WW II sailor denied spot at Halifax veterans hospital finally gets a bed

A Canadian war veteran is ecstatic after learning he'll finally be able to move into a veterans hospital in Nova Scotia after a public battle over who can receive care.

Gordon Smith served with British navy in Second World War, later joined Royal Canadian Air Force

Second World War veteran Gordon Smith proudly displays his medals. (Kayla Hounsell/CBC)

After decades of helping veterans receive proper care, Gordon Smith has finally won his own battle. 

Smith was told Monday there's a bed for him at Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Hospital in Halifax.

"When he called me, he was very excited," said his granddaughter Sabrina Smith. "I could tell by his voice when he called that he had good news."

Gordon Smith initially applied for a bed in May, but was denied because he wasn't a Canadian when he served in the Second World War. The 91-year-old was with the British navy at the time, but immigrated to Canada after the war and served in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a firefighter for 18 years.

Upon retiring from Canada's air force, Smith volunteered for another 20 years with the Royal Canadian Legion, visiting veterans in long-term care to ensure they were getting the care they needed.

When he was initially rejected from Camp Hill, his family thought it was an isolated case. Sabrina Smith said they never imagined his story would spark national public outcry.

"I think for me, and for my family, and especially for my granddad, it was really heartening to know that Canadians still value what had been done so many years ago, what they had gone through, and what they fought for," she said. 

Gordon Smith, second from left in the back row, after a mine-sweeping operation in the North Sea in 1945, when he was with the British navy. (Submitted)

Veterans Affairs reversed the decision in mid-November, opening up more than two dozen beds to allied and modern-day veterans. At the time, there were 30 people on a waiting list, so Smith wasn't guaranteed a space in the hospital.

"Hopefully we'll hear more stories of people who have moved off the list in the future," said Sabrina Smith.

Gordon Smith and his family will visit the hospital on Friday and make arrangements for his move. Sabrina Smith said the family is grateful for all the public support.

"It was really heartening to see the population could move the government so quickly," she said.

Once her grandfather is settled, she fully expects him to continue advocating for veterans. 

About the Author

Carolyn Ray

Videojournalist

Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at Carolyn.Ray@cbc.ca