A Halifax veteran says a little piece of plastic could go a long way in recognizing the contribution made by retired service members to Canada.
Gus Cameron, who spent 26 years in the Royal Canadian Navy, is travelling to Ottawa today to help deliver a petition that calls on the federal government to reinstate photo identification cards for veterans.
He said since the cancellation of the National Defence Identification 75 Record of Service cards in early 2016, veterans don't have any portable proof of their service.
This summer, he created an e-petition to the House of Commons that garnered 1,725 signatures. More than a quarter, 485, came from people living in Nova Scotia.
"You retire and your sense of camaraderie or brotherhood sort of gets lost, and having a small card in your wallet or purse is a small token of Canada's appreciation of what we did," Cameron said.
For him, the card would be a "thank you for your service, here is proof that you served, carry that with you and please enjoy any benefits you get.'"
Ombudsman called for ID card
Retired members can now apply for a card that offers them discounts at some locations including CANEX, the military's retailer, but Cameron said a rewards card doesn't go far enough.
In a 2012 report, Guy Parent, the veterans ombudsman, called for the federal government to issue veterans an identification card. He noted the now-defunct National Defence Identification 75 card wasn't intended as ID.
Parent said his office had "long-standing concerns" about the Department of Veterans Affairs's ability to contact and keep track of retired members who don't already receive its services.
A card would "complete their transition to civilian life in a formal and meaningful way by providing them with a tangible symbol of valued membership and recognition as veterans," the report said.
Parent's report said a card would be useful for both "commemorative purposes or for the purpose of providing benefits and services."
Halifax MP Andy Fillmore, who will be sponsoring Cameron's petition, said the lack of cards is "a gap" and he brought the issue to former Veterans Affairs minister Kent Hehr in the summer.
In an email, a department spokesman said VAC is looking at a variety of options for a new photo ID card for veterans.
"VAC is exploring several options ranging from honouring, highlighting their record of service and promoting a sense of identity and pride, to receiving available discounts and other benefits in their communities," wrote Marc Lescoutre.
Fillmore said he hopes the card could be in place by Cameron's petition's deadline of Nov. 10, 2018.
"Anything at all that we can do to make their experience as veterans more straightforward and less bureaucratic I think is incumbent on us," he said.
Fillmore added that ID cards might make it easier for homeless veterans to receive services.
Fundraised trip expenses
There was no funding for Cameron's trip to Ottawa so members of the UN-NATO veterans group he is a part of raised money in a day for his flights.
He questions why the federal government didn't follow Parent's recommendations over the past five years and said Ottawa should never have cancelled its earlier ID card programs.
"Just backtrack and correct it, that's all I'm asking," he said. "It's just trying to take care of the people that took care of this country."