After 14 years of military service

After 14 years of military service

Veteran feels betrayed by the country he served

Local veteran Ed Canuel says the New Veterans Charter has left him abandoned, despite 14 years of military service to Canada

Ed Canuel doesn’t know how he’s going to pay his next heating bill, or make his next mortgage payment. Some days, he doesn’t even know where he’ll find the money for food.

The Afghanistan war veteran never once imagined he’d be where he is today.

Nearly homeless.

He thought the army would have his back, he thought the government would take care of him, he thought he’d be given the tools to successfully transition from military life to civilian life when the time came.

Instead, he’s been turned on nearly every step of the way.

He’s not the only one.

When the New Veterans Charter was enacted in 2006, the disability pension that provided disabled veterans with a monthly pension payable for life was eliminated. Now, injured veterans receive a one-time, lump-sum pay out of their contributions.

Despite changes, there remains a growing chorus of  complaints about the new charter.

According to Guy Parent, Canada’s veterans ombudsman, that system has left some of the country’s most severely injured and disabled veterans in dire straits.

A report released last month by Parent’s office, found that more than half of the veterans assessed as “totally and permanently incapacitated” can’t find work and are not awarded impairment benefits.

As well, the benefits that are supposed to help veterans transition from a military to civilian career were classified inadequate.

Canuel gave 14 years of his life to the army, employed both in the naval reserves and as a cook in the regular forces. He served a six-month tour in Afghanistan, worked on war ships, and took on various contracts, including the Vancouver Olympics.

But in 2003, Canuel suffered a back injury while on active duty on a naval ship in the Persian Gulf.

He’d been carrying an 80-pound box of rations up a ladder as the ship was battling a storm outside. The ship rolled, Canuel held on, and his back popped.

“I thought I was strong enough to hold on,” he said.

Four vertebrae in the mid-back region shifted, leaving Canuel with a permanent kink. He now has early stages of arthritis and chronic thoracic pain.

For nine years Canuel worked through the pain, remedying it through pain meds and sleeping pills prescribed by the hospital at CFB Esquimalt. But in September 2012, the reserves placed him on permanent medical category – making him “no longer employable.”

And for over a year, Canuel has been fighting a new battle.

He wants a proper pension and skills retraining, something he feels he’s entitled to, but keeps getting denied.

His skills as a cook are not transferable due to his injury, yet the only assistance he’s been provided with is help writing a resume and a cover-letter.

He doesn’t qualify for vocational retraining.

“I cannot cook on a civilian job site, I physically can’t do it, the hours are long, I can’t live on the pay, there’s no benefits,” said Canuel.

“This government believes the private sector will find jobs for veterans. I’ve never heard of a private job you can walk up to and say, ‘I’m an injured veteran with back problems, will you hire me?’

“They won’t hire you. Only government jobs and union jobs accommodate people with injuries.”

Canuel’s been working three jobs trying to make ends meet, but still walks a financial tight rope every month, pushing one bill to pay another, dipping into his overdraft and racking up credit cards bills. His debt, including a mortgage, is based on the $60,000 to $70,000 income he made while working full-time in the army, not the $13 an hour jobs he’s currently working.

“If things continue the way they’re going, I don’t know what my future holds,” he said. “I’m worried about becoming homeless.”

Last week, Canuel sought help from the Royal Canadian Legion’s Poppy Fund.

The organization’s generosity – a cheque worth $3,000 – shook him.

“The Royal Canadian Legion, for the first time in over a year, is the only organization that’s helped me in this entire process,” said Canuel, tears filling his eyes.

“The military system, the medical system out of CFB Esquimalt, my case manager, nobody has helped me.

“This whole thing has been a nightmare, an absolute nightmare.”

Canuel doesn’t understand why Afghanistan war veterans are treated any differently than Second World War and Korean War veterans.

They all fought for the same country.

“My story is not about me being a cook, or hurt on ship, but a story of a veteran, thrown away like trash after being injured by his employer,” he said. “I’ve been given no support financially, no retraining, no pension, and passed off to private sector for employment, which will not hire or accommodate injured vets.

“The bottom line is that Afghanistan war veterans are being mistreated.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Canadian Reformed Church in Chilliwack. (GoogleMaps)
OPINION: Churches that defy the law and public health orders are in the extreme minority

The nature of news coverage means that aberrations from the norm are what make the headlines

Projects recently approved by council will tackle homelessness in Chilliwack. (Black Press file photo)
Latest projects taking on homelessness in Chilliwack focused on pandemic pivoting

4 key service providers will share a blended fund of almost $160,000 in Reaching Home funding

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

These free, postage-paid postcards were sent to 13.5 million households across Canada. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)
OPINION: Singing the praises of these postcards of positivity

I typed this ode to the loveliness of hand-written notes on a computer but the point still stands

Snow is still coming down in Hemlock Valley. (Emil Anderson Maintenance/Twitter)
VIDEO: Spring is coming, but snow sticking around in Hemlock Valley

If you’re up the mountain, don’t put away your toques just yet

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Most Read