For the third time this month, federal cabinet minister Kent Hehr has been forced to defend himself against allegations he was rude and insensitive toward Canadians who came to him for help.
Nova Scotia activist Kim Davis says that while Hehr was the veterans affairs minister, she and her husband Blair Davis met with him to discuss the challenges they were facing.
Blair, a veteran of the Canadian peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, has been diagnosed with severe and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder. Kim says she has had to quit her job to look after Blair, whose condition prevents him from even attending the doctor’s office on his own.
Struggling to cope financially and save for her children’s education, they met with Hehr to ask about the possibility of extending certain financial benefits — offered to the families of deceased military personnel — to the families of those with severe injuries as well.
According to Kim, Hehr said: “There’s lots of kids out there that don’t get [a] paid education, why should yours?”
“And I’m like, what do you mean?” Kim told CBC News. “You injured my husband.”
She said when she pressed Hehr over her dilemma he was, again, not helpful.
“He said: ‘Lots of kids out there don’t have an education they figure it out.'”
Kim says she doesn’t get “speechless” very often, but at the time, she was, “quite dumbfounded by the response.”
She said when she asked how she was supposed to support her family and care for her husband, Hehr responded: “You married him. It’s your responsibility.”
‘He doesn’t seem to care’
Kim told CBC News there is only one way to resolve the matter to her satisfaction.
“They should remove him from being a minister. He has no empathy for anybody he was put in place to try and protect and advocate for,” she said. “He doesn’t seem to care.”
It is a position echoed by Blair who says he should be removed from his current position as the minister of sport and persons with disabilities.
“I don’t think he has a lot of respect for the veterans at that time when he was in that portfolio,” he said.
‘In no uncertain terms, did I say that’
Hehr denies the allegations, insisting he did not utter the comments attributed to him and was respectful throughout the meeting.
“No, no, I did not, in no uncertain terms, did I say that,” Hehr told CBC News on Monday before question period.
“We had a talk about the benefits we were giving and how we were working on better supporting veterans and their families… and I repeatedly thanked her and her husband for their service to this great country.”
Hehr said he will, “continue to be an open and accessible politician… that tries to give people an understanding of where the government is going and what we can and cannot help them with.
“What I can say is I will continue to work on myself,” he added.
That may prove difficult now that the Opposition has started to press Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in question period on the increasing number of similar allegations.
Hehr came under fire earlier this month when the members of a thalidomide survivor group accused him of making inappropriate statements about their life expectancies and the seriousness of their disabilities.
Hehr denied making one of the alleged statements but said two others were misinterpreted.
Around the same time Hehr apologized to a Calgary mother and activist for likening a query she put to him — about women who were denied benefits while on maternity leave — to “the old question… ‘When did you stop beating your wife?'”