Veterans Affairs minister misleading veterans: PSAC

Cory Hurley
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OTTAWA  Veterans, and the workers who serve them, want Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino to stop misleading them about what they will be able to access at Service Canada offices if Veterans Affairs office close next month, according to the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).

Veterans across the country are fighting the closures of eight offices in Corner Brook, Charlottetown, Sydney, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Brandon, Saskatoon and Kelowna. The Prince George office closed in January, and veterans want it reopened.

Nov. 28, Fantino announced one Veterans Affairs worker would be left in a Service Canada office in each of the communities when offices close Jan. 31. But, the union has since learned the measure will last just three months, and, in some cases, that one worker would only be available on a part-time basis.

“Veterans recognized immediately that putting one worker in a Service Canada office wouldn’t make up for closing down a whole office,” Sydney, N.S. veteran Ron Clarke stated in a press release issued by the alliance. “To learn now that the minister didn’t even tell the whole story around that that is infuriating.

Robyn Benson, president of the alliance, called on the minister to acknowledge the reality of the impact of the closures.

“There’s no way around it — closing these offices means taking away veterans-only spaces, where almost 90 front line workers provide the in-person support veterans need and deserve,” Benson stated. “The government must reconsider this decision because it will hurt veterans and drive them away from the services they need and deserve.”

“So many veterans are in crisis,” he stated. “Now is not the time to be taking away a crucial part of the system that is supposed to ensure those veterans get the help they need when they need it.” Ron Clarke, veteran from Sydney, N.S.

The closures will mean 25 fewer nearby case managers to work with high-risk veterans in their homes, and 21 fewer client service agents in the offices when veterans need them, stated Yvan Thauvette, president of the alliances Union of Veterans Affairs Employees.

“Then, there’s the administrative staff, local managers, pension officers, nurses and occupational therapists,” he stated. “None of these people are dispensable.”

Thauvette says veterans in other communities will see longer waits for services too, especially where offices are taking on thousands of new files because of the closures.

Those offices have lost staff too, and now veterans as a whole will have fewer people to work on thousands more cases, according to the press release.

Clarke says the closures send an especially bad message to veterans given recent news about suicides among returning soldiers and veterans.

“So many veterans are in crisis,” he stated. “Now is not the time to be taking away a crucial part of the system that is supposed to ensure those veterans get the help they need when they need it.”

Organizations: Veterans Affairs, Public Service Alliance of Canada, Service Canada Union of Veterans Affairs Employees

Geographic location: Sydney, OTTAWA, Corner Brook Charlottetown Thunder Bay Brandon Saskatoon Kelowna Prince George

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Recent comments

  • f
    December 10, 2013 - 19:09

    When is the government going to stope putting stuffed shirt and tie yes men (and women) in departments of which they have little or no knowledge in. a minister of national defence should have military background and have served and a minister of veterans affairs should also have the same experience. I am neither here or there when it comes to political parties but I do believe that this government ahsn't done anyone any favors....everything from the closure of search and rescue in some areas, the closure of the VA offices that are slated to close and the overall treatment of the Veterans past and present. I have the Cape Breton post in my newsfile and read everyday along with other papers.....when they had their protest in the closing of their VA office in Sydney, Capr Breton close to 5 thousand people to show up to support their veterans. Come on people, it's time to stand up and fight for the ones who stood and fought for us!! For Godsake let your voices be heard support our men and women who need our help now more than ever!!

  • James Pelley LSER Ret'd
    December 10, 2013 - 13:58

    I'm a veteran and I have been taken very good care of by the staff at our Corner Brook office. The personal touch that has been given, has a helped my family and I deal with my disability. When unable to attend meetings at the office, I was visited at my home and a sit down at my kitchen table was made. My wife is my caregiver, I cannot imagine what is going to happen to the Veterans in remote locations and those that aren't mobile. It's a travesty, a betrayal, a neglect and disrespect to members who have fought, are still fighting and those who have sacrificed so much to serve with honour in our country's name. I can only hope the pain and sense of abandonment doesn't drive our Veterans to leave this world too soon, without help, support and no one listening to or caring about them /us.