Cape Breton veterans hold sit-in to protest cuts
Staff in Sydney office offer one-on-one help
A rotating number of veterans say they plan to sit in the lobby of the Sydney, N.S., Veterans Affairs office until it closes or a decision is made to keep it open.
As part of the March 2012 budget, the federal government announced it would be closing nine district offices, including the one in Sydney. Spending was expected to decrease, said government documents, due to a dwindling number of veterans.
The protesting veterans in Cape Breton said without local staff guiding them through applications and program requirements, they would have been refused the help they now receive.
Vince Rigby, 49, said memories of a civilian massacre in Bosnia haunt him to this day.
"Flashbacks you can actually see yourself there and you can see pictures in your mind, comes right back to you. This office here helped me cope with everything. I'd be six feet under [without help]," he said.
Rigby said he had a medical discharge but spent ten years working with the Veterans Affairs staff before his pension was approved.
Alfie Burt, 59, joined the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps in 1975 and says he suffers from chronic back problems as a result.
"I was having difficulty keeping work, you know I found Veterans Affairs office and they helped me, you know, get some help," he said.
The veterans said they're occupying the local office to show support for fellow veterans lobbying in Ottawa.
The Sydney office is expected to close by the end of the month. The bureau employs 17 people.