Canada's treatment of war veterans described as national shame

The federal government doesnt seem to understand that many of these veterans dont have 18 months to wait, Layton said.

That means some of them wont make it. Its tragic and we are calling on the government to move quickly.

Layton and others emphasized that Sheardowns situation is not unique. Veterans and other elderly Canadians are affected by a chronic shortage of long-term beds across the country.

There are huge numbers of people who are facing this precise challenge and they dont even have a war career to help them, said Susan Eng, vice-president of CARP, an advocacy group for older Canadians. The point is, if somebody like him cant get the help that they need, then what hope do they have?

New Democrat MP Paul Dewar, who holds the downtown Ottawa riding where the Sheardowns live, said governments of all stripes like to praise Canadas war veterans but those are just words and they mean little when a gentleman is trying to find basic services.

It is a national embarrassment, he added.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said Prime Minister Stephen Harpers Conservative government would rather spend $16 billion on new fighter jets that Canada doesnt need than make sure there are long-term care beds for veterans who we laud in the abstract but ignore in the particular.

The measure of a country is how it looks after its soldiers when they come home, Ignatieff added.

The test of whether you actually respect what this man did is whether you look after him when he has Alzheimers disease. When the shouting dies away and the flags are pulled down, hes still in his hospital bed and thats the test of whether you care about someone. Theyve just got to do something. Its ridiculous, he said.

If people serve your country, you take care of them, period.

Support for seniors

While the lion’s share of support for low-income seniors comes from federal programs, most provinces have top-up programs to provide extra support to those receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).

© The Toronto Star

Keywords: veterans, healthcare