By all accounts, Ed Holder, the MP for London West, is popular among his colleagues from all sides of the house. He is also, I am told, popular back in London, where, in 2008, he upset Liberal incumbent Sue Barnes and then successfully defended his seat in 2011. But Holder, like, I suspect, a lot of Conservative backbench MPs who work hard and are popular enough back home in their constituencies, has had to take some uncomfortable questions from his voters about some recent behaviour by Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino [Video here gives a you flavour of how upset veterans are] Fantino issued an apology himself today.
Londoners would know Fantino, of course, because Fantino used to be the city’s chief of police.
Today, Holder issued the latest issue of his electronic newsletter “Holder’s Happenings” with this opening anecdote/explanation about Fantino. I find it noteworthy for his tone but also for its substance. Conservative MPs, I’m pretty sure, cannot be seen to be uncaring about veterans:
This week, I received a copy of a book from a World War II Veteran who now lives in British Columbia. The gentleman’s name is Frederick Price and the book he has written, Wounded…Three Times in 70 Days, reflects on his memories and experiences during the War. What is particularly poignant is that he served with my Dad – Donald Holder and my Uncle Byron Holder with the New Brunswick Rangers Regiment. They enlisted on September 01, 1939 when war was declared against Hitler. I suppose in some ways it was new and exciting for them; it certainly was a slow time economically where my Dad came from (Holderville if you didn’t know) and in the advent of the depression and with the prospect of a job, an adventure and a sense of doing the right thing, they enlisted. So did my Mom’s brother, Chuck McIntyre, from Glace Bay, Cape Breton who enlisted with the 48th Highlanders. Fast forward to 1962 and I am eight years old. I went up to the attic in our house, opened up a trunk and discovered my Dad’s medals and dog tags. I rushed downstairs declaring my dad a hero. He said “I’m no hero, son”. I protested that he had medals so he had to be a hero. He gently pushed back and challenged me to do ‘good things’ out there when I grew up and I would get my own medals.
You see, Dad never talked about the war. I now know it was because his brother, Byron never came home. He is buried in Belgium at the cemetery in Ardagem along with 700 other Canadian soldiers. I had the personal honour to visit my uncle’s gravesite and will forever respect his service and the memories of the others who also never came home. How can we not also honour today’s Veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much in the name of Canadian values and to make this world a better place?
I have the most profound respect for our Veterans – and I say with conviction as do all Members of Parliament. I know that to be the case. Emotions were pretty evident this week in the House when one of the most honourable people I know, Minister Julian Fantino apologized for a perceived slight to several Veterans. You all know the Chief. He spent many years in charge of our London Police Service and served our community with distinction. He put the needs of Londoners first. He served in several other forces including his role as Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police. Julian has the deepest respect for Veterans as he continues leading a review of the New Veterans Charter. It’s interesting that much of the perception of how Veterans are regarded by the government centres around the closing of 9 Veterans Affairs offices across Canada. The decision was made to provide greater support for Veterans by utilizing every Service Canada Centre across Canada. That number is around 650 offices. As well, for those Veterans who require a home visit, they will be more easily accommodated. That’s the plan, and as we work through providing a consistent level of service across the country, I believe our Veterans will be better served. I think if you reflect on the levels of benefits available to Veterans today, you know they are significantly greater than at any time in Canada’s military history. To honour the memories of my father, Uncle Byron, Uncle Chuck – and to honour the service of Frederick Price, all Veterans, and those who died in the service of Canada, that is how it should be.