'We're nothing to you': Spouse of veteran with PTSD confronts Fantino over funding
Karolyn Coorsh, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, May 29, 2014 3:08PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 29, 2014 7:54PM EDT
As Veterans Affairs commits millions in funding to an advertising campaign, the spouse of a former Canadian Forces sergeant says the ad dollars are being misspent while the families of veterans suffering from PTSD continue to struggle without sufficient government aid.
The department, headed by Julian Fantino, is spending an additional $4 million on advertising this year in what the Veterans Affairs minister says is an effort to separate the truth from “misinformation” that has circulated regarding the treatment of former soldiers.
But Jenny Migneault demanded answers about the funding Thursday, chasing after the Veterans Affairs Minister as he left the House of Commons committee hearing.
“Mr. Fantino, I’m just a vet’s spouse,” she shouted at the minister. “You’re forgetting us, once more. We’re nothing to you.”
Fantino did not stop to answer questions from reporters or Migneault, saying he had to get to a vote in the House of Commons. The incident was reminiscent of another uncomfortable encounter Fantino had with veterans who demanded answers over the closure of federal offices.
Fantino’s office told CTVNews.ca Thursday evening that the minister was not aware of Migneault’s presence among the crush of reporters shouting questions.
The minister’s office also said that they have reached out to Migneault and her family in the past. Citing privacy concerns, Fantino’s office declined to comment further.
But a frustrated Migneault told reporters Thursday that she was “offended that a man like that is supposed to be the one who is so proud about my husband’s service? C’mon, that’s a joke.”
Migneault said while she’s pleased that Veterans Affairs is funding a service dogs program and new training initiatives, the money set aside for an advertising campaign should be re-directed to help families like her own.
“What about us? The spouses, the caregivers, the ones who live 24 hours a day with their heroes,” Migneault said. “Nothing for us? We have no training whatsoever.”
Fantino defended the increase in advertising in committee.
“We are faced with the bantering that goes back and forth about what is or isn’t (covered); what facts and non-facts are; and also the fear mongering,” Fantino told the hearing.
But Migneault, who has been a strong advocate for spousal benefits and caregiving status for families of military personnel suffering from PTSD, says her pleas are being ignored.
She said she was never informed about PTSD, which her husband Claude Rainville, a 20-plus year veteran of the service, was diagnosed with eight years ago.
In a recent interview with CTV News, Migneault that she lives in constant fear that her husband will end his own life.
“I cannot work anymore because I have to take care and be with my husband and I’m OK with that,” Migneault told reporters. “But please, give me back my dignity and give me the tools I need to be there for my husband.”
Migneault said she has tried to secure an appointment with Parm Gill, parliamentary secretary for Veterans Affairs, but has yet to receive a response.
Meanwhile, Veterans Affairs says the ads, some of which are TV spots that will air during the NHL playoff series, try to promote the department’s efforts to transition personnel from military to civilian life.
Critics have called the ads misleading, while opposition parties said the Conservatives are trying to promote themselves with funds that could be used for improved programs and benefits.
"I'm wondering how you can justify for us your department spending more on advertising -- a $4-million increase in advertising -- and less on the actual programs themselves," Liberal critic Frank Valeriote said.
In committee, Fantino could not say how much of the advertising dollars are going toward the prime-time ads.
With files from The Canadian Press