Well ... ya know ... personally, I'm not gonna hold my breath ... seeing as how this poor guy fought in WWII ... and is still getting the runaround ...
(and, as an aside, it's infuriating if one individual with an axe to grind was able to screw this guy ...)
Sun, March 27, 2005
Genuine hero still fighting
Pension now up to the defence minister
By Peter Worthingtonhttp://www.canoe.ca/NewsStand/Columnists/Toronto/Peter_Worthington/2005/03/27/pf-973540.html
Readers of this column will remember the saga of Cliff Wenzel, who was denied a reduced military pension because it was "not in the public interest" that he transfer from active service in the Royal Canadian Air Force to the RCAF reserve.
This was in 1960, when Wenzel had spent 14 of his 20 years of service as a flight lieutenant, and felt his career was going nowhere.
In the RCAF reserve, he taught pilots to fly for another 10 years, until mandatory retirement. It was only relatively recently, under Access to Information legislation, that he discovered he was virtually the only officer denied a reduced pension because it was "not in the public interest."
Thus began his campaign to get the reduced pension re-instated.
What makes his case different is that Wenzel was a genuine hero and something of a legend in the RCAF. He earned a Distinguished Flying Cross in bomber command in World War II; an Air Force Cross flying in the Berlin Airlift; he flew against Communist insurgents in Malaya; and flew in the Korean war.
Four wars on behalf of Canada, yet switching to RCAF reserve was "not in the public interest."
Other officers got reduced pensions when they left the RCAF to go to school, work for government, or become lawyers or teachers. But not Wenzel.
Wenzel's lawyer, retired Col. Michel Drapeau, took his case to court, but the court declined to hear it because it was "out of time." So Wenzel appealed to a succession of defence ministers, (Bill Graham is now reviewing the case) and to various MPs and Veterans Affairs Canada.
Opposition leader Stephen Harper has responded "to the unfair and unjust treatment you have received from the government of Canada" and unleashed the Conservative defence critic, Gordon O'Connor, to present Wenzel's case to the Standing Committee on Defence in hopes that the government "will recognize your service and sacrifice to this country and give you what you so greatly deserve."
Liberal MP Pat O'Brien, Chair of the Standing Committee, has written Graham supporting Wenzel's case. When it was brought forward to the committee, however, MP Keith Martin (who ran for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance before switching to the Liberals, where he is parliamentary secretary to Bill Graham) opposed restoring Wenzel's reduced pension.
"It was brought to court and the court said he didn't have a case," Martin said.
In fact, the court said no such thing -- it said it would not hear the case because of the time lapse.
When Martin insisted the "letter of the law" be followed (hence the minister's review), chairman O'Brien insisted that the "spirit of the law" be fairly applied in Wenzel's case.
Conservative defence critic Gordon O'Connor argued on the principle involved and noted that when he left the RCAF, Wenzel immediately went into the air reserve and helped organize it and train a generation of pilots -- "which was certainly in the interests of the military."
But not, apparently, in the public interest.
What the Wenzel case indicates is that one RCAF personnel officer in 1960 resented Wenzel and had it in for him -- and this prejudice has been echoed ever since.
To let the injustice stand is a slap at every serving military person. One hopes Graham works out a compromise with Cliff Wenzel, and rights the wrong that was done him so long ago.
While to some this may seem a forlorn hope, I'd disagree -- especially in 2005, officially designated as the Year of Veteran.
There's much about Bill Graham that can be disputed, but he's always seemed a fair man who, if given the chance, makes up his own mind on the facts presented.
And that's all that Cliff Wenzel asks for.