Veteran who staged hunger strike will lose house after all

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Veterans Affairs inaction, minister’s refusal to discuss matter blamed for foreclosure

Fabien Melanson during his hunger strike in front of Veterans Affairs Canada headquarters in Charlottetown.

A New Brunswick veteran who held a hunger strike outside Veterans Affairs Canada headquarters in Charlottetown a year ago will lose his house and property today after all.

Veterans Affairs’ inaction and the refusal of Minister Stephen Blaney to discuss the matter are being blamed for the foreclosure.

A year ago, Cpl. Fabien Melanson, a veteran of the Royal 22nd Regiment, gained national attention with his two-week hunger strike at VAC headquarters. He started the hunger strike in early June of 2011.

The former Van Doo was protesting VAC’s repeated failure to take responsibility for a 2004 clerical error which sent his pension to the wrong bank account for five straight months. The loss of income halted renovations to his St-Andre Leblanc home, leaving it damaged and unliveable.

In an official letter, dated last June, Veterans Affairs acknowledged their error and the financial hardship it caused. Privately, the department told Melanson it had “no mechanism” for addressing the harm done to him.

Melanson ended his strike June 15 after an official apology from Keith Hillier, the VAC's assistant deputy minister for service delivery. Hillier also suggested Melanson's case be reviewed, and provided the veteran with contact information for a case manager in his home region of Cap-Pele, N.B.

Canadian country singer Julien Austin was also going to help with fundraising for Melanson.

The minister of Veterans Affairs has the authority to issue ex gratia payments — outside of policy — in such situations. Melanson has been appealing to Blaney for assistance for a year without response.

Now, time is almost up. The ruined house and property will be repossessed today and sold.

The mortgage holder has given Melanson until then to provide a detailed reconstruction and repayment plan.  

Otherwise, Bridgewater Bank will proceed with legal action and sale.

Jeff Rose-Martland, advocate for the veteran, has been trying to get Blaney to act.

“The minister refuses to engage,” he says, “Emails, phone calls, faxes, nothing. The closest thing we have to a response was a phone call in February from an assistant, who said they were looking into it.”

“The minister keeps saying in the House that he cares about our veterans,” adds Rose-Martland. “I don’t see him caring about this one.”

Rose-Martland said VAC admits its error, admits Melanson suffered as a result, but won’t fix the problem.

Melanson is going to lose his property — his 160-year-old Acadien ancestral home — because the minister will not discharge his duties, he added

“Minister Blaney has a duty of care to Fabien Melanson, to see that this wrong is corrected. In refusing to even enter discussions, Minister Blaney is neglecting his responsibility.”

Organizations: Veterans Affairs Canada, Bridgewater Bank

Geographic location: New Brunswick, Charlottetown, Pele

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Recent comments

  • Robert Grant
    September 03, 2015 - 01:24

    Has any past federal Canadian government ever treat veterans with such disdain? Well the answer is yes and it was Robert Borden government to first world war vets. The outcry was so strong against shabby disabled veterans' treatment that Borden himself, In 1917, on the eve of the attack on Vimy Ridge, assured the country’s soldiers that they “need have no fear that the government and the country [would] fail to show just appreciation of [their] service.” The Prime Minister considered it Canada’s “first duty” to support the troops and he promised them that none would have “just cause to reproach the government for having broken faith” with its men. Unlike Harper, Borden wasn't stupid enough to go into an election with the shabby treatment of disabled veterans as an issue. Unlike Harper, Borden also realized that you don't screw with vets but it didn't matter the damage was done and he lost re-election in 1920. If veterans have anything to do with it history will repeat itself on October 19th and Harper will lose as well...........A-B-C Anyone But Conservative (Harper)

  • Robert Grant
    September 02, 2015 - 23:34

    Disgusting unfeeling treatment.....unworthy of any real government....

  • shanejones
    June 04, 2012 - 11:57

    my response is for "the charlottetown resident and "huh".. your response sonds like it would have come from somebody in parlament, whats wrong with letting vets be the ones that work at vac canada. first of all you would allow a vet (who due to the injuries they have sustained during the time they spent serving there country) to feel like he is helping his peers and making a difference which is what any soldier wants to do and on the other hand any vet applying will feel a little more trust knowing that a vet who at some point of his/her time in has gone through somthing similar....sounds like a win win situation to me and besides could it really get any worse than it allready is???

  • Kenneth H Young
    June 04, 2012 - 08:07

    As the Government promised, they actually did listen to Fabien when he told VAC his story and when they checked the also found that it was there mistake and so apologized but like what more and more Veterans are learning, when it comes to dealing with VAC... the Veteran is on their own. The Government did listen, then quickly ignored the effects on a Canadian Veteran and the damages caused by their own mistake. For Fabien this is not justice, it is not even close to being fair, but it does seem to be government policy when it comes to our Canadian Veterans. If you are no longer able or willing to fight and die for Ottawa’s political policies you become a Mind over matter problem. Ottawa don’t mind and Veterans don’t matter.

