By now it’s clear Rick Mercer is deeply concerned about the treatment of Canada’s veterans.
The CBC host has addressed the topic many times in the past few years — from the cuts at Veterans Affairs to pension battles to the controversial lump-sum payments awarded to injured soldiers.
But his rant on the Rick Mercer Report, which focused on the class-action lawsuit veterans of the Afghan war have launched against the federal government, felt more personal than most.
Mercer began by making reference to the $700,000 feds have already spent in legal fees battling veterans in court. A group of ex-soldiers have argued the new veterans charter does not offer the same benefits as the previous pension system.
Federal lawyers, however, have argued in court that Ottawa has no special obligation or “social contract” with vets, as was proclaimed during the First World War by Prime Minister Robert Borden. The lawyers also argue it is unfair to bind Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government to vows made nearly a century ago.
“They admit, yes, prior to the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden promised that Canada had a sacred obligation to veterans,” Mercer said. “But our government is saying that’s no longer true. No obligation at all.”
But Mercer says that for anyone who knows a disabled veteran, this comes as no surprise. And it turns out he is one such person.
“My buddy Paul is a veteran,” Mercer said. “He lost both his legs in Afghanistan. Every year they make him prove over and over again his legs are still gone.”
Mercer said Paul has been told four times that he’d have to get a note from a doctor proving the extent of his injuries.
“Literally a note saying his legs have not grown back,” he said. “You know, in case he’s pulling a fast one.”
Mercer ended his rant with a suggestion for Canadians, should they ever run into an MP boasting about how much is being done to care for veterans.
“Don’t take them at their word,” he said. “Tell them to prove it.”
Retired Master Cpl. Paul Franklin, who was injured in a 2006 suicide bombing in Kandahar, has confirmed that he was was the subject of Mercer’s rant.
In a Facebook post that has since been published on The Huffington Post Canada, Franklin said Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole requested a phone call with him shortly after Mercer’s show aired.
In his written reply, Franklin told the rookie minister that he allowed Mercer to share his story “for all vets and their families that fight through this horror every day of their lives.”
He also declined to speak with O’Toole by phone, saying the conversation may help him but not hundreds of thousands of other veterans.
“Until we are treated by all parties with the respect, dignity, honour and compassion we deserve, then I can’t in good conscience take a phone call regarding my issues,” he wrote.
Franklin, who lives in Edmonton, has become an advocate for amputees and serves on the board of directors of the Amputee Coalition of Canada.
He was also the subject of a 2006 documentary that appeared on CBC’s “The National.”