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Legion to take demands to committee

Legion to take demands to committeeA poppy is pinned next to a Royal Canadian Legion crest in Montreal, November 2, 2012. The Royal Canadian Legion is set to call on the Harper government to take better care of wounded veterans and their families. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes.

OTTAWA - The Royal Canadian Legion is set to call on the Harper government to take better care of wounded veterans and their families.

Representatives from the legion are scheduled to appear today before a parliamentary committee.

One of their requests is for more frequent reviews of the New Veterans Charter, marquee legislation championed by the Harper government since it was enacted in 2006.

The legion wants to see mandatory reviews of the charter every two years. The government took five years to overhaul the charter after veterans criticized it as being less generous than the previous system of compensating veterans under the Pension Act.

The legion also wants to see a statement added that would codify the government's moral obligation to look after veterans — a feature that is part of other federal legislation but not the charter itself.

Other key demands include increasing the amount of money paid to injured and disabled veterans — including reservists injured during military service — and making veterans and their families more aware of the programs and services available to them.

"The legion is concerned that the government has forgotten the moral obligation to look after veterans and their families who have been injured as a result of their service to Canada," Gordon Moore, the Dominion president of the legion, says in remarks prepared in advance of today's hearing.

"The government put them in harm's way, now the government has an obligation to look after them."

The Conservative government has endured a barrage of criticism in recent months on its perceived treatment of veterans, and not only as a result of dissatisfaction with the charter.

A plan to shutter eight regional Veterans Affairs offices triggered widespread outrage, as did a heated — and televised — confrontation in January between Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino and a group of angry veterans.

The government also came under sustained fire in the House of Commons over services for veterans after at least eight former soldiers took their own lives during a two-month span in December and January.

Most recently, a visibly angry Defence Minister Rob Nicholson issued a blunt apology in the House this week upon hearing that a Hamilton mother whose son killed himself after a seven-month stint in Afghanistan was issued a one-cent "release pay" cheque by the federal Public Works department.

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