By Michael Nickerson
You have to hand it to that Justin. No, not Justin Timberlake, though his Super Bowl halftime show kicked some entertainment butt. And certainly not Justin Bieber, unless of course we’re talking about a cease and desist order to never to play music again. No, I refer to that other Justin, he of the Trudeau persuasion. Fit, personable, eloquent, the man can truly work a room. Not necessarily honestly mind you, but he can work it.
Now the good prime minister would no doubt take issue with that assessment. An honest, straight-up guy our glorious leader is, and no more so than on his recent cross-Canada town hall tour where he made it clear that he was there to give honest answers to honest questions. When the ‘Trudeau Train’ made a whistle stop in Edmonton he suggested as much to a booing crowd. “You are asking for honest answers,” he said, the implication being that he was giving some.
In this case the crowd was responding to his earlier answer to Corporal (ret’d) Brock Blaszczyk, a veteran who came back from Afghanistan minus a leg from a roadside IED (improvised explosive device). He had asked Justin why the PM was going back on his election promise not to keep fighting veterans’ groups in court like his predecessor. His answer was thus: “Because they are asking for more than we are able to give right now.”
The “they” in question here is the Equitas Society, a veterans’ group who has been fighting the lump-sum payout plan under the New Veterans Charter since the glory days of The Harper Government™. They are asking for recognition of a “social covenant” between military personnel and their government, and a return to the lifetime pension arrangement for wounded veterans in place since WWI. Their fight is now going to the Supreme Court of Canada, with Team Justin™ kicking and screaming all the way.
Ah, but that’s not the only lawsuit putting paid to Trudeau’s platitudes. No sir. Another class action case by current and former members of the military suggests that there is a long history of sexual discrimination and assault in the military, and not a lot of effort to make amends for it. Sure, we have Operation Honour doing its best to change the current military culture and make things right, if only because of a damning report by former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps in 2015. And gosh darn, we have a self-declared feminist for a prime minister. Yet the legal struggle continues.
To wit, lawyers working on behalf of Team Justin™ have put forward the argument that the federal government does not “owe a private law duty of care to individual members within the CAF to provide a safe and harassment-free work environment or to create policies to prevent sexual harassment or sexual assault.” In short, you got raped? Tough luck, you can’t sue us.
Well not so fast there my friends, because the PM is on the case. “Obviously the lawyers’ argument does not align with my beliefs or what this government believes,” Justin opined under the glare of cameras and scrutiny when the legal argument hit the public relations fan. He even asked Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to get busy making things right, or in alignment, or something like that. She says she can’t comment on the matter.
People are asking for honest answers, so here are a few: Justin Trudeau is full of it, and I’m not referring to sunshine and warm feelings. There is money to restore lifetime pensions along with the new supports being offered injured veterans, but the government chooses not to in favour of other priorities. The government could have not only settled lawsuits and grievances concerning sexual discrimination and assault in the military, but been proactive in heading off the lawsuit in the first place, and by doing so given more credibility to CDS Vance’s efforts with Operation Honour, but again chose not to. All the rhetoric in the world will not fix the damage already caused nor help bring military culture in line with the new century.
So let’s be honest Justin, shall we? Rhetoric is all you have to offer, isn’t it?