Earlier this month, Canadians learned that as many as 2,250 the the nations veterans have been forced onto the streets, living in homeless shelters across the country.
But while the revelation came as a shock to many, it was no surprise to retired Col. Pat Stogran, Canada’s former – and first – Veterans Ombudsman.
Stogran fought a long and public battle with the former Conservative government about conditions for Veterans – and began sounding the alarm over this exact issue seven years ago.
He says he first dug in after after a journalist asked him if the problem was an issue here, as it was in the U.S. and U.K.
“I was brand new to the job and I said I don’t know but I’ll get back to you. And when I went to the department to ask the question they basically said we don’t have that problem in Canada, and I thought that was a little bit naive.”
“Oh, I was angry, angry, angry.”
Stogran says the federal government had no appetite to address the issue, going as far as to officially deny it.
“Really, during my three years as Veterans Ombudsman their intransigence was just gobsmacking.”
Stogran says after being repeatedly stonewalled, he “went rogue,” taking his message public.
He says he felt that if the government was prepared to let veterans who had bled for the country suffer, how would they treat ordinary Canadians?
But he says the experience took its toll – more than his tours in Bosinan and Afghan warzones.
“I haven’t felt the effects of trauma as badly as I did coming out of the job as Veterans Ombudsman. I just couldn’t believe having served the country for 30 years our government would knowingly disadvantage our own sons and daughters that had been butchered at behest of the government of the day.”
Stogran says while he found it theraputic to watch Canadians come together and vote for change, the jury is out on whether veterans will get a better deal.
“I have to say I will reserve judgement. I have no faith in the system. None of the mechanisms that have allowed the previous government to run amock have changed. We need genuine reform.”
He says until substantive policies are put in place to force government transparency and accountability, he fears nothing will change.