© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
John Yeo, past president of the Charlottetown Legion, says if the federal government goes ahead with plans to shut the Veterans Affairs Canada district office in Charlottetown, veterans will be forced to travel off Island for face-to-face service that they're used to having.
Canadians are being urged to lobby the federal government to overturn its decision to close Veterans Affairs Canada district offices, including the one in Charlottetown.
“They fought for us and now it is our turn to fight for them,’’ a passionate Jeannie Baldwin of the Public Service Alliance of Canada declared during a town hall meeting held Friday in the capital city.
Baldwin’s rallying cry comes one week after Canadian veterans were in Ottawa to launch a national campaign to protest the anticipated shutting of nine VAC offices.
The campaign, a three-and-a-half minute YouTube video, features a number of Canadian veterans and front-line support workers. They say they are all disappointed by the federal government’s decision to close the district offices and that Ottawa is betraying Canada’s veterans.
The video was played Friday at the Charlottetown Legion to a small gathering that including politicians from all three levels of government.
Baldwin called the video a powerful tool to drive home the need to keep the district offices open. District offices are places where veterans can meet face-to-face with case workers.
Veterans Affairs Canada has said the district office in Charlottetown, where the department’s head office is located, will close and be replaced with what it is calling an access centre.
John Yeo, who served with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps and is past president of the Charlottetown Legion, considers the proposed move a disgrace.
He says any closure of district offices would represent government going back on a promise to care for veterans.
Closing the district office in Charlottetown, argues Yeo, would force veterans to make costly and time-consuming trips off-Island in order to have the face-to-face service they have long become accustomed to.
Jody Lapierre, local president with the Union of Veterans Affairs employees, says veterans are being taken for granted by Harper’s government.
“They are spending billions of dollars on planes and everything else, but (they’re) not looking after the veterans when they return home,’’ he says.
Veterans Affairs Canada, in a statement to The Guardian, calls the access centre to be located at the VAC headquarters in Charlottetown a viable alternative to the district office.
“This is designed to make the best use of the over 1,000 employees working on the Island, as well as the location of the head office in Charlottetown and is a logical move to better serve veterans on the Island,’’ says Veterans Affairs Canada.
“Our government is dedicated to ensuring veterans and their families have the support they need, when they need it. To accomplish this, we are adjusting the footprint of the department to keep up with the changing demographics of veterans across Canada.’’
VAC adds that none of its district offices will close before the end of 2013.