Veterans Affairs is spending an additional $4 million on advertising this year — including television spots throughout the NHL playoffs — but ignoring the plight of families who care for injured soldiers, says the spouse of a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder.
An angry Jenifer Migneault chased after Julian Fantino and demanded to speak to the veterans affairs minister following his appearance Thursday at a House of Commons committee hearing.
The spectacle played out before a crush of reporters, television cameras and microphones in a scene reminiscent of Fantino's testy encounter last winter with veterans angry about the closure of federal offices.
This time Fantino — whose image took a bruising in the last encounter — chose not to stop and explain the government's position.
"I'm offended," an embittered Migneault said afterward.
"A man like that is supposed to be so proud of my husband's service? C'mon, that's a joke ... We're the ones who live 24 hours a day with their heroes."
The Harper government has poured millions of extra dollars into veterans benefits and services, but the challenges faced by caregivers represent a major funding gap, one that has received little public attention.
Migneault, whose husband Claude Rainville was diagnosed with PTSD eight years ago, has tried to raise awareness, but she said she can't get Conservative MPs — including Fantino's parliamentary secretary, Parm Gill — to return her calls.
The spouses of physically and mentally wounded soldiers need training and support to be caregivers, said Migneault. Most of what she's learned has been on her own, including a 40-hour class to help her better understand when best to simply listen to her husband, and when to intervene.
The money being spent on increased advertising should go elsewhere, Migneault said.
"Please just use that money to talk to us," she said.
"We'll tell you a whole lot about our husbands that you guys don't know about. Spend the money in the right place and you'll see real results."