For over 105 years, the Soldiers’ Aid Commission has helped Ontarian veterans of the First and Second World Wars, as well as the Korean War.
On Sept. 17, the Ontario government introduced legislation that will provide financial assistance to more veterans in need.
The Soldiers’ Aid Commission Act, 2020, will ensure veterans of all ages and their families would be eligible to apply for financial assistance.
“When we were first elected Premier Doug Ford and our team made a commitment that we were going to work to help our veterans in Ontario and we took a number of steps to do just that,” said Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services Todd Smith in an interview with Moose FM this morning.
Smith says that this is the latest commitment from his government.
North Bay’s Michael Harrington, a veteran who served over five years in the Canadian Military, says he’s glad that veterans are getting the attention, and help, they deserve.
“I hope they help the truly needy ones. I hope they help those who lost limbs, have received traumatic brain injuries, or have PTSD and can never work again. PTSD… it takes a lot for a soldier to admit those four letters. It’s a pride thing. The military teaches us to soldier on. To dig deep. To find that wall you’ve hit and to climb it. With this money, I hope the Provincial government will help those people who need it. And fast. I know a lot of people that could use a hand up. Not a handout, but a hand up. Because they’re disabled, and they have nothing, or nowhere to go.” he said.
Harrington spent most of his time in the military with CFB Trenton in the 8 Air Communications and Control Squadron. He was deployed over 65% of his time there, whether it was across the ocean, all around Canada, or even up in the Arctic.
“I don’t have issues that some veterans have. But for bothers or sisters who have lost an eye, an arm, legs, for some of them who are so traumatized that they can’t get out of the house. For those who are addicted to substances. For those who came back asking for help but it wasn’t there. Yeah… we volunteer to join. And yeah, we volunteer to go to war. But we don’t volunteer to get left behind when we get home. Freedom isn’t free. Someone paid the price some way, somehow. I’m hoping this is a step in the right direction.” he said.
Minister Smith says this is a way to modernize the Commission.
“What it does is it modernizes an old act. Many people probably have never heard of the Soldiers’ Aid Commission. It was created in 1915. Unfortunately, the folks that it was serving, namely Second World War and Korean War veterans… It’s a sad reality but there isn’t many left. Every year living veterans who served in those wars decreases. We will never forget their sacrifices, but it’s also time we honour a new generation of servicemen and women.” he said.
Smith says that some 4,000 members leave the Canadian Armed Forces every year to live in Ontario and that some of them need assistance.
“One of the things that we have been helping with, mainly, because of the old population of the veterans we were serving were things like dentures, hearing aids, walkers, wheelchairs. We’re expanding those items to include more modern things like moving costs, repairs to homes, clothing, as well as employment re-training. That is really, really important… for those leaving the military to assist them and to get the help they need in that area.” he said.
Smith says that he wants the 105-year-old tradition to keep going.
“We want to see it continue. Veteran Affairs is the responsibility of the Federal Government as well as many other benevolent funds like the Legions, Ontario Command… this is a sort of last resort program out there for people who don’t get the support they need from either the Federal Government or those funds. It’s important to Premiere Ford, It’s important to Minister Vic Fedeli, and it’s important to many members of our government to be supportive of our Ontario Veterans.” he said.
Smith says that Legions and other organizations who work closely with veterans are pleased the government is moving in this direction.
“They all said it’s been a long time coming. I’m 50 years old and was born in 1970. It hasn’t changed since then. It’s welcomed. The 8 members of the commission, who have been serving and have been doing God’s work for a long, long time helping our veterans, they’re really excited about the expansion and to help those younger veterans that are younger in our communities that haven’t been able to get support from the Ontario government over many years.” he said.
To support that next generation of servicemen and women, the government is proposing to increase its investment in the Soldiers’ Aid Commission to more than $1.5 million annually. The funding provided by the commission will continue to support veterans who are unable to pay for health-related items such as hearing aids, wheelchairs, and glasses, home-related items such as home accessibility modifications and repair costs, and personal items and support services such as clothing and counselling.
“Regardless of when and where they served, our veterans face many challenges,” said Minister Smith. “This includes everything from post-traumatic stress disorder, physical injury, challenges finding employment, and even at times facing homelessness, all while trying to navigate a complex support system.”
The President of the Royal Canadian Legion, Ontario Command, is thrilled with today’s announcement.
“Big thrill today is it opened it up to modern-day, still serving, and what we call ‘new day’ veterans,” he said. “Veterans from after the Korean conflict. We’re hoping and we’re optimistic that this will be a big thing for our veterans. It will help us here with the Royal Canadian Legion to get some help to veterans who are homeless, help with service dogs, and other items that will be available through the commission.”