A new survey has found that Canadians have the wrong impression when it comes to war veterans and their livelihood after serving in the military.

In a poll released ahead of Remembrance Day, the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires found that a significant majority of the 1,000 people surveyed falsely believe that at least half of all veterans receive a pension when they retire. More than 28 per cent of Canadians believe all veterans receive a pension.

But in fact, only 30 per cent of veterans have served the Canadian Forces long enough to have earned a pension for retirement.

A veteran must serve 20 years with the Canadian Forces before being eligible for a pension but the average duration of a veteran's service is 11.5 years -- a fact only 14 per cent of respondents knew.

The Commissionaires, an organization dedicated to easing a veteran's transition back to a regular civilian lifestyle, said most Canadians believe veterans serve longer than they actually do.

About 35 per cent of people thought veterans serve an average of 20 years in the military.

Toronto difficult adjustment

Stan Ruston, a veteran who works with Commissionaires recruitment in Toronto, said war veterans often have to pursue a second or third career after retiring from the military.

However, he said a new career is challenging for someone who has trained for years with the Canadian Forces and has become accustomed to a culture of loyalty, respect and obedience. Instead, the civilian corporate life can be cut throat with managers easily dismissing employees in order to meet their bottom line.

"It's a different way of life," he said in a telephone interview from Toronto with ctvtoronto.ca. "The most difficult thing I found was the structure of loyalty wasn't the same. The Commissionaires had that family feeling and it made me feel at home."

Ruston served with the military for 21 years and is currently eligible for a pension. However, as a recruiter for Commissionaires, he often deals with younger recruits who just finished a stint in Afghanistan and are having a hard time finding work.

He said Toronto is particularly hard to adjust to because it is a big city with a weak veterans culture as opposed to smaller towns who have a large number of retired veterans living there.

Jim Watts, president and CEO of Commissionaires Great Lakes Division is a 24-year veteran who saw first hand just how hard the transition back to civilian life could be.

He said he was "really shocked" at the lack of loyalty his peers and supervisors at work showed for each other.

"The pace of doing business was different," he said. "Nonetheless, it showed me just how inefficient commercial businesses can be."

New workplace policies

Of the 6,000 recruits who (on average) leave the Canadian Forces each year, about 1,200 find a job with the Commissionaires.

The average age of veterans coming to look for a job with the organization is about 48. The older recruits are coming to look for a way to supplement their pensions or to build one from scratch.

Not only do they work with people who have a similar life experience but employees of the non-profit group also have access to a confidential hotline assistance program in case they are dealing with any issues such as post traumatic stress disorder.

A lot of companies are hesitant to take on veterans as employees because "they're not sure what they're getting," said Ruston. This program gets veterans working in an atmosphere that is sensitive and flexible, he added.

Nonetheless, the survey showed Canadians are more than willing to make the transition easier for veterans as 89 per cent of those surveyed said they feel an obligation to ensure that veterans do indeed find meaningful employment after serving their country.

Watts said a good start would be new policies in the workforce.

"Employees should put internal policies in place especially with young reservists that allow them time off and a job guarantee for when they come back," he said.

There should also be an education program for employers to make them aware of the many marketable skills recruits learn in the military, he said, such as team work, self-discipline and problem solving.

Honouring war vets

The Commissionaires survey was released in honour of Veterans' Week ahead of Remembrance Day on Nov. 11.

Canadians will have a chance to honour those who served our country in both the First and Second World War by taking part in one of several ceremonies being held across the Greater Toronto Area.

Here's a look at some of the special memorial events taking place around Toronto:

  • Sunnybrook Veterans Hospital

Sunnybrook is home to the largest health-care facility for veterans in the country. Each year, a special memorial is held inside Warrior's Hall and is attended by several government officials, Veterans Affairs Canada as well as members of the Royal Canadian Legion.

After the service, veterans and their friends and family members are invited to lay memorial wreaths at the historic cenotaph on the grounds of Sunnybrook.

  • City of Toronto Remembrance Day Ceremony

Time: 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

This ceremony takes place each year on the steps of Old City Hall at 60 Queen St. W. at the corner of Bay and Queen Street. Government officials from all levels usually attend the memorial and hundreds of people often leave their poppies at the site as a show of respect to the veterans.

  • Queen's Park Remembrance Day Ceremony

Time: 10:30 a.m. to noon

This ceremony is a traditional event that takes place each year on the lawns of Queen's Park, at the front of the Ontario Legislature. Dignitaries and war veterans place a wreath at the foot of the Cenotaph to pay homage to those who died in service.

  • War Requiem Concert

This concert will take place both on Nov. 11 and Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. at Roy Thomson Hall. Veterans and members of the Canadian Armed Forces will receive a 30 per cent discount on tickets for the concert, which is held by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

The show features Benjamin Britten's War Requiem -- a choral masterpiece that symbolizes the deep mourning over the loss of life during the First World War.

Ticket costs range from $22 to $91.25.