Nfld. & Labrador

Veterans protest DVA closures across the island

Dozens of veterans gathered outside DVA offices in St. John's and Corner Brook to show their support for veteran's services — and to protest the closing of DVA offices.

Veterans fighting cuts

9 years ago
Duration 4:59
Veterans in St. John's protest cutting eight offices across the country that provide them with services

The veteran's affairs office in St. John's isn't closing, but that didn't stop veterans from making their voices heard on Friday.

Dozens gathered outside the office — from those who recently served, to veterans in their 80s — to protest closures.

Earlier this month, the federal government announced it was closing eight district veteran's offices across the country as part of budget cuts announced in the 2012 budget. 

A group of veterans, as well as officials from the Public Service Alliance of Canada, were in Ottawa Tuesday to meet with veteran's affairs minister Julian Fantino in an effort to lobby against the decision.

The cabinet minister arrived 70 minutes late, which led to a sharp exchange. Although Fantino issued an apology for his delayed appearance, it didn't seem to appease many veterans.

I was led to believe that in my time of need, Canada would be there for me- Veteran Shawn Lewis

"When he disrespected one veteran, he disrespected us all," said Shawn Lewis.

Lewis, who served in Bosnia in 1994 as a peacekeeper, described Fantino's behaviour as 'disrespectful' and dismissive of veterans as a whole.

"I felt compelled to bring voice where people haven't really had a voice. The more attention we can bring to the issue, the more support we can get from the rest of Canada," said Lewis.

This group of veterans and their supporters voiced their concerns over DVA office closures in Corner Brook on Friday.

There was a protest in Corner Brook as well on Friday, where the local veteran's office is scheduled to close. 

Veterans from all over western Newfoundland, showed up to protest the decision. They also laid a wreath outside the office.

"It's doomsday for Corner Brook as far as the [Department of Veteran's Affairs] is concerned. I mean there is all of the veterans that are here, their average age is 89; that's World War II guys. They can't hear, they can't walk …and now they are going put them on a line to somebody up in Kingston, Ontario to make all the decisions for them. It don't make sense," said Hedley Smith, Canadian Armed Forces veteran.

Veteran Shawn Lewis says cabinet minister Julian Fantino has treated veterans disrespectfully.
"That is an earned service based upon our commitment to our country," said Shawn Lewis. 

"When I signed up for Canada, I knew — and it was understood — that I would take care of Canada in her time of need, and I was led to believe that in my time of need, Canada would be there for me."

In a statement from Minister Fantino's office on Saturday, the Department of Veterans Affairs said a full-time VAC agent will be placed in the Service Canada centre closest to each of the eight closing veteran's affairs offices starting in February.

Veterans requiring home visits from registered nurses and their case managers will continue, the release said.