Nova Scotia

Petter Blindheim denied Camp Hill bed due to federal 'bureaucratic BS,' premier says

Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil says the federal Liberals should stop the "bureaucratic BS" and give a Camp Hill Memorial Hospital bed to Second World War veteran Petter Blindheim.

Norway honouring Second World War soldier as Canadian veterans protest his treatment

Petter Blindheim is seen in his home in Halifax this month. Today he'll receive Norway's Commemorative Medal. (The Canadian Press)

Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil says the federal Liberals should stop the "bureaucratic BS" and give a Camp Hill Memorial Hospital bed to 94-year-old Second World War veteran Petter Blindheim.

"It absolutely makes no sense that the national government is telling this Norwegian vet that he was good enough to stand beside, to risk his life for Canadians, and yet they're unwilling to let him spend his final days laying beside those very same Canadians," McNeil told reporters Thursday morning.

Veterans Affairs Canada rejected Blindheim's request for a bed at the Halifax site because it said he could receive adequate care at existing provincial facilities.

McNeil said Camp Hill has a dozen or more empty beds, while the province's regular long-term care beds have waiting lists. He maintained deciding if Blindheim is eligible for a Camp Hill bed is entirely a federal matter and that the veteran "should be respected by the federal government."

He hasn't talked to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government, but said others in his provincial government have.

'It's disgraceful'

Jamie Baillie, the Progressive Conservative leader, said talking isn't enough from McNeil.

"It's disgraceful," he said. "I'm glad the premier sees the problem. He's saying the right things — but he isn't a bystander in this. He can take action to make sure that veteran gets the care he needs."

Baillie said McNeil should call his Liberal counterparts in Ottawa and push them to deliver the care Blindheim seeks. "Whatever they've done, it hasn't worked."

Bumping another senior down the wait list

At a protest Thursday at the Veterans Affairs building in Halifax, veterans were joined by Blindheim's daughters Karen and Wendy.

Karen Blendheim Higgins said her father deserves a spot in Camp Hill. She said him taking a provincial bed would just cause problems for others. 

"If I was a senior here in this province I would be very concerned because that means a bed is taken from somebody else. And that other person would not qualify as a veteran for a veterans' hospital," she said.

Wendy Westerlund travelled from Norway to see her father receive Norway's Commemorative Medal today. She said the debate over where he gets his care is being followed in Norway. A family friend wrote to that country's prime minister.

'We never surrendered'

She said Norwegians took especial offence to the first reason Veterans Affairs gave for turning him away: because he enlisted during the German occupation of Norway and fought as part of the resistance, rather than an Allied country.

"We are really surprised by the letters Canada wrote to my family, with the mistakes they made about Norway surrendering in World War Two. We never surrendered in World War II," she said.

"It's no problem for the government here to wake up and say fine, open up the door and let him in."

Doug Roberts of advocacy group Banished Veterans said many families are going through a similar situation.

"To say many of us are disgusted by this act is an understatement. This is wrong," he said. "These men are our brothers. We will not take this lying down."

Allied veterans are entitled to benefits under the War Veterans Allowance (WVA). Blindheim has been in Canada since the late 1940s.

"Our government has made promises last year that veterans would not have to sue for proper care, yet these men — World War II heroes of the free world — they treat these men in such a despicable fashion at the hands of nameless bureaucrats paid by our tax dollars," Roberts said.

Roberts said his group — which has about 400 members — fought against the previous government's denial of benefits to veterans. Now it said it won't stand by if the new government employs similar tactics.

Blindheim received Norway's Commemorative Medal in Halifax this afternoon. Norway started giving out the medals in 2015 to recognize people who fought the Nazi occupation of the country. 

With files from the Canadian Press