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Rusnak Around the Riding: Veterans and Legion members

Last month I held a roundtable in Thunder Bay with Veterans and Legion members to discuss some of the issues they are facing in our riding.

Last month I held a roundtable in Thunder Bay with Veterans and Legion members to discuss some of the issues they are facing in our riding. It was an extremely productive meeting and I was glad to see a strong presence of several generations of service men and women working together.

A major topic of conversation was how to better consider the needs of younger Veterans. One idea raised suggested this could be achieved by developing a mentorship program wherein seasoned Vets meet with newer Vets to reach out and ensure that they are transitioning well back into civilian life. This idea was brought forward by a young veteran who has seen many of his comrades fall through the cracks after returning to Canada as a result of a lack of hands-on help and sense of community.

The group also discussed ways in which current Legions could be transitioned and repurposed into spaces that are welcoming to all veterans. These facilities could include gyms, counselling support services, and coffee-shops or kitchens. A more inclusive space would encourage greater access and participation by a wider demographic of Veterans, and allow for important inter-generational connections to be made.

We also discussed a potential transitional program for new Veteran to participate in between finishing their service and receiving support from Veterans’ Affairs Canada (VAC). This program could better outline the services available to Vets and then connect them directly with counselling supports and other available programs.

These were all excellent ideas, and I thank everyone who came out to suggest ways in which our Veterans can be better served and included. We are committed to hosting follow-up discussions and working as a community to help those who have so bravely served our country.

Our government understands that Canada’s Veterans need more support. The first step towards this goal was to reopen the Veterans Affairs office in Thunder Bay. Since January this office has been assisting Veterans by answering questions about VAC benefits, services, and how to access them, arranging medical examinations, handing in receipts and completing and submitting applications.

During a recent conversation with one of my Veteran constituents, I was pleased to hear that the service at the newly-opened Thunder Bay VAC office has been outstanding; he mentioned the care and consideration the staff put into their work has made him feel more positive. I want to extend my gratitude to the wonderful staff at the Thunder Bay Veteran Affairs office, and hope they keep up their phenomenal efforts to support our local Veterans with the care, respect and attention they deserve.

Canada’s Veterans have dedicated their lives to the defence of our country. They deserve our unwavering support, acknowledgment and gratitude. Our Government is committed to ensuring that we deliver the programs and services our Veterans and their families need for a seamless and successful transition from military to civilian life, and continued supports throughout their lives.