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A Day of Remembrance

On November 11th, we’ll be celebrating Remembrance Day in Canada. It is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth member states since the end of the First World War to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. It is also a reminder to all Canadians not to forget the brave sacrifice of the Canadian soldiers who have fought in wars to keep us safe. Every year, Parliament has some kind of parade or event to memorize this day. Every year, the Prime Minister (whoever it is) gives a lovely speech. A moment of silence is observed, then the Monday becomes a day off work, and then we all go back to work.

And yet.... Veterans in Canada are all but forgotten. In a world of social media and people whining about the smallest thing that goes wrong, rarely do you hear anyone standing up for veteran rights. We talk about gay rights, women’s rights - and I’m not saying those aren’t important. They are. We live in a country where all rights should be respected. But as we’re constantly opening up to more rights, we should also focus on maintaining the ones that have been the backbone of our society.

As a Canadian-Romanian, I’m ashamed when I see the figures. In 2018, some statistics said, “the total number of veterans who are homeless in Canada can be estimated at between 3,000 and 5,000 individuals.” There are many non-profit organizations separate form the government who try to help out, meanwhile our own government doesn’t make veterans a priority.

Think about the recent federal elections. How many times did you hear veteran programs mentioned? Not many. I listened to all federal debates, and our political leaders were more likely to act as children and scream insults from podium to podium, rather than dig into real issues.

In July 2019, the federal announcement a government funding to build a house specifically for homeless veterans to meet their needs. It will take 14 months of construction, meaning another harsh winter spent in the cold for those already suffering. A great project, sure. But how much of it is done to shut up those loud voices, like mine, and how much is actually done for the benefit of the veterans? Because I have a hard time understanding why it takes 14 months of construction, or why they even have to build a specific house for them rather than purchase one of the many on the market.

And despite all the research on the veterans’ plights, no one is putting enough emphasis on why these veterans end up homeless. Mental issues are still skirted as full of stigma and not worth attention. Better to sweep it under the rug. Well, I can’t. As a matter of fact, I’ve started using these issues in my novels, to raise awareness. For example, in my paranormal romance series, my character Tristan is an ex-army guy who suffers from mental trauma. These things cannot be forgotten or ignored, because ignorance only hurts further. Our veterans will not get the help they need unless the government addresses the main issues causing this homelessness.

Same could be said for Romania, who has no national homelessness data collection strategy at all! Yet according to Deutche Welle, a study conducted in 2004 places figures of homelessness at 14,000 to 15,000 people (FEANTSA, 2012). In Bucharest alone, there were approximately 6,000 homeless people, including 1,000 children. This was over 15 years ago, and there is no way to differentiate how many of those poor souls are also veterans.

So as we remember soldiers’ efforts on this November 11th, let’s also remember that for some, the fight is not done. It is a constant struggle, one likely to cost them their lives in the frigid winter that is heading our way.

Alexa Whitewoolf    11/11/2019


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