Their sacrifice of freedom gave us our freedom

By MPP Toby Barrett

They stand staunchly on Remembrance Day as honour guards each year. Army, air and sea cadets are a part of the country’s proud military history standing alongside those who truly understand the sacrifices made.

In Canada, a dynamic cadet program exists with numerous cadet corps and squadrons across Ontario. The Air Cadet League, Ontario Provincial Committee; the Army Cadet League of Canada (Ontario); and the Navy League of Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Armed Forces, provide programs for air, army and sea cadets 12 to 18 years of age. The Navy League also sponsors the Navy League Cadets, a separate program for youth nine to 12.

Last week I introduced a Private Members Bill, Ontario Cadets Week. The week would commence on the first Saturday in October, each year. This allows cadets to focus on supporting veterans in November.

Cadet programs assist young people to develop skills that help them transition to adulthood with a focus on physical fitness, leadership, citizenship and teamwork skills. As someone who completed basic training when I was 17, I can attest that programs like this provide experiences not found elsewhere.

These young people are active in their communities and make valuable contributions to society daily. Proclaiming Ontario Cadets Week will honour the outstanding young Canadians whose unique personal and collective development through cadet programs will help them be successful in Canadian society, as well as recognizing those who support the programs directly and indirectly.

Also, last week, the Remembrance Week Amendment Act, 2021, was introduced. If passed, it will amend the Remembrance Week Act, 2016, to provide every worker in Ontario the right to wear a poppy in the workplace during Remembrance Week. Further, it will add to the preamble of the Remembrance Week Act that poppies are worn during Remembrance Week as a symbol of remembrance and respect.

The Royal Canadian Legion has always provided support to those who served. Over the years, other organizations have formed to lend a hand to those men and women who fought for our freedoms. Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) Canada is a registered not-for-profit organization providing opportunities in the construction and related industries for serving, transitioning and former military.

In Ontario, the Soldiers’ Aid Commission provides financial assistance to eligible Veterans and their families in financial need. The commission supplements support offered by the Royal Canadian Legion and Veterans Affairs Canada. Up until recently, many servicemen and women could not access vital supports. Recently, the government fixed this and expanded the Soldier’s Aid Commission so every man and woman who has served our country valiantly could access all supports the government of Ontario provides.

We have also expanded funding by about 600 per cent, to $1.55 million annually. This allows for veterans and their families to receive up to $2,000 per year to help cover a number of different items such as health-related items like hearing aids, glasses, prescriptions, dental needs; home-related items like repairs, assistive devices like wheelchairs and prosthetics as well as personal items and for the first time in history, we now cover employment-related supports.

I am proud of our society’s commitment to our Veterans and am of the opinion that no program or support we give them will ever be comparable to their sacrifice of freedom so that we could enjoy freedom.

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk