While the government’s announcement of its intention to adopt a more inclusive national anthem during yesterday’s throne speech garnered a bizarrely high level of media attention, the announcement of the reinstatement of benefits under the War Veterans Allowance Act received relatively little attention despite its significance for our bravest citizens. In their own way, both measures attempt to rectify historical inequities. In the case of the War Veterans Allowance (WVA), the extension of benefits to former soldiers will go a long way towards ensuring fair treatment for those who endured the hardships of war.
The War Veterans Allowance (WVA) is a form of financial assistance available from Veterans Affairs Canada. In recognition of war service, qualified persons are provided with a regular monthly income to meet basic needs. Under this program, veterans’ income may be supplemented up to a maximum ceiling that is established in accordance with other federal income support programs, such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). WVA recipients also have access to special emergency and health benefits.
Prior to 1995, Allied Veterans (former soldiers of those allied countries that fought alongside Canada during the First World War, Second World War and Korean War) with 10 years post-war residency in Canada were eligible for Veterans’ benefits. In 1995, a legislative amendment removed that eligibility. In June, 2009 the parliament of Canada enacted Bill C-33, An Act to amend the War Veterans Allowance Act. The bill amended the WVA Act to allow low-income Allied Veterans who moved to Canada after 1995 and resided in Canada for a total period of at least 10 years to apply for benefits. It also expanded eligibility to include Allied Veterans of the Korean War. It is estimated that 3,600 Allied Veterans and up to 1,000 family members will benefit from the legislative change.
History speaks to the necessity of the reinstatement of the WVA to allied veterans. According to government records, many of these men and women have been Canadian residents for decades. After the Second World War, the Government attempted to attract immigrants to increase the number of skilled workers. Incentives included eligibility for the War Veterans Allowance and a promise that they would be treated similarly to Canadian Veterans. While the reinstatement of the WVA was a relatively minor component of the throne speech, it is a laudable measure that has made it possible for many allied veterans to access the same benefits available to the Canadian-born soldiers with whom they fought.
Keywords: veterans, GIS