Military grave stones are pictured at a cemetery in Ottawa on Monday, July 17, 2017. The words on each grave marker are easy to read, even those carved decades ago, while the grey stones are all clean, the surrounding grass and flowers are trim and manicured. Such a sight might not be a surprise at the National Military Cemetery in Ottawa, but a new Veterans Affairs audit has found that tens of thousands of other such graves across Canada are in disrepair

Military grave stones are pictured at a cemetery in Ottawa on Monday, July 17, 2017. The words on each grave marker are easy to read, even those carved decades ago, while the grey stones are all clean, the surrounding grass and flowers are trim and manicured. Such a sight might not be a surprise at the National Military Cemetery in Ottawa, but a new Veterans Affairs audit has found that tens of thousands of other such graves across Canada are in disrepair
Photo Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Veterans gravesites in Canada in disrepair

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Visiting Canada’s National Military Cemetery in the national capital Ottawa, one is struck by the well-kept grounds and clean and still clearly legible grave markers.

But that seems not to be the case for the gravesites of tens of thousands of other veterans located across the country.

An audit by the federal government department, Veterans Affairs, found that some 45,000 or more veterans gravesites are in varying states of disrepair.

The reason is because of government cutbacks.

A light rain dampens the tops of grave markers at the Beechwood Military Cemetery in Ottawa. A audit of 207,000 veterans’ graves across Canada revealed that more than 45,000 require maintenance, needing some 60,000 repairs.
A light rain dampens the tops of grave markers at the Beechwood Military Cemetery in Ottawa. A audit of 207,000 veterans’ graves across Canada revealed that more than 45,000 require maintenance, needing some 60,000 repairs. © Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press

In 2003 funding for maintenance, repair, and upkeep was some five million dollars,  but was slashed to one million dollars that same year. Today it’s only 1.2 million. Canada also funds the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for upkeep of military gravesites of commonwealth soldiers killed abroad in the World Wars.  Those gravesites are well-maintained.

It seems not much has changed in Canada however since an earlier audit by Veterans Affairs in 2014 when it noted that almost the same number of gravesites needed some kind of repair.

A spokesman for the department said they were looking at efficiencies to speed up the repairs which would take 17 years at the current funding level.

The report noted that legability, marker replacement and foundation repair needs are all increasing along with the costs of those repairs, a sort of double-whammy.  Officials say however that there will be no new money until next year at the earliest.

The department is responsible for over 200,000 veterans graves in 6,000 cemeteries across Canada. Unlike several other countries, where the government accepts responsibility for veterans graves only in official military cemeteries, Canada’s government has responsibility for all veterans graves wherever they are located in Canada.

Speaking to the Canadian Press, Randall Wakelam, associate chair of war studies at the Royal Military College of Canada said “It always seems to be about efficiency, and seemingly not about delivering an effective service to Canadians”.

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One comment on “Veterans gravesites in Canada in disrepair
  1. Avatar Peter Ashcroft says:

    The need for both dedication and funding.