Lest we Forget.
This year, Remembrance Day will certainly be different. Months after first emerging, COVID-19 continues to threaten Canadians’ way of life, more so as the globe, not only Canada, confronts the grim realities inherent with the virus’s second wave. Significant restrictions are and/or may be in effect on November 11th. The Royal Canadian Legion has responded to the obvious threat COVID-19 poses to disabled or elderly veterans, preemptively taking the extraordinary measure of encouraging Canadians to stay home this year. I would encourage you to abide, perhaps honour the memories of Canada’s fallen by assembling with your “Bubble Buddies”, watching the national or local ceremony on television and sharing the moment of silence together in a meaningful manner for your family. Legitimate concerns have also been expressed in respect to the adverse effects the pandemic will have on the Legion’s annual poppy drive.
Make a donation (or two). Wear your poppy proudly until the 11th hour of the 11th Day. It is not a symbol glorifying war, indeed, if anything, the poppy speaks of the horror of war and the profound consequences to society as a consequence of such tragic, nation encompassing sacrifice. Equally important, these donations are applied to assisting veterans in distress, an endemic problem in Canada.
Lest we Forget.
Nor should we forget the sacrifice Canada’s Sons and Daughters have selflessly offered is not always terminal.
Thousands of Canadians survived their respective “tours of duty”, yet were repatriated to Canada mentally and/or physically traumatized as a consequence to the experience. The war in Afghanistan, Canada’s longest conflict, bloodied an entire generation of Canadians through the venue of television and social media. The images of repatriating soldiers bereft of limb/s, burned, blinded, scarred for life accompanied the stark periods wherein distraught families escorted their son or daughter along Highway of Heroes are indelibly etched on the nation’s roll of honour. I have been a veterans advocate for a decade now, founded the Canadian Veterans Advocacy to champion much needed legislative reforms to the New Veterans Charter via direct engagement of parliamentarians and senators. I have assisted with and borne witness to the evolution of many veterans-centric policies during this reformative period yet when speaking to applications which directly improve disabled veterans quality of life, the provision of medical cannabis is without doubt the most remarkable.
Many disabled veterans, including myself, were injured, wounded or traumatized during the period prior to medical cannabis was considered a viable treatment by Veterans Affairs Canada. Veterans (and all Canadians) were subject to a regimen of NSAIDS, increasingly powerful derivatives of highly addictive opiates and/or a variety of antipsychotic drugs, many with cruel, emotion suppressing side effects. I have been deemed Totally, Permanently Impaired since release from the Canadian Forces after serving with NATO in Germany, a failed spinal surgery and perpetual levels of lower back pain and neuropathic agony in both legs since.
Prescribed use of NSAIDs fostered two Gastrointestinal bleeds.Tylenol-3’s fostered brutal mood swings that alienated family and friends yet did little to alleviate pain. Percocets and increasing dosages of shelf opiates changed my personality and resulted in decades of borderline hermitage. Inability to sleep and bouts of depression culminated in another addictive pharmaceutical cycle, rapid weight gain, greater dissatisfaction in my quality of life.
Sound familiar? Could be you? Or hundreds of others, eh?
I am old, and resorted to medical cannabis as a last resort after a referral to the “Forlorn Hope” surgeon in Toronto, who claimed nothing surgically could be done to alleviate the incessant pain. I tried street weed but the effects were inconsistent and often marginalized by low percentage cannabinoids. I soon realized there is a profound difference between professionally cultivated medical cannabis and street weed! With guidance from those within the veterans community, I was able to identify the cannabinoids most effective in confronting stark levels of pain and with the use of a temperature controlled vaporizer, have been able to curtail pharmaceutical use by significant dimensions. My go to option now for daily break out pain is safely vaporized medical cannabis… instead of a couple of percs… several times a day! Five years later, after imparting vast improvements in the quality of my life, medical cannabis continues to be effective in controlling enduring pain and yes, dispelling depression.
Conversely, most Afghanistan War veterans currently supported by Veterans Affairs Canada medical cannabis program are much younger. Significant numbers have turned to medical cannabis to cope with exceptional physical and/or mental trauma incurred through the hyperviolence of war. Young, old, regardless of gender or race, medical cannabis’s application to Canada’s veterans has born a positive impact on their lives, perhaps pre-empted an unhealthy addiction to chemical based medications and the plethora of adverse health conditions they spawn after long time usage.
I am often asked by my civilian friends; why is medical cannabis provided to you as a veteran and not to me as a disabled Canadian?
Why does the Government of Canada financially support this treatment option for you and not for me despite the fact I either have provincial – federal government sponsored health insurance?
Veterans lead the way, often, due to horrific circumstance, we are cast as unwitting guinea pigs as society copes with repatriated victims of war and designs new medicines and forms of treatment to cope with the extraordinary mental and physical trauma inherent with combat or deployment to global regions where in human rights are an afterthought.
Why are not the same medical cannabis standards of care applied to Canadian veterans in respect to alleviating their mental and physical trauma accorded to the Canadian population?
Is our sacrifice for naught?
Veterans are not anecdotes, veterans are Canada’s sons and daughters, those who have suffered greatest in Canada’s name. Critical improvements made to improve the quality of veterans lives, once proven successful, should be applied without reservation, discrimination or hesitance to the general population.
Lest we Forget.
Michael Blais CD aka Blazer
The content of this article contains the thoughts and beliefs held by Michael Blais and in no way reflect the beliefs, thoughts or opinions held by Apollo. Make sure to consult with a licensed healthcare practitioner before consuming any medical cannabis product.