Commons to vote on Veterans Affairs office closures

The Canadian Press
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Stratford veteran Brian Hills thanks Michelle Bradley for speaking out against the federal government’s decision to close nine Veterans Affairs district offices across the country. Bradley is also one of two case workers in Saint John now responsible for 2,200 veterans’ case files from P.E.I. 

Opposition motion expected to be defeated later today

OTTAWA — An opposition motion calling on the Conservative government to keep Veterans Affairs district offices open is expected to split along party lines and be defeated in a House of Commons vote later today.

The motion by the New Democrats responds to the closure last Friday of eight regional offices, and draws on public concern over a recent rash of military suicides.

Veterans advocate Barry Westholm was so outraged by MP Cheryl Gallant’s comments during last week’s debate on the issue that he gave up his membership in the Conservative party.

Westholm, a former sergeant major, said he was dismayed when he heard Gallant say that ex-soldiers with post traumatic stress have to overcome the “stigma within themselves” and seek treatment.

A spokesman for Gallant told the ex-soldier the longtime Ontario MP’s remarks were taken out of context by the news media.

But Westholm said he was sitting in the public gallery of the House of Commons and heard the remarks himself.

The comments were a shirking of “responsibilities and a certain callousness I find alarming,” he said.

Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, who faced calls for his resignation last week, said a public-sector union has been mounting a campaign to try to stop the shut downs, which went ahead as scheduled on Friday.

“They (union officials) have spread so much misinformation and out-and-out false information that clearly has agitated the veterans community,” Fantino told Toronto radio station Talk 1010.

“I would be agitated, too, if I heard some of these lies that they’ve been putting out.”

Fantino has been at the centre of public outrage since a disastrous meeting with seven veterans, all brought to Ottawa by the Public Service Alliance of Canada to help plead the case for keeping the centres in Kelowna, B.C., Saskatoon, Sask., Brandon, Man., Thunder Bay, Ont., Windsor, Ont., Sydney, N.S., Charlottetown and Corner Brook, N.L.

A ninth office had closed earlier in Prince George, B.C.

The minister showed up for the meeting 70 minutes late and left in a huff when one of the veterans described his explanations as “hogwash.” An angry, sometimes tearful, denunciation of the Conservatives by the veterans followed the meeting.

The Conservative government is also under fire for not ensuring that National Defence filled out its ranks of psychiatrists and social workers, as promised.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson told the House of Commons that further mental-health improvements are being reviewed.

The government also promised action on the 75 unfinished technical investigations into suicide cases.

Organizations: Veterans Affairs, House of Commons, Public Service Alliance of Canada Conservatives National Defence

Geographic location: OTTAWA, Toronto, Kelowna Saskatoon Sask. Brandon Thunder Bay Windsor Sydney Charlottetown Corner Brook Prince George

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Recent comments

  • Marion Vermeersch
    February 18, 2014 - 15:53

    I am appalled at the continuing shabby treatment of our veterans. However, it is not surprising coming from a government which insists that none of the military serving in wars prior to 1947 (therefore, none of the war dead in the cemeteries from WWI and WWII) were ever Canadian citizens, that they were all British. According to their reasoning, since those servicemen were not Canadians, neither should their families have been given citizenship. And that is why we have Lost Canadians such as myself (Dad was a Sergeant in the RCArtillery in WWII, a D-Day Vet). My brother and i had our citizenship until 2003-4, when it was "stripped" - no discussion, no notice, no way to appeal. i feel that treatment is consistent with the present-day disregard for our veterans - if their not "ours" we don't have responsibility!

  • Billy Jack
    February 03, 2014 - 20:47

    Fantino, Harper and the Cons' will use every means possible, even try to blame the unions, in their attempt to deflect the truth of the shameful deeds they are doing to the Veterans and citizens of this country. But this time they've gone too far and Veterans won't forget come election time.

  • Charlie Brown
    February 03, 2014 - 19:10

    Fantino,what an unethical person. We all know the "cons" will close ranks and shoot down anything helpful to the public. Should be interseting to see what gail "oops have an appointment" shea doe this this time.