• Canadian veterans and Barj Dhahan

    Veterans Are Not Just For Remembering

    We must do more than simply “remember” our veterans, we must ensure that we are honouring and supporting them.

    Last week a group of veterans rallied on Parliament Hill to call attention to what they call a broken Veterans Affairs system in the country. Despite recent recommendations from a House of Commons committee to ensure better services for ex-military members, the protesters are skeptical that these recommendations will come to fruition. In the meantime, these veterans are not receiving the compensation and care that they need.

    Canada does well when it comes to “remembering” war veterans, like the recent D-Day commemoration ceremonies across the country, but are we doing enough to honour and support those who have fought to defend our country and to build peace around the world?

    The Canadian military has a stellar history of participating in conflict resolution and peace-building initiatives all over the world, a fact that makes me proud to be a Canadian.

    Canada Military Families Fund, Barj Dhahan, Canada India Foundation

    Barj Dhahan and Canada India Foundation present a cheque to the Military Families Fund in 2010.

    In 2010 I suggested as co-chair of the Canada India Foundation that we honour the Canadian Military Families Fund with a donation of $25,000 at our annual gala.

    But it wasn’t just in 2010 that I became interested in supporting our military or in international affairs. I arrived in Canada in June 1967, right as the 6-day Arab-Israeli war began. That was one of the first major world conflicts that sparked my interest in international peace-building and conflict resolution. In 1970, I wrote a letter to the United Nations Secretary General about the ongoing struggle in the Middle East, hoping to contribute in some small way. From then on, I have been keenly aware of global issues and continue to seek initiatives to help bring about change for peace in the world.

    Barj Dhahan letter from United Nations

    Letter from United Nations in 1970.

    Since my arrival in this country, I have appreciated Canada’s role in world affairs since the First World War, and have felt proud of the respect that our peace-building efforts have garnered internationally. But the troubles of the world are just as real today as they were then, and I know that we as Canadians and as world citizens have an important responsibility moving forward. A few weeks ago at the BC Leadership Prayer Breakfast in Vancouver, which I have participated in for many years, Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire spoke of the importance of “waging peace” in the world. He stressed the need to educate young children about other cultures and world conflicts so that they might become future peace builders. He also spoke of the importance of taking care of veterans – for how can we expect the young women and men of our country to put themselves on the front lines if we do not support them upon their return?

    I agree with General Dallaire; we need to support our veterans. This means ensuring that there is appropriate funding for veterans programs and services, and that these services are easily accessed with no time restrictions. Returning soldiers should not have to depend on private programs. This is a job for the Canadian government with the support of all Canadians.

    We must do more to ensure that we are honouring and supporting our veterans, that we are appreciating what each of them has done for each of us and for all humanity. We must do more than simply “remembering.”