8 veterans affairs employees to remain with 17,000 cases

The federal government has agreed to move one veterans affairs employee from each of its closing offices to a Service Canada office when they shut their doors by February - a move that the union is calling a betrayal.
The district office for the department of veterans affairs in Sydney, N.S., is one of several scheduled to be closed in early 2014. (Google Street View)

The federal government has agreed to move one veterans affairs employee from each of its closing offices to a Service Canada office when they shut their doors by February.

The announcement doesn't come close to satisfying some veterans and the workers' union.

The union says the eight will have to manage the 17,000 veterans who use the front line services.

Yvan Thauvette, the president of the union, said it's an impossible task.

"That won't make it. You cannot replace 89 workers that will lose their jobs by eight workers. That makes no sense to me. It is adding insult to injury," said Thauvette.

As part of the federal budget in March of 2012, the government announced it would close the district Veterans Affairs offices from Kelowna, B.C. to Corner Brook, N.L.

Offices due to close in February

  • Charlottetown
  • Corner Brook, N.L.
  • Sydney, N.S.
  • Windsor, Ont.
  • Thunder Bay, Ont.
  • Kelowna, B.C.
  • Saskatoon
  • Brandon, Man.

 The Union of Veterans Affairs Employees said in a news release that in Sydney, N.S. alone, the office handles 4,200 clients, including Ron Clarke.

"Totally I say again totally ridiculous," said Clarke, an outspoken critic of the government's plan.

Clarke said one employee replacing the 13 who were at his office is unacceptable. 

Clarke said the Service Canada office doesn't give the vets the privacy and service they deserve either.

"We need more than one person to look after our problems."

But the federal government says the eight employees will help with the transition.

"They have the necessary experience," said Parm Gill, parliamentary secretary to the minister of veterans affairs. "They are obviously experts at providing these services and that's the rationale behind, to make the transition easier for our veterans."

The government has also released new apps on mobile devices to share information about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other conditions in an effort to support veterans. But Clarke has panned the apps, saying that in a time of crisis, people don't want to have to use a touch screen.

Veterans Affairs Canada said the apps are meant to be a tool that complements face-to-face interaction with counsellors, not a substitute for clinical help. 

“We have also made improvements such as increasing the number of case managers in the regions where veterans need them most," Julian Fantino, the minister for VAC, said Thursday. 

He added VAC is opening 17 operational stress injury clinics and 24 integrated personnel support centres.

"As well, we recently expanded the reach of Veterans Affairs Canada by partnering with Service Canada to offer assistance to Veterans at close to 600 points of service in every region across the country," Fantino added. 

Clarke and Thauvette said this new move by the federal government changes nothing and they will continue their campaign to keep veterans affairs offices open.

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