JANE TABER AND SHAWN MCCARTHY
HALIFAX and OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Nov. 23 2014, 10:12 AM EST
Last updated Sunday, Nov. 23 2014, 8:25 PM EST
The federal government is boosting its commitment to veterans, spending $200-million over five years to help those suffering from operational stress injuries and fund the creation of a new assessment and treatment facility in Halifax.
Veterans’ advocates welcomed the funding, but remained skeptical about the seriousness of the government’s support, given that $1.13-billion in funding budgeted for programs has been allowed to lapse since the Tories took power in 2006. Documents tabled in the House of Commons last week revealed that roughly one-third of the unused money was handed back by Veterans Affairs between 2011 and 2013 when the government was engaged in a massive deficit-cutting drive.
Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson and Justice Minister Peter MacKay announced the new package of mental-health measures Sunday in Halifax, where politicians, senior military officials and security experts from around the world were meeting at the sixth annual Halifax International Security Forum.
The Conservative government has been criticized by veterans’ groups for its handling of mental health issues in the forces and among ex-military personnel. Some 128 members of regular forces and 32 reservists have killed themselves in the past decade.
Mr. Fantino told reporters in Halifax that the lapsed $1.13-billion is “not lost money” and has been put back into veterans’ programs.