Royal Canadian Legion pressures feds to boost aid for vets’ funerals
Published Thursday, January 31, 2013 6:45AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 31, 2013 9:27PM EST
The Royal Canadian Legion is spearheading a letter-writing campaign launched Thursday to urge the government to cover the full cost of burying veterans.
Since 2004 the legion has been asking the federal government to improve funeral and burial benefits for veterans, claiming that what the government offers is inadequate.
For example, the legion says the $3,600 the government currently offers veterans’ families for funeral services is too little.
According to Gordon Moore, the legion’s dominion president, that amount covers the cost of the funeral director, the urn, the viewing room and transportation to the cemetery.
“If there’s anything left over there could be a small reception after,” Moore told CTV News Channel on Thursday.
Citing statistics from the national funeral directors’ association, Moore said the average cost of burying someone in Canada is $7,000.
“The bottom line is this…the government of the day, when it comes down to veterans who’ve served in uniform, they really don’t care about them,” Moore said.
Joining the legion in the campaign was the Funeral Service Association of Canada, as well as the Last Post Fund, an independent agency that administers the federal burial program for Veterans Affairs Canada.
Last fall, reports revealed that the fund rejected more than 20,000 applications submitted to it by families of poor soldiers who had died. That was roughly two-thirds the total number of pleas the fund had received since 2006.
In a statement released Thursday, the Liberals demanded that the Conservative government immediately increase financial assistance to the fund.
Moore said the legion would like to see the government provide $10,000 for low-income veterans’ families, saying only about 400 veterans who die every year require assistance exceeding $3,600.
“You’d think they’d be able to find at least $4 million within to budget to be able to make sure that any veteran who’s living in poverty will have a dignified and respectful funeral,” he said.
The legion urged its 330,000 members as well as members of the public, to write to their Minsters of Parliament demanding the funeral stipend be increased.
In a statement responding to the appeal, Jean-Christophe de la Rue, press secretary to the veterans affairs minister, said, “While all of our programs are under constant review as we look for ways to improve them through a challenging fiscal climate, Canada's funeral and burial program is one of the most comprehensive among allied nations and is the only program to cover full burial costs.”
According to Veterans Affairs, the Australian government provides its veterans $2,076 for service-related deaths with a means test; the United Kingdom provides $3,498 for service-related deaths; while the United States provides no financial assistance for veterans’ funerals but offers burial at the National Cemetery at no cost to veterans’ families.
With files from The Canadian Press