© Geraldine Brophy
Royal Canadian Legion Branch 13 in Corner Brook president Matthew Connolly, right, spoke during a recent protest on the pending closure of the Veterans Affairs office in Corner Brook that's scheduled for February of 2014.
CORNER BROOK — The veterans of this country are thankful for the support they are getting in their protest of the closure of Veteran’s Affairs offices, according to Matthew Connolly.
The president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 13 in Corner Brook was reacting to the support of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE). Its president, Carol Furlong, was asking the federal government to rescind the planned closures Monday.
Connolly said he was happy to hear about the support of the union and its members. As a group of veterans, many of whom are retired and up in age, he said there is only so much impact they can have. Also, questioning how strong of a political impact they can have, he said it has been great to earn the support of such organizations and many people throughout the country.
“It has been phenomenal,” Connolly said of that support. “We ask people to write emails and letters, contact their members of parliament and lobby hard for government to change their minds.
“The people realize how important our veterans, and their welfare, is because they wouldn’t have anything without the people who fought for them.”
The president, who has helped organize and lead protests in Corner Brook, said he is staying positive, and believes there is a chance the decision will be rescinded.
“The people throughout the country recognize what our veterans have done for our freedom,” he said. “Unfortunately, our government does not.”
Connolly said there are plans for another protest in Corner Brook, where one of the Veteran’s Affairs offices is located, in January.
He also agrees with Furlong in her opinion that the closure of the offices will only worsen the looming crisis for Canadian Armed Forces veterans and personnel. She was reacting to the four recent suicides of young veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to Furlong, these tragedies took place only days before federal Veteran’s Affairs Minister Julian Fantino announced Veteran’s Affairs offices in eight communities will officially close their doors Jan. 31. The office in Prince George, B.C. has already closed.
“Based on recent tragic events, the federal government needs to increase support services to our military personnel, not reduce them. This is an alarming situation that demands immediate attention by the federal government,” Furlong stated in a press release. “In light of the tragic events this past week and the continued call by veterans, both young and old, for the need to maintain the support services offered in these offices, the Harper government must immediately rescind the decision to close these offices.
“The suicide deaths of these military personnel have touched the hearts of Canadians.”