  • Janet Gaudet
    June 02, 2012 - 08:35

    My Dad was a WW1 veteran, joined in 1914, served in France as a gunner, never returned to P.E.I. until 1919. His health was affected as he was gassed and he lived with the memories of that war for the rest of his life until he died at age 92. He never got much help from DVA, got a miserable little pension of $72 monthly. I sat in office in DVA building in Charlottetown not too long before he died and broke down in tears of frustration when his family couldn't get more help for him. I have no faith in DVA helping our veterans, not after I saw the way they treated my Dad. Two other family members tried to get help for him and it was a waste of time and energy. It's disgraceful the way some of our veterans are being treated, actually having to live on the streets. I wouldn't want a son of mine to be joining the military.

    June 02, 2012 - 04:31

    As an former Veterans Affairs Canada Public Servant, this does not surprise me. There was a basic lack of concern by the department for Vetrerans needs and certainly a We verses They approach to each client. Senior officials would force their opinion that we were working for the Department and not for the Veteran. I was surprised when I joined this department. I had worked for several other Departments within the Federal Government and those departments supported the client. The DVA attitude and approach to "serving" those who served was shameful. I spoke to Fabien last summer and it seemed that there was a resolution in the offing. If we treat our Military Veterans who have put their lives on the line to serve and protect our Canadian nation, what does this say about the Public Service of Canada and in particular Minister Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs.

  • country girl
    June 01, 2012 - 16:40

    My heart goes out to Fabian..this is so digusting!! I sure hope before our youth decides to go into this field of work they realy take a long look at how the dva realy treats our men and women who are out there trying to make this world a better place!!!

  • NO WAY
    June 01, 2012 - 13:41

    I am a veteran. I will go without before I bow down to these young people that earn the big wages at DVA. Most of them cannot even spell Military yet know what the military go through. The DVA should be run by veterans for veterans. Who better would know if an individual truly deserves compensation or not then an individual who has been there and donw what they have done.

    • huh
      June 01, 2012 - 16:06

      of course you do realize that if indeed a veteran were the one making the decision, and the person didn't qualify, the answer would still be "no".

    • Charlottetown Resident
      June 02, 2012 - 05:57

      no way - You're wrong on so many levels. It's a proven fact, that when ex-military personnel are appointed to boards within the department, they're biased in their decision-making, based on what part of the forces they served in. I state; A PROVEN FACT. It requires a separate entity to come to rational decisions when dealing with military cases. The only thing you displayed in your letter, is your disdain for VAC/VRAB (and it's "young people" ) and an unhealthy attitude.

    • KL
      June 02, 2012 - 09:55

      Precisely. VAC staff are bound by the legislation and regulations set by Parliament. They have to follow these rules. Decisions like this are not left up to them. They have no choice in these matters. For change to happen, we all need to lobby directly to our MPs.

  • John Percy
    June 01, 2012 - 13:32

    Fabien does not deserve this! Unfortunately his case is not unique at VAC. I recall the words of Col. Pat Stogran, before he was fired as the Veteran's Ombudsman. In speaking with a senior bureaucrat at VAC he was told that it would have been far more beneficial economically if all the injured vets in VAC's care had been killed in action instead.

  • speedy
    June 01, 2012 - 13:10

    Yes, write them a letter, not just you and I but every one who is a true Canadian and care about our soldiers.

  • Burz
    June 01, 2012 - 11:59


  • Twiggy Rathbone
    June 01, 2012 - 11:07

    Stephen Harper fancies himself as a leader of a warrior nation with a strong military, but to keep up that facade he needs the men and women in the military to go fight the wars while he and his ministers stay safely home in Canada. But if he continues to treat the soldiers in such a cavalier manner by showing absolutely no concern for their welfare how long will it be before the number of recruits dries up because they realize the Harper government is quite willing to have them die in some place like Afghanistan, but has no intention of helping them when they return home.

  • Burnaby Drudge
    June 01, 2012 - 10:57

    Stephen Harper is turning Canada from a peacekeeping nation into a warrior nation, but when those warriors need help when they return home Harper and his ministers turn their backs and tell the veteran to go away. Men and women willingly join the armed forces, but i don't think they are told when the enlist that when they return home and need the help of the government and its agencies they will be shunned by those who are charged with helping veterans.

    June 01, 2012 - 10:57

    Now people will see what veterans actually deal with at DVA. None of these nice guy ads or we are here to help slogans. Just utter contempt for the veterans.

  • shirley
    June 01, 2012 - 09:21

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A great way to use our veterans SHAMEFUL just SHAMEFUL.

    • FredfromCBS
      June 01, 2012 - 11:29

      Write Blaney and Harper a letter...