By Richard Lawrence
The War Amps have had a long history of providing help to those in need and today Canada Post unveiled a 100th Anniversary of the War Amps Commemorative Envelope at the War Amps Headquarters in Ottawa. Speaking for the War Amps was Ms. Annelise Petlock, War Amps Advocacy Program Manager, and Ms. Aurélie Walsh, Director of Media Relations at Canada Post, represented Canada Post. Also on hand were Dante Fotia and Olivia Miller, child amputees representing the CHAMPS (Child Amputees) program as well as Mr. Charles Jefferson, a WWII veteran who has been associated with War Amps for 75 years, and Mr. David Saunders, COO of War Amps.
The War Amps was started in 1918 by amputee veterans from WWI. Formally granted a charter in 1920 as the “Amputations Association of the Great War”, it was led by Lt.-Col. Sidney Lambert, an Army padre who lost his leg on the battlefields. With the philosophy “amputees helping amputees”, and under the new name of “The War Amputations of Canada” (1939) they expanded their group and welcomed returning WWII veteran amputees, assisting them to adjust to the new realities of their lives. In 1946, the Key Tag Service was started to provide meaningful employment and the program continues to exist to this day having returned over 1.5 million lost keys to owners. In 1962, War Amps began expanding its scope to include civilian adults and children and by 1965, Mr. Cliff Chadderton, CEO of War Amps, transitioned the organization from a solely veteran oriented group into a charitable organization representing all amputees. Mr. Chadderton held the post of CEO for 44 years and is featured on the commemorative envelope, second picture from the left – bottom row) seated with a child amputee. The 1975 the Civilian Liaison Program evolved into CHAMPS where the experience and knowledge of the organization could be directed to encouraging positive attitudes and courage into child amputees.
The War Amps has fought many battles since then, some alone, some in concert with other advocacy groups. They have fought for “seriously disable veteran” legislation since 1975 with a breakthrough in 1995 of having this category of veteran included within veterans’ legislation, regulation, and policy. In 1998 the Canadian government paid a claim to surviving Hong Kong veterans and in 2011 these veterans also received apology from the Japanese government. In 2000, the Merchant Navy veterans were fully compensated for benefits they were denied from 1945-1992 and in 2002 a claim was started for Indigenous veterans to receive denied compensation. War Amps has played a significant part in all of these victories.
Still, more work needs to be done. Ms. Petlock noted that there are tremendous gaps in prosthetic funding and that artificial limbs are not adequately covered by provincial or private health care with some provinces not providing any coverage at all. In response, War Amps has launched a Crusade for Reform to improve the standard of funding for artificial limbs by educating government agencies and insurance companies. The goal is “to reform and improve the system so that amputees will receive the limbs they need for their independence, safety, and their security”.
Ms. Walsh spoke of how Canada Post acts as a storyteller and is so pleased to be associated with this organization that “works tirelessly for Canadian amputees across the country. The commemorative envelope tells the story of the organization’s 100 year history in delivery of [its] services”. The envelope shows pictures of the War Amps leaders as well as people that it serves, young and old, civilian and military, depicting the diversity of Canada.
The time had come to unveil the envelope so the two CHAMPs representatives, Olivia Miller and Dante Fotia, assisted Mr. Charles Jefferson in lifting the veil from the envelope for all to see. Mr. Jefferson joined the military in 1943 as a lieutenant in the Queen’s Own Rifles and, in March 1945, lost his leg to an explosion in the Rhine Valley. He has been associated with the War Amps since that time and has been a past President and Vice-President of the Ottawa Branch and visited civilian amputees in Ottawa hospitals to allay their fears arising from the loss of limbs.
Once the envelope was unveiled and the appropriate photos taken, what else – cake, capped off the celebration! Mr. Jefferson, with the help of Olivia and Dante, cut the cake, ending the press conference.