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Lt.-Col. Pat Stogran, then commander of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, is shown near Kandahar in April 2002. Canada's outspoken veterans ombudsman won't be re-appointed by the Conservative government. Sources have told The Canadian Press that retired colonel Pat Stogran, who commanded the country's first battle group in Kandahar in 2002, was notified earlier this week that his term won't be renewed. (Stephen Thorne/The Canadian Press/Stephen Thorne/The Canadian Press)
Lt.-Col. Pat Stogran, then commander of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, is shown near Kandahar in April 2002. Canada's outspoken veterans ombudsman won't be re-appointed by the Conservative government. Sources have told The Canadian Press that retired colonel Pat Stogran, who commanded the country's first battle group in Kandahar in 2002, was notified earlier this week that his term won't be renewed. (Stephen Thorne/The Canadian Press/Stephen Thorne/The Canadian Press)

Veterans ombudsman will not be re-appointed by Tories Add to ...

Canada's outspoken veterans ombudsman won't be re-appointed by the Conservative government.

Sources have told The Canadian Press that retired colonel Pat Stogran, who commanded the country's first battle group in Kandahar in 2002, was notified earlier this week that his term won't be renewed.

He apparently ran afoul of the federal government in his criticism of the bureaucracy, which he accused of being more interested in saving money than helping veterans.

His term comes to an end in November.

A spokeswoman for Veteran Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn's office would not confirm or deny Col. Stogran's impending departure.

"Sorry, but we do not comment on appointments," Flora Fahr said in an email note late Friday.

Reached on his cell phone, the ombudsman also would not comment and referred all questions to the minister's office.

He was appointed with much fanfare in 2007 to be the first ombudsman under the New Veterans Charter, a marquee position the Conservatives leaned heavily upon as proof they were behind the troops.

In an interview with The Canadian Press earlier this year, Col. Stogran said the system was weighted towards treating wounded soldiers like industrial accident victims.

More recently, he accused the department's bureaucracy of blocking initiatives that would help veterans because it would cost the federal treasury more money.

His frustration was also evident in recent Twitter postings.

"The penny pinching 'insurance company' mentality should not be embraced since it does not reflect the spirit of the legislation," was the message posted from his account on July 23.

And from later the same day: "What seems to be missing is the principle of honouring Veterans by generously providing benefits."

Col. Stogran joins a long list other federal government appointees who've been shown the door, including Peter Tinsley, former head of the Military Police Complaints Commission and Linda Keen, the former head of Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

Ron Cundell, a former sergeant and disabled veteran living near Barrie, Ont., said Col. Stogran has been their champion and faced opposition from the bureaucracy almost from the beginning.

"Pat and his staff were my voice," said Mr. Cundell. "He was someone whom I could turn to and say, 'Listen, I've got this problem with the bureaucracy.' We've worked to make the system better so that other veterans don't have to go through some of the stuff I did."

Central to Col. Stogran's complaints is the replacement of pensions with lump- sum payments for wounded soldiers under the new Veterans Charter.

An increasing number of concerned veterans see the new system as a way to limit Ottawa's long-term financial liability to soldiers.

At one time, wounded soldiers were given a monthly pension payment for life, a guaranteed payment that increased if a condition got worse over time.

But with the new charter, enacted by the Conservatives but conceived under the Liberals in 2005, disabled veterans who've been through rehabilitation receive a lump-payment and a monthly cheque representing 75 per cent of their salary before being released from the Forces. The monthly cheque continues until they find a job in civilian life.

For veterans who are too injured to work, they receive three quarters of their salary until age 65.

Veterans have argued that the retirement cut-off will leave old soldiers destitute. There have also been complaints that young veterans are blowing their lump-sum payments.

The department recently conducted a survey that said 69 per cent of veterans who received the tax free lump-sum payment are happy with the new system.

 

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