Photo-ops force many WWII veterans to wait for Bomber Command awards
Published Wednesday, September 11, 2013 9:59PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 11, 2013 11:17PM EDT
Cecil Glazier waited nearly 70 years to be recognized for his service in the Bomber Command during the Second World War.
When the Canadian government began handing out Bomber Command Bars to honour veterans like Glazier, he learned he would have to wait some more.
Veterans Affairs Canada staff were told to hold off on mailing the awards to about 1,500 elderly veterans as Minister Julian Fantino made his way across the country, presenting the bars to small groups of vets at commemorative ceremonies.
To Glazier’s son Peter, it seemed like government photo-ops were more important than ensuring elderly veterans -- many of them in their 90s -- received the recognition.
Peter Glazier told CTV News that he spoke to a “very compassionate” Veterans Affairs staffer “who was quite sincere but somewhat embarrassed these awards were being held up while the politicians got more photo-ops.”
He said some of his father’s friends didn’t live to see the award and he’s worried the same will happen to his 93-year-old father.
After CTV News contacted his office, Fantino had a sudden change of heart and personally instructed his department to mail out the Bomber Command Bars as soon as possible.
Earlier, Fantino said the photo-ops with veterans were educational.
“We wanted to elevate the award -- the recognition -- to a level where it’s more public and there’s more awareness,” he said at a Bomber Command Bar ceremony in Calgary.
NDP’s veterans affairs critic, Peter Stoffer, said Fantino didn’t need the publicity.
“I can assure Mr. Fantino he doesn’t need to be there to get his smiling face in front of the cameras in order to do the right thing by presenting these bars right away,” he said.
All veterans who hold the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and who served a minimum of one day with Bomber Command are eligible to receive the Bomber Command bar.
Jack Bowes-Binns, a 92-year-old veteran who is about the get the long-awaited award, said he understands why the minister and government officials are staging award ceremonies.
“They just love to be able to get on TV and shake hands with veterans,” he said.
Many Canadians who were part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan served with the Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons in the No. 6 Bomber Group. It was the only non-British group that served in the Bomber Command during the Second World War and its members garnered about 8,000 decorations for bravery.
However, the Canadian bombers were shunned by the government when they returned from the war because their missions incurred heavy civilian casualties. They were never formally recognized until now.