Veterans hurt by closure of offices, loss of supports

Cory Hurley
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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’s Veterans Affairs office.

The Canadian Armed Forces veteran, 82, was certainly not making light of the federal government’s 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.

“You could go there and talk to them and you would get an answer,” Smith said. “Those people did everything in the world for you.”

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’t as much sadness and hurt for Canadian Forces member Paul White as there was anger.

“After 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’t my country give something to me and my fellow veterans?” he asked.

Many veterans across the country feel like this decision was a slap in the face. White takes it one step farther.

“If you fall down, one of your comrades is supposed to help you up,” he said. “You 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.”

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 Canadian 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.

“The democratic process, there hasn’t been enough of it,” Connolly said. “It needs to be addressed, it needs to be sorted out. Don’t make a decision until you have all the facts.”

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.

Organizations: Veterans Affairs, Candian Legion Branch, Public Service Alliance

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Summerside, Ottawa Canada

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Recent comments

  • dan murphy
    February 01, 2014 - 20:20

    The issue here, and it has not been articulated clearly, is that our veterans need a "face" not a computer screen and that "face" has to have empathy and an understanding for the issues that veterans face yearly and for some daily. You can't train someone in a service Canada office who is up to their ears dealing with everything from EI to pension for this position. In fact, there there should be more "faces" not less. Our veterans should not have to pick a number and wait in line. Now I support Canada's initiatives abroad to mitigate human suffering in the Middle East. By the way how many millions did our Mr. Harper drop in the middle East last week? The bottom line is if you put your life on the line for your country you don't become a line item at the bottom of balance sheet. Veterans first Mr. Harper.

  • Paulette Jesty
    February 01, 2014 - 15:18

    I am so very proud of our Veterans and so very ashamed of our Federal Government, especially Federal Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino!! Mr. Fantino, you treated the Veterans, who had traveled to Ottawa to speak with you, with contempt and disrespect. Shame on you, Mr. Fantino. Shame on you Prime Minister Harper.

  • New Veteran
    February 01, 2014 - 10:29

    While deployed, as ordered by the Canadian Government, it was comforting to know that our equipment was provided by the lowest bidder. Nothing is too good for the troops and nothing is what they will get.

  • offdrock
    February 01, 2014 - 08:36

    I would like to think that by transferring services to the service canada location would give a better one stop shopping approach to veterans, especially with the Canada pension and old age pensions services located in the same facility, but the problem that exists and will get worse is the veterans who find it difficult to make that first step to approach VAC for help, the centralized, busier location may be a further obstacle to getting treatment, and to retired guy, you can always qualify even in retirement if something arises that is found attributable to service.

  • kp
    January 31, 2014 - 19:33

    Why have a comment section if your comments dont get posted?

  • kp
    January 31, 2014 - 17:17

    It really is too bad that they are closing all of these VAC offices, especially for those who NEED their services. BUT just how many actually avail themselves of these services and how often??? Not all veterans are veterans using VAC. I am retired military after serving 25 years, been retired 10 years and have NEVER used VAC services because I do not have never had a claim for a VAC pension or benefit. And I never will because whatever happens to me now (health/injury) will never be attributable to military service.

  • Marilee Pittman
    January 31, 2014 - 13:28

    Shame, shame, shame on the Harper government. No not Harper's government. Let' make sure it OUR government come election day!

  • Marilee Pittman
    January 31, 2014 - 13:27

    Shame, shame, shame on the Harper government. No not Harper's government. Let' make sure it OUR government come election day!