By Mike Anderson

With the 80th anniversary of D-Day fast approaching, Keswick resident Rob Cullen is calling on Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) to cover travel costs for Canada’s D-Day veterans attending the Juno Beach ceremony and other commemorative events in Normandy, France, in June.

But, so far, the answer from Veterans Affairs has been a hard “no.”

Cullen began lobbying VAC as early as September 2023 but was told that it would only cover the costs of D-Day veterans who were part of the official delegation to Normandy.

In an email to Cullen on February 21, 2024, Veterans Affairs Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said her department has “insufficient resources” to pay D-Day veteran’s travel costs.


“The Department receives many requests for financial assistance from Veterans, individuals and groups wishing to travel to attend ceremonies and commemorative activities,” Minister Petitpas Taylor said.

“While recognizing the importance of events such as this, I must advise that Veteran’s Affairs Canada provides funding for the official delegation but has insufficient resources to support the travel of all interested Veterans.”

Cullen, whose father, Gilbert, now passed, landed at Juno Beach on June 6, 1944, with the Royal Canadian Artillery, is calling VAC’s decision not to pay travel costs a slap in the face for surviving D-Day veterans.

“It’s the equivalent of a bunch of people throwing you a birthday party, and if you decide to show up, you have to pay for your own cake,” Cullen said.

According to VAC, in 2021, there were only 5,880 surviving war veterans (WW2 & Korea) in Canada—however, only a fraction of those served in Normandy.

Among the surviving D-Day veterans, the youngest is now 96 years old—assuming they were aged 16 during the landings.

Cullen says this may be the last significant anniversary of D-Day that veterans will be able to attend.

The Post asked VAC to provide a breakdown of the official delegation, including the number of D-Day veterans.

According to a spokesperson, an estimated 15 veterans and their caretakers will be part of the delegation, which includes Minister Petitpas Taylor, four parliamentarians, and representatives of veteran and Indigenous organizations.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may lead the official delegation, the spokesperson could not confirm his attendance.

Cullen says that if VAC is paying for politicians and dignitaries to attend, it should also pay for D-Day veterans, especially since they’ve reimbursed their travel costs before.

In 2004, the 60th anniversary, and again in 2014, the 70th anniversary, VAC, bowing to public pressure, reimbursed D-Day veteran’s travel costs.

Cullen argues that with so few veterans from D-Day still alive, VAC should repeat the gesture.

“In 2004, the government was ready to pay $1,000 for up to 3,000 veterans, so a projected cost of $3 million. In 2014, it was $2,000 for 180 veterans, or $360,000,” he said.

“How about they set aside $360,000 again and split it evenly between all the veterans that attend? It would definitely cover their trips.”

Cullen is also critical of the process used by VAC to select veterans for the official delegation.

It relies mainly on local Royal Canadian Legion branches—there are 1,350 across Canada—and regimental associations to forward a list of D-Day veterans to VAC for vetting.

However, 20 Legion branches permanently closed during the pandemic, and some function in name only.

In addition, some D-Day veterans have allowed their Legion memberships to lapse. So, branches may not know these veterans still reside in their communities.

Cullen believes VAC should have been more proactive in contacting D-Day veterans.

“To my knowledge, none of the Legions or associations I’m familiar with have been approached by VAC,” he said.

“The whole thing is a load of BS; they haven’t looked for anybody.”

However, while VAC did not provide the Post with specific details on when and how it contacted Legions and associations, a spokesperson did confirm this was being done.

“Veterans interested in participating in these events have been encouraged to make their interest known to one of these major organizations/associations or the Department,” the spokesperson told the Post.

“Response from Veterans and Veterans organizations has been positive. We continue to work to develop a Canadian delegation ensuring the best experience and overall health and wellness of the participants.”

According to a Royal Canadian Legion spokesperson, VAC did contact the national organization but was told to contact regional commands and local branches directly.

“Veterans Affairs Canada did reach out to us nationally for suggestions, and we referred them to our many regions and branches who are usually the ones with information related to local veterans in their communities,” the spokesperson said.

“Legion branches and provincial commands operate with a high degree of independence, so their representatives are possibly in the midst of being contacted directly by VAC for suggestions.”

However, according to Cullen, little detailed information, including an official itinerary, has been made public, forcing many D-Day veterans to make their own travel arrangements before local hotels and flights are booked up.

“There’s absolutely no information on the VAC website for any veteran who might want to join the delegation,” he said.

“The government is well aware of the limited availability of housing and transportation when these events occur, and the veterans who want to go have already booked on their own.”

“They should support them and say if you’re going on your own, we will reimburse you. Provide us with the receipts, and we will reimburse you just like we did in 2004 and 2014. And I will guarantee you that the cost for the number of veterans that would go over on their own will be substantially less than what it’s going to cost this delegation to go over.”

Veterans interested in attending the Juno Beach ceremony can register on the VAC website, visit