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North Island-Powell River MP wants Gulf War veterans reclassified

Campbell River Mirror - 1/26/2024

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney wants veterans who served in the Persian Gulf War to be reclassified as Wartime Service Veterans, a move that would grant them more benefits and honours.

Blaney, who is the NDP critic for Veterans Affairs, wrote a letter to federal minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor asking her to reclassify those who served in the 1990-1991 conflict as Wartime Service Veterans. The classification would allow them to access more benefits, and be inscribed on the National Warm Memorial and other municipal cenotaphs.

"Like many Veterans before them, these brave individuals answered the call of duty and risked their lives in active combat," Blaney said. "Their service deserves to be recognized fully, and it is both disappointing and disrespectful that Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) refuses to do so."

More than 4,000 Canadian Armed Forces members were part of the conflict, making up part of an international coalition that were involved in active combat in the Persian Gulf region. Blaney said in her letter that other coalition countries have recognized their veterans for wartime service, but "the Canadian government has refused to follow suit."

At its peak, around 2,700 personnel were in the region, with three Canadian naval ships with five Sea King helicopters and around 500 CF-18 pilots. Canadians also operated transportation and logistics, mid-air refuelling, a field hospital and security duties.

No Canadian Armed Forces members were killed in the conflict, but according to Veterans Affairs Canada, "A total of more than 1,800 Canadians have died in military service in the post-war years.

"Their names are inscribed within the beautiful In the Service of Canada Book of Remembrance that is displayed in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa," the Veterans Affairs website says.

Blaney said in her letter to Petitpas Taylor that the Gulf War was the first conflict with women serving an active combat role.

"Previously excluded from military operations, these brave women stepped up and proved that they could perform combat duties just as well as their male counterparts. They set the stage for the many women CAF members who served in later operations, and their service should be remembered and commemorated," her letter says.