Righting the Merchant Navy wrong

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day, and if stories from several sources are any indication, it may be a special one. According to the National Council of Veteran Associations, which represents 36 veterans organizations, Veterans Affairs Minister George Baker is preparing a proposal for cabinet regarding compensation for Merchant Seamen.

The Seaman have long been denied what most Canadians feel is their due: namely, to be treated in the same manner as all other veterans who risked their lives during the war. The fact that the Merchant Navy vets have been denied equal treatment is especially galling when you consider that their war duty was among the most dangerous, and far more dangerous than that served by armed services veterans who didn’t see action.

Cliff Chadderton, the well-known head of the War Amps, provides an optimistic view of the Veterans Affairs Minister, and expresses confidence that the dispute will finally be resolved. In a statement, Chadderton says that George Baker seems to have taken hold of the reins of the department in a manner reminiscent of the way George Hees shook things up years ago.

“I met with Mr. Baker, at his invitation, within days of his appotment,” says Chadderton, “and he asked me to give him a “rundown” of some of the problems. Compensation for the Merchant Navy headed the list and I was amazed at how quickly he grasped the fundamentals.”

According to Chadderton, Mr. Baker recognizes this as an important public issue, and felt that it was his duty to consult with all veterans’ organizations.

“He was quick to say that if he could be convinced that the reluctance of the government was unrealistic,” says Chadderton, “he would have no hesitation in putting up a ‘hard fight’ with Cabinet to bring about a reasonable compensation package.”

The announcement regarding the compensation package may have been made as you are reading this. Here’s hoping that next Remembrance Day, the Merchant Seamen can take their rightful place as veterans.