Tuesday, March 3, 2009

We honour all veterans ... or none of them

There has been a bit of controversy lately in this part of the world -- and I suspect it's happening across Canada. This has to do with what privileges we should be giving those who qualify to get veteran's parking plates, specifically what rights they should have to park at parking meters. Some communities are saying yes to all veterans, some are saying not at all. Others, like Hamilton, are attempting to limit the program to vets of the Second World War and Korea.

While we should be honouring our men and women who served us, free parking seems like a less than honourable way to do so, considering the pathetic benefits many of them receive from Veterans' Affairs -- if they qualify for them at all.

Not only that, but how do we determine what war one fought in other than by age? Unlike many US states, where special plates specifically say what war one fought in (World War II, Vietnam, etc) the plates here simply say "Veteran" or "Ancien Combatant" with no specific reference to which war. Also, the plates in Ontario are available to anyone who can prove they fought for Canada or one of its allies, in war or in peace; not only that, the program is also extended veterans of the wartime the Merchant Marine, Mounties who have served in peacekeeping operations, Canadians who have served at least three years in the Canadian forces in regular or reserve duties and may STILL BE SERVING, or any Canadian who volunteered for the US or its allies in the Vietnamese conflict. (Maybe someone can enlighten me as to the rules in other provinces.)

If we're going to honour veterans we should honour all of them or none of them at all. To just pick and choose between those wars which were "right" and those which were "wrong," or alternately to just pick a war to stop the honours is discriminatory -- we honour those who fought in all wars even if we disagreed with some or all of them. We keep forgetting that the 1991 Gulf War, and the current Afghanistan engagement, did then or is now creating hundreds of veterans, many of whom have developed PTSD and will be on LTD for the rest of their lives. They deserve no less credit than those who fought in the Bulge or in Incheon.

And let's go beyond the parking thing -- and my position on this is, all veterans get to park for free at parking meters, not just some of them. It's time to pay veterans the benefits they deserve from federal coffers. They sacrificed a lot and to them we owe a huge debt of gratitude that goes beyond money, but they at the same time need dignity that goes beyond just a simple thank you.

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