Nova Scotia

Veterans Affairs black ribbon ceremony brings out hundreds

Hundreds of people have gathered at the Veterans Affairs office in Sydney, N.S. to protest cuts, hours before the bureau is slated to close forever.

Sydney office to close at 4 p.m. Jan. 31

The crowd sings O Canada in Sydney in front of the veterans affairs office. (CBC)

Hundreds of people have gathered at the Veterans Affairs office in Sydney, N.S. to protest cuts, hours before the office is slated to close forever.

The Cape Breton office is one of eight across the country that will close at 4 p.m. The veterans say they are still hoping for a last minute reprieve.

They have been arguing they rely on the offices for one-on-one support with their financial, medical, emotional and mental health problems.

The government has cited a drop in demand as the reason for the closures, and says it is still offering assistance via Service Canada centres in affected areas. Veterans Affairs Canada will also continue to provide services online.

Offices to close:

  • Corner Brook, N.L.
  • Charlottetown
  • Sydney, N.S.
  • Thunder Bay, Ont.
  • Windsor, Ont.
  • Brandon, Man.
  • Saskatoon Kelowna, B.C

On Friday, protesters in Sydney tied black ribbons around the office to mourn the closure.

Blair MacIvor, 42, says he has post-traumatic stress disorder from serving in Bosnia and Afghanistan. He called the Sydney office a lifeline.

He said if the veterans’ efforts to save the offices don't work, at least they accomplished something.

“The only good thing of Harper deciding to close all this is that the people of Canada have taken a new look at veterans. Now when a veterans walks down the road, if they're wearing anything that shows him as having been a veteran, they get acknowledgement for it, which is really weird because Harper is refusing to acknowledge them but the people of Canada now are taking a totally difference stance,” he said.

Crowds gather in front of the Sydney Veterans Affairs office to protest the quotes. (David Burke/CBC)

“They're behind veterans a hundred per cent, which is actually amazing."

Members of Parliament debated an NDP motion calling for the government to reverse its decision to close the offices on Thursday, but delayed voting on the motion until Monday.

New Democrats in Nova Scotia are calling for Julian Fantino, the federal minister for veterans, to be hauled before a provincial veterans affairs committee.