effective Veterans Transition Program pioneered and developed at UBC by Dr. Westwood. Certain challenges can be overcome with the help of VTP counselling and healing deepened through creative engagement in the arts and re-telling personal stories to those who need to hear them; and then there are other challenges that returning veterans should not have grappled with on top of everything else.
The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring Canadian Veterans and their families receive the care, compassion and respect they deserve. That is why on October 1st, the Government of Canada delivered on its promise to increase the Veterans Earnings Loss Benefit from 75% to 90% of a Veteran’s pre-release salary.
These Government initiatives in support of veterans will have a direct impact on Marvin’s colleagues, the veterans who so effectively animated Contact! Upload. I want to recognize each of them individually and as a group. They are:
- Corporal Timothy Garthside (Ret’d.) 700 Communications Squadron, 2002-2008; Afghanistan: 2006
- Corporal Luke Bokenfohr RM (Ret’d) Royal Marine Commandos, 2001-2011; Northern Ireland: 2002; Iraq: 2003, 2005; Afghanistan: 2008-2009
- Sergeant Stephen Clews The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) 2003-Present; Afghanistan: 2007-2008, 2009-2010
- Corporal Tim Laidler CD (Ret’d) The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) 2002- 2015; Afghanistan: 2008
- Officer Cadet Phillip Lopresti The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, 2016-Present.
- Major Chuck MacKinnon CD The Royal Westminster Regiment, 1978-Present; Cyprus: 1992-1993; Afghanistan: 2009-2010
Let’s share the Veterans Transition Program success story with other veterans, support organizations and politicians who can help make a difference in the lives of these men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces have fought hard to make a positive difference to our lives.
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