Erin O'Toole, Jason Kenney say reservists will get same benefits as regular force
Unequal treatment of reservists has been sensitive topic for Conservatives
The federal government has vowed to provide veteran reservists access to the same benefits that full-time members of the Canadian Forces receive to cover injuries from their military service.
Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O'Toole made the announcement in Halifax on Friday along with Justice Minister Peter MacKay. Defence Minister Jason Kenney then echoed the announcement in Calgary.
O`Toole said reservists made up more than 25 per cent of military members sent overseas for Canada's mission to Afghanistan, and they continue to play an important role for the country.
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Canada sent 27,000 reservists to Afghanistan, and 14 of them were killed during the mission, O'Toole added.
"It means that all of Canada's veterans, not just some, deserve the right to be treated with care, compassion and respect. And respect means peace of mind for the families, knowing that we're there if there is an injury in service to the country," he said.
"They are critical to Canada's own defence and critical to Canada's interests abroad, and they bear the same price."
Starting next month, veteran reservists will be eligible for earnings-loss benefits on the same basis as full-time veterans of the Forces.
The new approach includes part-time reserve force veterans who are enrolled in the vocational rehabilitation program, including those who are getting benefits from the Defence Department's service income insurance plan, O'Toole said.
It also extends to survivors of reservists who died as a result of their military service.
The change means the minimum earnings-loss benefit part-time reservists are eligible for amounts to more than $42,000 a year. Many will make more based on the rank they held, O'Toole said.
Part-time reservists currently eligible for $24K a year
Currently, part-time reserve force veterans are eligible for monthly benefits totalling $24,300 annually.
According to Veterans Affairs Canada, the earnings-loss benefit is a "taxable, monthly benefit that insures your total income will be at least 75 per cent of your gross, pre-release military salary."
O'Toole said reservists already enrolled in rehabilitation will see the benefits as well. Survivors of part-time reservists will also benefit, he says, "No one will be left out."
"If they are injured in their service to Canada, Canada will be there for them," he added.
Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent said the announcement reinforces his sentiment that a "veteran is a veteran is a veteran."
"A debt must be repaid to you. It doesn't matter where you are or who you are what kind of service you are in. The impact on your family and yourself and the quality of life is the same," Parent said.
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The unequal treatment of reservists has been a sensitive topic for the Conservatives, who have put a politically charged overhaul of the reserve force organization on hold.
In the House of Commons Friday, Liberal MP Geoff Regan, who represents Halifax West, accused the government of only reacting when controversy strikes.
"The government has been told for years it should change the situation in relation to reservists and only when there's a scandal and there's political pressure, do they actually do something," he said.
"The ombudsman called for them to actually increase the benefit from 75 to 90 per cent of a veteran's earnings and they've refused to do that."
Mike Blais, who founded the Canadian Veterans Advocacy group, also said he hopes the announcement is not a "headline without substance" and will be implemented as advertised.
National Defence was supposed to have delivered a new structure for the part-time, volunteer force by this spring's budget, but it likely won't be done until after the election, scheduled for October.
With files from The Canadian Press