Update: General Belzile ineligible for Veterans Wing at Perley Rideau

CHRIS MacLEAN  –  May 30, 2016


(with information from the Korean War Veteran on-line journal)

Lieutenant General Charles Belzile, beloved by all those who meet him, is now very ill and incapacitated, and should be welcomed to the Veteran’s Wing of the Perley and Rideau Veterans Health Centre in Ottawa.

The problem is, General Belzile is one of those soldiers who arrived in Korea after the Korean War Military Armistice Agreement went into effect. According the Department of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), which sets the criteria for admission to the special wing, soldiers who served in Korea after 27 July 1953, despite the danger, are ineligible to receive government-funded long term care treatment in the government facilities. 

Belzile served in Korea with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, initially as a platoon commander. He and his men patrolled the demilitarized zone (DMZ) right to the wire that runs along the Military Demarcation Line. Sometimes they would meet a Chinese patrol. At times there would be sporadic fire from both sides. On one occasion, he led a patrol to the MDL to retrieve a soldier from Canada’s Royal Highland Regiment who had accidentally crossed the wire in darkness and had been captured.

He and his men spent much time clearing mines from the lines and behind the lines and had casualties.

In various ranks he served on various many United Nations and NATO deployments.

On a special revisit to Korea in 2013, General Belzile told veterans at his table in the Grand Ambassador Hotel in Seoul, “Please, just call me Charlie. I am not in the army anymore.” Then he added, “But I do have a history.”

While he commanded the entire Canadian Army before his retirement, he is perhaps the most congenial and unpretentious of any general officer of modern times.

Of his days as a lieutenant in Korea, leading a platoon whose soldiers he would remember always, he has said, “In those days my mind didn’t go much beyond being a lieutenant.”

A native French speaker, in his service prior to becoming a general officer he was adjutant of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, and then commanding officer of the French-speaking Royal 22e Regiment, Canada’s famous ‘Vandoos.

As a major general, he commanded Canada's forces in Europe and later, as a lieutenant general, he was commander of the entire Canadian Army.

Among his many prestigious roles following his retirement General Belzile served as the honorary grand president of the Royal Canadian Legion, and as the president of the Normandy Battlefields Association, now called the Canadian Battlefields Association.

While his country did not award him the Korean War Medal (because he arrived in Korea after the armistice), he did receive the United Nations Medal for the Korea War and, 40-some years later, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal Korea. He also received campaign medals for his NATO and United Nations deployments.

General Belzile has been invested in the Order of Canada, the Order of Military Merit, the Canadian Decoration, and France’s Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur.

Canada, using now ancient legislation conceived with lack of knowledge or disregard of the war situation that existed in Korea in the immediate post war year, denies the long-term care benefit to any soldier who landed in Korea after July 27, 1953.

Of the 378 Canadian soldiers buried in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery at Busan, 22 of them lost their lives after the cease fire agreement went into effect. All 378 of those good soldiers, including the 22 who fell following the 27 July 1953 armistice, are listed in Canada’s Korean War Book of Remembrance which is enshrined in the Peace Tower at the Canadian Parliament buildings.

The United States, using more enlightened criteria, awarded the Korea Service Medal all service personnel who served in Korea from June 25, 1950 through December, 1954 – adding an extra year to the eligibility requirement. This was done in light of the continuous intense situation along the border, the woundings and deaths of many American soldiers, and the very real situation in which the enemy forces might attack South Korea again without any warning. They are all granted the same veterans benefits.

It could be several years before General Belzile could be admitted to the Perley and Rideau community rooms (for which he would be charged a much higher rate) but, based on current criteria, he would never be entitled to live in the Veteran's Wing of the Health Centre because he arrived in Korea after 27 July 1953 and does not meet the VAC criteria for residency in the long-term care facility for veterans.


Bill Black of the Korea Veterans' Association (National Capital Unit 7), explained that "our government has managed to identify three distinctly separate classifications of veterans. Yet, have not all veterans, post Korean War Armistice era agreed to lay down their lives in Defence of Freedom and serve wherever they are sent?

"I think the proof is abundantly illustrated with the numbers of Canadian men and women who've paid the supreme sacrifice these past 63 years since Korea.

"It is time to set the record straight and disentangle this illogical, disgraceful, and appalling veteran discrimination, and honour our men and women with equal recognition – because they're all of the same ilk, all those who serve and die for our country.

A veteran is a veteran."


FrontLine urges all Canadians and all Veterans (whether they served in a theatre of war or not) to contact their Members of Parliament and Canada's Senators, and implore them to prepare a bill that would extend long-term care to Korean War Veterans who arrived in Korea after the 27 July 1953 armistice.

This leads to the matter of other Veterans who, as Vince Courtney, editor of the online journal Korean War Veteran, points out, have also served their country without regard to personal risk. Canada continued to put soldiers in harms way even after the Korean armistice was"official", which has left many, such as General Belzile, without the option of being cared for in the Veterans Wing, which provides, by all accounts, a superlative level of care.

Canadians can be very proud of the level of care we extend to War Veterans who wish to be cared for in the Veterans Wing of the Perley and Rideau Veterans Centre. Although someone injured in the course of their duty, even if serving in Canada, may also be eligible, the main criteria for admittance to the Veterans Wing is that they (a) must need extended care, and (b) must have served in a foreign theatre of "actual war" (WWI/WWII), or in the Korean theatre of operations prior to 27 July 1953.

Veterans Affairs Canada, which funds this special Wing, has very clear definitions of what a theatre of war is and, according to the criteria policy definitions, the more current conflicts – for which Canada sent military personnel into harms way (Gulf War, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Syria) – do not qualify. 

Let us extend this level of care for all suffering Veterans who, through no fault of their own, now need their country’s assistance.

It is only right for Canada to now serve them in their final years. They gave their hearts and their service to Canada in their youth.

A Veteran is someone who, at one point in their life,
wrote a cheque made payable to the citizens of Canada,
for an amount "up to and including my life."

The larger problem is the definition of a War Veteran, which is used by Veterans Affairs Canada to qualify those who are allowed into this special Wing. Canadians will be surprised to learn that, based on the current VAC criteria, none of our younger Veterans who fought in the Gulf War, Bosnia, Afghanistan, or Syria, will be allowed into the Veterans Wing either. They can get on a waiting list for the Perley Health Centre, but are not eligible to be cared for in the special Veteran's Wing.

This has to change now, and requires public support to create the "political will" to do the right thing – because the bureaucratic gears of government grind very slowly. Other Korean War Veterans have died not being allowed into the special Veteran's Wing. This is unacceptable.

Chris MacLean, FrontLine editor


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