Canada owes a debt to The Merchant Navy

For the first time since the end of the Second World War, the government is going to discuss compensation with wartime merchant navy representatives. Legislation was discussed, finally, in May.

There remains an untapped balance of between $70 million – $80 million of the $100 – $88 million allocated for the merchant navy in 1992 for five years. That funding runs out this year. Two years ago the Department of Veterans Affairs gave back $154 million to the Treasury Board; last year, they gave $83 million. They have returned $422 million in the past five years.

The restrictive legislation of 1992 did not provide the same access to income-tested benefits and disability pensions given the military. The merchant navy veterans are not recognized as a service nor is all their service training or the injuries and deaths which occurred during that training and in theatres of war. At the same time the government is eroding veterans’ benefits.

Post-war merchant seamen/women were excluded from pensions and the Rehabilitation benefits (free and paid university education, include. pre- and post-university; business loans; housing; health care; land grants; insurance, civil service jobreference) given to the military veterans.

To compensate for the lost opportunities and the discrimination that excluded them from benefits accorded their military comrades, the merchant seamen/seawomen are seeking a tax free lump sum payment of $20,000 and $40,000 for the merchant navy prisoners of war who were incarcerated for 50 months on average but only have 30 months recognized. The $70 million to $80 million untapped funds could pay for this.

Or an income tax free life. Their average age, if alive, is 77 and for the POWs, 87. The average life expectancy of Canadian males is 76.

The compensation would not replace, eliminate, modify, or impinge upon whatever benefits that some might now be receiving. These would continue.

Foster Griezic, Adjunct Professor, Canadian History.

N.B. Canada’s wartime merchant navy had the highest death ration of all the services, one in eight; RCAF, one in 16; Army, one in 32; RCN, one in 47.

Less than 2,500 remain of the 12,000 merchant navy veterans. Approximately 12 die each month.

Editor’s Note: The preceeding is the complete text of a press release recently sent out by the Merchant Navy Coalition, a group dedicated to securing equal rights for those who served in Canada’s Merchant Navy.