Dear Ceasefire.ca supporter,
I am going tell you three stories that you will never forget.
By the time you finish reading this letter, you will feel sad, and you’ll probably start to feel angry.
And then, I hope, you will want to take action, right away.
All three stories are about men and women whom Stephen Harper sent to fight his war in Afghanistan. But they returned terribly injured – physically and mentally.
But Harper didn’t call these wounded soldiers “heroes.” Not at all.
I have no doubt that these people felt they were doing the right thing; that they were fighting to protect Canada, to prevent terrorism, or to defeat “detestable scumbags,” as General Hillier called the insurgents at the start of the combat mission.
Sadly, what these men and women didn’t know was that the war they were being sent to fight was unwinnable – flawed from the very beginning.
What’s worse is that their leaders, the people who sent them to fight, profited handsomely from the soldiers’ suffering.
The right-wing politicians, the military brass, the pro-war journalists, the old retired generals – they all advanced in their political, professional and military careers, or they became rich from Canada’s massive war spending. They don’t even care about the human cost.
That is such a crime! We need a strong peace movement in Canada.
Will you join our Peacekeepers monthly donor club this year, and make a monthly donation of $7 to work to make Canada a peace leader, once again? I hope you said “Yes!”
We’ll use your gift to oppose Harper’s pro-war lobby, to promote peace, and to prevent the creation of more victims of war and wounded veterans.
The first story is about a young man, a corporal in the Canadian Forces, based in Edmonton.
He had served for many years in Afghanistan. He had a family, a fiancé, and by all accounts, a love of life.
But then things started going wrong. His family became alarmed by his substance-abuse when he came home, a tell-tale sign of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They begged the military for help. The military blamed him, and said he had a drug problem.
Then, only days before his 29th birthday, the soldier hanged himself in his barracks at CFB Edmonton.
But that’s not the end. There’s more to this very sad story. . .
The young man’s family demanded answers. Harper’s Minister of National Defence at the time, Peter MacKay, refused to release documents on the case to the public. It became clear the military had botched its investigation, and then tried to cover up its failings.
Then, perhaps most shocking of all. . .
It was revealed that the young man had left a suicide note for his mother, but Harper’s military brass never told his mother about it – they secretly hid a dying man’s note from his loved ones for two years!
At the end of the exhausting inquiry, his mother told the CBC that every time she hears about a soldier committing suicide, she feels she has a “personal investment.” “It’s [my son’s] legacy,” she said bravely, to change things for our soldiers.
My second story is not about a young man, but a woman in her fifties, with a family, and twenty years of service in the Canadian Forces.
She served in the first Gulf War, in the early 90s, and was never the same afterward. Her husband said she suffered strange maladies, similar to the “Gulf War Syndrome” that affected 300,000 American combat troops. Possibly caused by chemical exposure and other war toxins.
She endured twenty years of constant mouth pain, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and protracted battles with Veterans Affairs to receive treatment. She felt there was no hope.
Then, last Christmas Day, she drove her car into an oncoming tractor trailer, killing herself instantly. She left a note. She chose to die on Christmas as a “gift” to her family so she would no longer be a burden to them, they remarked later. How utterly tragic.
A few weeks later, Stephen Harper’s government sent her family a letter. . . You’ll never believe what it said.
The official letter expressed condolences, and then asked her family to repay $581.67 in government benefits she had been paid after her death.
Her grieving husband said the government sent him “a slap in the face!” Harper’s minister tried to apologize, but it was hard to accept.
My third story is about a father from Burlington whose 30-year-old son was sent to fight Harper’s hopeless war in Afghanistan.
His experiences in combat are too awful to recount in this letter. But let me just say that after witnessing the senseless death of children, and several of his friends, he must have lost his mind.
The young soldier returned to Canada suffering from night terrors and obvious PTSD and after surviving several suicide attempts, he was left without proper treatment or supervision on his base in Petawawa.
His father had had enough of the military’s mistreatment of his son.
At four o’clock in the morning, he set out in his car and drove to the Petawawa military base outside of Ottawa. When he got there, he did something completely unexpected. . .
He kidnapped his own son from Harper’s military.
He loaded his sick son into the car and drove back to southern Ontario, straight to a rehabilitation hospital in Windsor.
His father told reporters he worried about the many other suffering soldiers. “I know there are lots of them out there. Many are from broken homes to begin with and the military becomes their family and they get kicked around by a second family,” he told the Ottawa Citizen.
That’s how Stephen Harper treats wounded vets.
That’s why a group of veterans came to Ottawa last month hoping to meet with Julian Fantino, Harper’s Veterans Affairs Minister, but ended up making national headlines instead.
Fantino didn’t even have the decency to show up to the meeting. The outraged vets called the media, and only then did Mr. Fantino arrive. A Second World War vet, who sat waiting for Fantino, declared it a “damn disgrace.” Later, Fantino tried to apologize.
You might remember Julian Fantino – he doesn’t like our peace work one bit – in fact he said I was against everything “Holy and decent that the Conservative government was doing for the military.”
In Harper’s world, war and the military are “Holy and decent” ideals, even soldiers who die are treated as heroes, banners on highways, military pageants. . . but the men and women who come home, who are wounded or simply survive – well, they are on their own, unsupported, discarded, and the families left behind too are seen as a burden to taxpayers, sent lump-sum payments as if their loss could be bought.
That’s why we have to take action. Soldiers are depending on us to work hard for peace – their very lives depend upon it. And we need to challenge the government at every turn to never let them send our troops into senseless wars like Afghanistan, ever again.
If it hadn’t been for the peace movement, hundreds – maybe thousands – of Canadians would have died in Iraq fighting for U.S. President George W. Bush – another war Stephen Harper wanted.
Your support in the past has been crucial to Ceasefire.ca’s success. In December we had one of our best victories ever – we defeated Harper’s plans to spend $2 billion on tanks, called close combat vehicles.
Now, we are launching a campaign to help suffering veterans. Already more than 5,000 Canadians have sent letters to Harper demanding better treatment of veterans. And we plan on sending thousands more. But this won’t happen without your support.
I am so proud to say that we met each and every one of our fundraising goals last year because of our amazing Ceasefire.ca community. But 2014 will be a tough year, and we have a new goal to reach: 1,000 Peacekeepers before the end of the year.
Peacekeepers make regular donations each month. This allows us to plan our peace campaigns with confidence. And since we are a small organization, every dollar donated makes a huge impact!
More than 700 peace supporters like you have already joined our Peacekeepers monthly donor club. Will you join this year?
Your support in the past has meant so much to me, and our work for peace. Can I count on your support for 2014, once again?
Thank you for everything you do for peace.
P.S. Please help us to work for peace by joining our Peacekeepers monthly donor program. If you choose, we will send you a free copy of Building the Orange Wave – the inspiring account of Jack Layton’s rise to national prominence.