In April, 2014, Ottawa Magazine ran a profile on Pat Stogran, (The Battle Cry of Pat Stogran) Canada’s first Veterans’ Ombudsman and the man who led Canada’s first troops into Afghanistan in 2002. A constant thorn in the side of the Harper government, we recently caught up with Stogran for his thoughts on some of the issues visited in that article, especially with regard to the care of veterans, and whether or not those issues have changed under Trudeau.
As Canada’s former Veterans’ Ombudsman, how do you think the current federal government is performing, in regards to its treatment of veterans.
I see a continuation of the same policies we had under the Harper government. Nothing has changed. The lifetime pension is the big one. Getting rid of that was a fundamental change in how we treat veterans. The liberals promised to revisit the issue and they haven’t. There are starting to be quite a few promises [that haven’t been fulfilled] by this government.
It seems almost certain that Canada will soon be sending troops on a peacekeeping mission in Africa. As the commanding officer of the first troops Canada deployed into Afghanistan, what are your thoughts on this potential mission?
I think it would be a mistake and I’ve said as much. We do not have the supports and resources to treat our veterans properly when they return home. We have turned our backs on the sacred trust that used to be the life-long pension for service to your country. Until we have better treatment for our veterans, I would be leery of any peacekeeping or combat mission.
It was a combat mission you led into Afghanistan, the first for Canada since the Korean War. Our next mission will be peacekeeping. What do you think of this return?
I think its politics by the Liberal government. It’s the image they want to convey, a peacekeeping, neutral sort of country. Problem is, peacekeeping is virtually impossible today. The bad guys are little more than criminals. No rules are respected. Any mission is going to be dangerous, and to be pretend otherwise is being dishonest.
When we profiled you for Ottawa Magazine in 2014, you said you were becoming an activist. How is that going?
Full speed ahead. My book is called Rude Awakening: The Government’s Secret War Against Canada’s Veterans and that’s what happened to me when I became Veterans’ Ombudsman. I had a rude awakening as to how government and power really works in this country. It was not pretty. I would be quite content to be a sort of Ralph Nader-type pain-in-their-asses for as long as I can.
Where will you be attending Remembrance Day ceremonies this year?
I used to go to the National Cenotaph every year, but I may not go this year. Remembrance Day has become quite personal for me. I feel it in my heart, but I don’t want to be part of any photo op or pageantry. Not until our veterans are treated with the respect they deserve.