Melanson ends hunger strike after VAC apology

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Veteran celebrates first meal in 265 hours with bacon and egg breakfast last night

Fabien Melanson is staging a hunger strike in front of Veterans Affairs Canada headquarters in Charlottetown.

Cpl. Fabien Melanson (ret’d) ended his hunger strike at 6 p.m. Tuesday after receiving the formal apology he was seeking from Veterans Affairs Canada.

Melanson was at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital later Tuesday and unavailable for comment following his meeting with VAC.

A media release on his decision was not issued until approximately 2 a.m. this morning.

 

The veteran of the Royal 22nd Regiment had last eaten on June 4.  He had been protesting outside VAC headquarters in Charlottetown since June 6.

 An accounting error in 2004 sent Melanson’s pension into the wrong bank account.  It took VAC five months to correct the error, by which time Melanson’s house and finances were ruined and his mental health at risk. 

While VAC had acknowledged the error at the time, it had refused to admit any responsibility for the consequences.

Mid-afternoon Tuesday, Melanson and his personal advocate Capt. Sandy Brace (ret’d) were finally invited inside to meet with a VAC official. 

At that meeting, Keith Hillier, assistant deputy minister for service delivery, expressed profound regret for Melanson’s plight. 

Hillier gave assurances that he would act immediately to draft a letter outlining the fact that Veterans’ Affairs was responsible for the lack of funds, not Melanson. 

 While Hillier offered no guarantees, he said he hoped that such a document would assist Melanson in rebuilding his credit rating.  The corporal had to declare bankruptcy as a result of the error.  

Hillier stated the forthcoming letter could be used with creditors and financial institutions to explain that the bad debts were not Melanson’s fault, but that of Veterans’ Affairs.

 Hillier also expressed concern over Melanson’s level of support and provided Brace with contact information for a case manager in the veteran’s home region of Cap-Pelé, N.B.  Hillier suggested Melanson’s case should be reviewed.

Melanson has also been seeking funds to restore his home to livable condition.  When his pension went missing, the 160 year-old farm house he inherited from his grandparents had been undergoing renovation.  Without an income, work halted and the dwelling quickly fell into disrepair.  It remains derelict.

 Hillier advised Melanson and Brace that, while he was sorry for situation, Veterans’ Affairs has no mechanism in place for rectifying the problems they created.  Hillier concluded with a promise to deliver the letter by the end of the week.

 Meanwhile, in the House of Commons, Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney assured Parliament that the government was acting to address the plight of homeless veterans.  “One veteran in the street is one veteran too many”, he said.

 After the meeting with Hillier, Brace drove Melanson to the QEH where he was given a full medical check.  Melanson received three units of IV fluids and a clean bill of health. 

Melanson extended his thanks to ER staff and says he received excellent care in their hands.

 Melanson said he set out to accomplish three goals with his hunger strike: an apology, a house to live in, and to raise awareness of the problems veterans endure. 

While he still does not have a home, Melanson considers his results to be satisfactory.  The apology and acknowledgement he received from Hillier has granted him peace of mind and he looks forward to receiving the promised letter. 

Melanson feels that media interest of his hunger strike and the public support he received show that Canadians are concerned for their veterans.

 At 6:10 p.m. Tuesday after more than 11 days, Melanson ended his 265-hour hunger strike with a bacon and egg breakfast.

 He plans to return home to Cap Pele today after holding a press conference.

 

 

 

Organizations: Veterans Affairs Canada, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, House of Commons

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Jeff Rose-Martland
    June 15, 2011 - 20:32

    @RG obviously YOU didn't follow the story much. Fabien first call VAC to report the error in September and VAC refused to admit there was one. It took 5 months of calls before Fabien managed to get the account number they were sending the pension to, then he called the bank, who called VAC, who finally fixed the issue.

  • Kerry
    June 15, 2011 - 12:05

    I am glad you got the so deserved apology for the VAC, I too have had a similar problem with Military pay that took years and a redress of greivance to resolve the problem. It is very stressful to correct an "error" when you never create it. Meanwhile I was almost bankrupt and pleadeing with creditors and the payclerk was saying it was not the fault of their side of the counter.

  • LA
    June 15, 2011 - 11:16

    Five months to fix the error. Why couldn't they fix it ASAP (it CAN be done), or, reissue his payment and suck up the difference until they could recover the money from the wrong account? They sure as hell can afford to be in debit for their own mistake. He can't though.

    • RG
      June 15, 2011 - 17:25

      LA, I'm guessing you didn't read the other articles or follow this story much. DVA never even knew they had the wrong account number until 5 months later. Once they found out, it got corrected within 24 hours and the money got paid out right away.

  • John MacInnis
    June 15, 2011 - 09:34

    Sure, the public support Melanson received shows Canadians are concerned about veterans. That's not exactly headline news. A huge majority of Canadians care about our veterans, and although many people were and still are scratching their heads about a few elements in this particular story, Melanson picked a good place to have a hunger strike. Islanders have a stellar reputation for helping others who need some help. So the Island is the perfect location for the DVA.

  • Marie
    June 15, 2011 - 08:25

    So good to hear the name Mr. Hillier answering for the DVA. Will we have a true advocate for our veterans for a change? I hope so. Good luck to Mr. Melanson. It won't be easy, but it's a start.

  • SHIRLEY
    June 15, 2011 - 08:10

    I am glad your hunger strike is over and you got what you wanted all the best to you as you deserve the best only.