Veterans living in Ontario and active members of the Canadian Armed Forces will now be allowed to enter Ontario parks on weekdays for free.
Ontario is sending a Remembrance Day salute to veterans and members of the military, saying they’ll be allowed free weekday day-use entry to provincial parks starting Monday.
Environment Minister Jeff Yurek, announced the move Friday for veterans and active military personnel living in Ontario.
“There’s never enough words to truly thank past and present members of the Canadian Armed Forces, but as a token of our appreciation, our government is making it easier for them and their families to spend more time in nature and green spaces in Ontario parks,” the Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP said.
“We all know that spending time in nature has a positive impact on health and well-being,” he said.
Yurek acknowledged more could be done for veterans and active service members, but said the free access to provincial parks is one of the ways the provincial government is helping.
Garry Pond, the Ontario president of the Royal Canadian Legion, applauded the move, saying veterans and military members cherish the outdoors and the Legion has long pushed for improved access to services and supports for those with operational stress injuries.
“It’s a step forward in helping de-stigmatize mental health in the military and this news should be well received by our veteran community,” Pond wrote in a statement.
The gesture is fitting, but more needs to be done, a Legion executive member in St. Thomas said.
“It’s a nice way for us to say thank you to our veterans,” said Tony Bendel, first vice-president of the Legion’s Lord Elgin branch.
“Sure, like (Yurek) said, there’s more that we need to do. I’d like to see the veterans’ services get more involved and things to help these guys. There is still more that we need to do and we’ll continue to work on it.”
For younger military members, the free daytime, weekday park access is especially good, Bendel said.
“For the younger ones coming home now, wonderful. I mean, it’d be nice to see them be able to travel the province and take their kids and enjoy what we have and what they fought for.”
Ontario manages 340 provincial parks and 295 conservation areas, their combined area accounting for nine per cent of the province.