The Harper government closed eight Veterans Affairs offices yesterday.
The Globe and Mail reports, “Protests in the cities across Canada that lost their Veterans Affairs offices drew crowds as large as 1,000 on Friday. …In Sydney, N.S., former soldiers carried signs telling Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino to ‘fight the next war yourselves’.”
“The protests were organized by Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), whose members have lost their jobs. But the veterans who took part say they are the ones who will bear the brunt of the closings. …Mr. Fantino has dismissed the Friday protests as a stunt organized by the union. He said during interviews this week that the veterans were ‘duped’ and ‘used’ by PSAC. That only served to inflame the anger of Rob Cutbush, a Navy veteran and a local legion president who took a day off work to speak at the protest in Thunder Bay. ‘What right does he have to tell me, as a Canadian citizen who defended democracy for 25 years, who I can talk to, speak to or associate with?'”
The Veterans Affairs offices closed yesterday were in Thunder Bay, Ontario; Kelowna, British Columbia; Brandon, Manitoba; Windsor, Ontario; Sydney, Nova Scotia; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; Corner Brook, Newfoundland; and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Last week during Question Period, Harper claimed, “There are a small number of service centres that are being closed that, frankly, served very few people, had very few visits.” The government has refused to provide numbers though on how many veterans had regularly visited the offices now closed.
But as the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reports, “According to PSAC, the Saskatoon office’s 4,500 clients, which were served by 14 staff, will now be transferred to the Regina office, which already serves 4,400. No additional staff will be added there. Prairie Region executive vice-president Marianne Hladun said both offices were already short-staffed, and the transfer ‘puts more of a burden’ on them. ‘As much as the employees of Veterans Affairs want to serve the vets, it’s just not possible in the amount of hours they have in a day. It’s going to mean a delay in service, it’s going to mean frustration for the veterans to access the services.'”
The Toronto Star adds, “Ottawa hasn’t changed its mind on the closings and the vets are furious about that, saying they’ll work to defeat Harper’s government in the 2015 federal election.” This determination was also noted in other news articles.
The Council of Canadians stands with veterans and the Public Service Alliance of Canada in the call for the offices to be reopened.