Fight to keep Veterans Affairs offices open not over, vows N.S. veteran
A Canadian veteran has returned home from his battle with the country’s Veterans Affairs minister.
Ron Clarke is among the many veterans fighting to save local Veterans Affairs offices slated to close. He is also among a group of veterans who travelled to Ottawa this week for a meeting with Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino.
The meeting had been scheduled to discuss the closure of the Veterans Affairs regional offices, but veterans said they “waited and waited,” only to have Fantino show up late, answer a few questions and then leave.
Fantino has apologized for being “very late” for the meeting Tuesday, but veterans say they were mistreated by the minister and are calling for his resignation.
“It was a hard fight and it’s not the end of the fight, it’s a war,” said Clarke, after touching down at the airport in Sydney on Thursday.
Initially, Fantino had cancelled the meeting, saying he was too busy.
“He didn’t show, he sent in three flunkies, MPs,” said Clarke. “What really upset us, the MPs he sent into the office were veterans, veterans. There were three officers, two Air Force officers and one Army officer.”
Offices in Kelowna, B.C., Saskatoon, Brandon, Man., Thunder Bay, Ont., Windsor, Ont., Sydney N.S., Charlottetown and Corner Brooke, N.L., are scheduled to close Friday as the government moves to more online services.
Some veterans say the inability to access services could have dire consequences for former soldiers suffering from mental health issues.
Despite the veterans’ concerns, Fantino hasn’t budged on the government’s plan to shut down the offices that help veterans with issues like PTSD.
If the offices close Friday, veterans in Sydney say they are going down with the ship. They plan to hold a black ribbon ceremony as the doors are locked for the last time.
The veterans say they are still hoping for a last minute change of heart.
“Either it’s going to be a day of mourning for us, or a day of celebration, we’re still holding out hope,” said veteran Alfie Burt.
The Conservative government has said that veterans will still be able to get everything they need from the 584 Service Canada offices across the country.
However, the veterans aren’t buying that and are vowing to make the Tories pay in the next federal election.
“I’m sure the Conservative Party will be filing in to Service Canada, to the unemployment insurance office in 2015,” said Clarke.
The Liberals say they will reopen each of the eight offices if elected in 2015.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Ryan MacDonald