Response to Minister Fantino’s Rebuttal of My Article February 24th 2014

Minister Fantino last week in the Hill Times, chose to write a rebuttal to my article on How Veterans Shoot Themselves in the Foot While Government Hits Them over the Head. The Minister’s usual political rhetoric shines through absent any real action on improving the quality of life of veterans and their families.

This week, Don Leonardo crafted a direct, factual and insightful letter to the Hill Times directly calling the Minister to account for his and the Department’s failings. Please find Don’s letter in its entirety below.

all the best


Veterans and serving Canadian Forces members are taking their own lives often because of a sense of abandonment and a loss of hope in society and government.

By DON LEONARDO THE HILL TIMES Published: Monday, 03/10/2014 12:00 am EDT

By Don Leonardo

 AIRDRIE, ALTA.—I read Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino’s recent letter to The Hill Times, “I’m committed to delivering results for veterans and their families,” with much bewilderment. Fantino writes of his “disappointment” with Sean Bruyea’s latest opinion piece and particularly “his off-handed suggestion that some veterans ‘have been unwittingly co-opted’ by the federal government.”

Bruyea has established a solid, fact-based reputation through 15 years of public advocacy for veterans. That is why he has been our advocacy adviser for eight years now to Veterans of Canada.

I have also been asked to “work together” by Fantino in moving forward the needs of our disabled veterans and their families. In contrast to Bruyea, Fantino takes sound facts as an apparent threat or personal attack. Instead, as I suggested to him, he should use this information as constructive criticism and work with us to provide hope and a future to our injured veterans.

The minister has expressed his “disappointment” frequently with veterans and veteran groups who don’t fall in line. I respectfully remind the minister that actions speak volumes in comparison to self and egos. Action with dispatch is needed now. Let’s reduce the widespread tragedies faced by veterans and their families on a day-to-day basis. Veterans and serving Canadian Forces members are taking their own lives often because of a sense of abandonment and a loss of hope in society and government. I gave notice of this tragedy to come in the first veterans stakeholder meeting four years ago. It’s obvious it fell on deaf ears.

As national president and founder of Veterans of, I too have a long history of advocating for veterans going back 14 years, often when things were at their worst. I worked with homeless veterans long before it became a popular political concern of this government and the previous veterans ombudsman. I can also take the pulse of the veteran community and receive instant feedback of my 7,400 members within minutes of sending a notice. Our website is the most progressive social online veterans communities available on the internet. What my members often communicate is an utter disgust with this government’s all too frequent ‘coopting’ of veterans groups for personal and political gain.

The minister professes to want to work with veterans. In my experience, this so-called cooperation comes with multiple caveats, including never disagreeing, never advocating for veterans in need, never asking for policy change, never pushing for improvements to programs, never reminding government of their commitment to make the New Veterans Charter a “living charter” and heaven forbid, never going to the media when the minister and his department frequently mislead, let down and manipulate all that it means to be a disabled veteran. I suggest you read Bruyea’s column again and take it as constructive criticism because he is right and you are wrong.

Minister, it is time to stop worrying less about your party and more about these tragedies. Put down your sword and shield and your copy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War; instead, pick up your pen and the many reports from Stakeholders, the Veterans Consultation Group and the Veterans Ombudsman, and show this government’s appreciation for our injured warriors. This can be done only by your actions. I’m sure these groups would prefer the recommendations that we all have provided in our past meetings.

Donald Leonardo is founder and national president of Veterans Canada, a stakeholder and a member of the Royal Canadian Legion-hosted Veterans Consultation Group.

The Hill Times (may require subscription)