A veteran’s advocate is blaming Veterans Affairs Canada for abandoning Fabien Melanson despite admitting to a mistake that destroyed the former Van Doo’s home and life.
Just a year after holding a week-long hunger strike in front of the VAC headquarters in Charlottetown, it appears the Cap-Pele resident will lose his ancestral Acadian home.
Over the past year, Melanson and his advocate Jeff Rose-Martland say they have also been waiting for VAC minister Steven Blaney to return numerous phone calls, faxes and messages to his office.
The hunger strike ended with VAC apologizing to Melanson and giving him a letter admitting they were responsible for problems that plagued Melanson for more than six years, leaving his house in shambles while also re-igniting the soldier’s post-traumatic stress disorder and prompting a suicide attempt.
However, a year after the fact, the veteran and his advocate are still waiting for a call back and will now likely lose his house to due VAC’s inaction. The bank began the process of re-possessing Melanson’s home at the start of June.
The ordeal has been brought up in the House of Commons more than once, most recently when opposition critic for Veterans Affairs Peter Stoffer called out VAC minister Steven Blaney on the issue.
“Once again Minister Blaney shows his true colours when it comes to the quality of life of our veterans. Mr. Melanson is a decorated soldier who deserves our utmost respect. Minister Blaney must fix this appalling situation immediately,” said Stoffer.
The problem began in 2004, when Melanson was supposed to have obtained his pension cheque and began renovating his home. Several months into the renovations, he was still waiting for his first chque. He had to stop the renovations because he couldn’t afford to pay the contractor, leaving the house open to the weather. Melanson says he lost up to $190,000.
When it was discovered almost six months later that the cheque was being deposited into someone else’s account, the government issued Melanson the back payment of his pension.
Having never received an apology, or funds to get his house back into the shape it was before renovations were halted, Melanson held his hunger strike. That ended with VAC’s apology and a letter, which they said should help Melanson rebuild his credit rating.
“He came off the hunger strike obviously hungry but on quite a high, feeling like finally he was going to get some resolution on this,” said Rose-Martland, who now describes Melanson as being distraught.
“It’s just gotten more and more negative all year. With missing the June 1 deadline and the legal action proceeding, he’s extremely upset.
In 2004, he had specific plans for his house, which his sometime great-grandfather built. He was going to rescue animal, this was going to be where he retired and recovered from PTSD.
“Instead, it’s been nothing but a nightmare ever since. And now, through the inaction of VAC, the property is going to be gone and he’ll have lost his entire heritage on top of all his plans.”
Rose-Martland said he has made numerous calls on Melanson’s behalf to minister Blaney’s office. He’s received no response.
Attempts by the The Guardian to reach Blaney were also unsuccessful.
While the VAC also told Melanson it doesn’t have a mechanism for making reparations, Rose-Martland said they do have a policy for making ex-gratia payments for very rare occurrences. These payments were used previously on Agent Orange victims, as well as for giving Melanson the back pay of his pension.
Rose-Martland added that he and others have been doing some low-level fundraising, however, they had expected to get a small amount of compensation from VAC to “get the ball rolling” on the renovations.
Plans for fundraising with country music star Julian Austin also fell through.
“(I see the minister stand up in the house and) there’s all this commitment and all of this caring but nobody is doing anything,” said Rose-Martland. “If the minister doesn’t do anything than this veteran is going to lose everything, all because of a typo.”
“It’s just a complete disregard for a Canadian citizen, let alone abandonment of a veteran that his own department admits they’ve messed up his life.”