© Cory Hurley
A large number of people gathered outside the Veterans Affairs office in Corner Brook Friday.
CORNER BROOK Hedley Smith extended his hand to my shoulder to symbolize the hands-on service he is losing with the closure of the city‚Äôs Veterans Affairs office.
The Canadian Armed Forces veteran, 82, was certainly not making light of the federal government‚Äôs decision. His face was saddened as he discussed the burden of not having somebody to turn to. The hurt was apparent in his eyes as he said the woman he has dealt with for about 30 years was losing her job.
‚ÄúYou could go there and talk to them and you would get an answer,‚ÄĚ‚ÄąSmith said. ‚ÄúThose people did everything in the world for you.‚ÄĚ
The federal government has said there will still be a contact for veterans in the Service Canada office. But Smith said it will never be the same, that this person will not have the experience and knowledge to deal with the complexity of veterans issues.
There wasn‚Äôt as much sadness and hurt for Canadian Forces member Paul White as there was anger.
‚ÄúAfter 22 years in the Canadian Army, dedicating my time and almost my life, if I am going to give that to my country, why can‚Äôt my country give something to me and my fellow veterans?‚ÄĚ‚Äąhe asked.
Many veterans across the country feel like this decision was a slap in the face. White takes it one step farther.
‚ÄúIf you fall down, one of your comrades is supposed to help you up,‚ÄĚ‚Äąhe said. ‚ÄúYou expect your country to help you up when you have fallen. Now that we are down and these offices are closing, they are kicking us while we are down.‚ÄĚ
It was a solemn protest in Corner Brook Friday.
A large crowd gathered around a dozen or more retired soldiers and military personnel in the parking lot of the Veterans Affairs office in Corner Brook at noon. Similar protests were held across the country.
Friday was scheduled to be the last day of operation for the regional office, one of eight across the country slated to close, which provided assistance and support to veterans over the years. The closures are part of a move by Veterans Affairs to move more services online.
Paul Davis, the veteran from Summerside who butted heads with federal Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino in Ottawa this week, walked alongside Matthew Connolly, president of the Royal‚ÄąCanadian Legion Branch 13, and laid a wreath beneath the Canadian flag.
Veterans appear to have lost their battle to overturn the decision to close the offices, but people like Connolly and the many veterans will continue the fight in hopes it will eventually make a difference.
‚ÄúThe democratic process, there hasn‚Äôt been enough of it,‚ÄĚ Connolly said. ‚ÄúIt needs to be addressed, it needs to be sorted out. Don‚Äôt make a decision until you have all the facts.‚ÄĚ
Angela Decker of the Public Service Alliance also attended. She told the people that her organization is requesting another meeting with Fantino to try to convince him to change the decision.