Veterans Ombudsman Pat Strogan delivered an emotional press conference in Ottawa Tuesday in which he detailed the ways in which this government is failing our veterans. Saying that he was speaking out in order to highlight how poorly many veterans are treated Stragan asked Canadians to stand up for their “sons and daughters.”
Strogan, a retired colonel appointed by Prime Minister Harper as the first ever ombudsman for veterans in 2007, vowed at the time to “go to the wall” for those who have served our country. Symbolically, his first day of work as the veterans champion was Remembrance Day, and by all accounts he has more than fulfilled his pledge.
So much so that, like so many before him who have dared to criticize this government – he is being removed from his position. This is an outcome that he had predicted would be the likely result of his decision to hold the government to task for their actions. In a recent interview with the Ottawa Citizen, he declared that he “want(ed) to bring down the anonymity about the decisions,” that he felt were being made at the Treasury Board and Privy Council Office that were blocking initiatives to help Afghan War veterans, and he noted that many of the people making those decisions earned more in a year that the lump sum disability payment offered to soldiers who lost limbs. But he also noted “I suspect that, because I am taking aim at central agencies, they’re setting the conditions for sure that I won’t be around”.
His dismissal has not been well received by the veterans that he has served, and in his conference, Strogan accused the bureaucracy of impeding his work, and of being “deliberately obstructive and deceptive”. Strogan has long been critical of changes to veteran’s policies such as the replacement of pensions with lump-sum payments, and in his conference vowed to spend his last three months in his position raising public awareness of the plight of Canadian veterans in the hopes that citizens will pressure Ottawa to improve the system.
With this dismissal, Strogan joins the growing ranks of other watchdogs terminated after making the mistake of actually fulfilling their mandates of providing transparent independent oversight of government activities. Others who have faced this fate include budget officer Kevin Page, military police complaints commissioner Peter Tinsley, RCMP complaints commissioner Paul Kennedy, nuclear safety commissioner Linda Keen, and ethics watchdog Bernard Shapiro.
It isn’t just out veterans who deserve better. Our watchdogs do too.
Under this government an appointed watchdog seems to have about the same life expectancy in Parliament as any other dog would at the Humane Society. If they keep their head down and behave – they have a shot at adoption. Otherwise – well….