Nova Scotia

Veterans Affairs rally in Sydney brings out thousands

Thousands of protesters gathered in Sydney, N.S., to protest the federal government's plan to close the local Veterans Affairs office.

People concerned about district office closing

An estimated 3,000 people gathered in Sydney on Saturday, concerned about Ottawa's plan to close the local Veterans Affairs office (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Thousands of protesters gathered in Cape Breton, N.S., to protest the federal government's plan to close the local Veterans Affairs office.

As part of the March 2012 budget, the federal government announced it would be closing nine district offices, including the one in Sydney. Spending was expected to decrease, said government documents, due to a dwindling number of veterans.

The crowd listens to speeches from union representatives, politicians and veterans. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

On the Saturday before Remembrance Day close to 3,000 people showed up in Sydney to show their support and listen to speeches. According to the last census survey there are about 31,597 people in Sydney 

Protesters waved signs and sang O Canada, reported the CBC's Norma Jean MacPheeThe protesters also handed out post cards to send to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

I am overwhelmed...The closure of this office is not about the loss of jobs. But it's the loss of the services to the veterans.- Brenda Leblanc, Veterans Affairs employee

Brenda Leblanc, a client services agent at Veterans Affairs, has worked in the Sydney office for 27 years.

“I am overwhelmed. It’s awesome that this many people have turned out, and it just goes to show the impact that this closure has on this office. And it's not just the veterans; it's their families that it affects and the community in general. The closure of this office is not about the loss of jobs. But it's the loss of the services to the veterans,” she said.

The Sydney bureau employs 17 people.

A Veterans Affairs spokesperson said they’re increasing the number of case workers in some regions where needed.

“We are delivering personalized benefits such as home visits by a registered nurse or case-manager, in addition to grass cutting, snow clearing and home cleaning services,” read the statement. 

"Telling a veteran to use a computer or a 1-800 number to get the help they need is insulting," said Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis in a news release. "These men and women put themselves in harm’s way for us and we owe them."

Offices in these cities will shut:

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

The offices are set up across the country to help veterans. The Union of Veterans Affairs Employees said the offices would be closed by Feb. 28, 2014.


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