Looking at American policy for dealing with veterans and employment can raise questions about how we treat Canadian veterans with disabilities in the context of modern policy. There are still large gaps between what the intended goal of the New Veterans Charter is, and what is occurring to young veterans who are given lump sum payouts. Although this dynamic exists, the goal of this article is to take a different approach and, at the very least, start some discussion about the junction of veterans with disabilities. I use the term veterans with disabilities as a replacement for the term injured veteran and other terms that pay respect to the process of obtaining a disability in conditions that are not replicable in Canada.
A large take away from the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is that as a province, Ontario has realized that there are systemic barriers that are present that exclude people with disabilities from employment and ultimately from financial independence. We have come to know these barriers to be real through a process of understanding, and we have taken appropriate measures to counteract them by adjusting policy, removing barriers, and training.
Widening the field of view to the U.S, when a call for applications is sent out, there is generally terminology being used that suggests that a business is actively encouraging people to apply regardless of race, gender, religion or veteran status. The United States Department of Labor suggests that there are types of veteran status that could potentially be the subject of discrimination with regards to employment practices. The categories of Vietnam era veteran, special disabled veteran, disabled veteran, other protected veteran, recently separated veteran, and armed forces service medal veteran are protected in the U.S and it is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of veteran status.
The fact that veterans are discriminated against brings to the surface some issues that are reflective of Canada’s approach to the treatment of veterans. In a prior article I suggested that the government effort to reintegrate veterans was an ill fitting tool that did not do justice to the complexity of disability issues being tested on new grounds, i.e. young veterans.
A veterans experience in Canada is contrasted with the experiences of people with disabilities who have attempted to seek gainful employment but have never seen or been near environments like Afghanistan or Iraq. The unifying factor is that social networks and systems are slow to incorporate new ideas of difference, so to take a hypothetical page out of the American playbook might actually do us well. Incorporating a mention of veterans in statements of non-discrimination at the base of employment calls might prove to be useful in what has become an ongoing road to creating a truly accessible workforce.
By doing this, the issue of veterans with disabilities joining the workforce, at the very least, would become more evident. In Ontario, we already have the accessible legislation in place, so all that would be required is a little nudge to begin conversations about how to develop this as a minor adjustment. In terms of the Canadian perspective, veterans and disabilities are handled within their own silo, but ultimately veterans with disabilities who obtained their disability by being wounded in the line of duty remain Canadians and should be respected as such.
United States Department of Labor. Available www.dol.gov/vets. Accessed 1st April 2015