ns-mi-hfxveteransrally-300

About 50 people gathered in Halifax to protest cuts to Veterans Affairs. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

About two dozen veterans and their supporters gathered Saturday at the main cenotaph in Halifax to protest what they say is the federal government's treatment of former soldiers, sailors and airmen.

It was the second such rally in as many years. Many veterans said Saturday they were disappointed that nothing had changed in the year since the first rally.

John Labelle, a 72-year-old veteran who served 38 years in the Canadian navy, cited a litany of complaints about pension clawbacks and changes to the new Veterans Charter.

Labelle said a planned $226-million cut to the Veterans Affairs budget would have a substantial impact on veterans' benefits — even though senior bureaucrats have insisted that's not the case.

The department's plans and priorities report, which lays out spending up to 2014, shows compensation and financial support for ex-soldiers will see the biggest reduction.

The budget adjustment was long planned and matches the dwindling population of Second World War veterans, it said.

The department's budget is roughly $3.5 billion a year.

Labelle said the federal government is not treating veterans fairly, and he accused Ottawa of providing misleading information to the public.

Steve Hartlin is a veteran who said he's worried the pension he receives now will be reduced by over $1,000 a month when he reaches age 65.

"I work, but because of injuries received in the military, I'm probably going to only be able to work one or two more years because my back's getting so bad, I'm having a hard time working now," he told CBC News.

The protesters, some of them wearing rows of military medals, shared the public square known as the Grand Parade with dozens of Occupy Nova Scotia activists.

As a stiff breeze swept through the square, a pair of Occupy Nova Scotia demonstrators held a large, black banner with one word on it: Respect.

About 50 people attended the rally, including MPs Geoff Reagan and Peter Stoffer.

Similar protests were planned for Parliament Hill and in Charlottetown.

 

With files from The Canadian Press