Nova Scotia

Halifax WW2 vet Alan Sagar fights for place in Camp Hill

The wife of a Second World War veteran living in Halifax says bureaucratic barriers are preventing her husband from accessing the care he wants.

British navy vet came to Canada too late to meet Veterans Affairs conditions

Alan Sagar served with the British navy during the Second World War. (Courtesy Alan Sagar)

The wife of a Second World War veteran living in Halifax says bureaucratic barriers are preventing her husband from accessing the care he wants.

Margaret Sagar's husband, Alan Sagar, served in the British Royal Navy from 1943 until the end of the war.

Unlike his contemporary Petter Blindheim — who was initially denied care at Halifax's Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Hospital because he served in the Norwegian military while that country was occupied by Nazi Germany — Sagar faced few obstacles in getting recognized as an Allied war veteran.

"It was done very quickly," Margaret Sagar told CBC's Information Morning.

But her husband still has been denied a place at Camp Hill.

The reason? He's Canadian now — but he wasn't during the war.

"There was no question about him being an Allied war veteran, but then they turned around and said, 'Well, he still can't go there because he wasn't Canadian'."

The situation is ironic, she said, because her husband served in the Canadian Forces after the war as an instructor in the fleet diving unit. He rose to became the unit's commanding officer.

Alan Sagar served in the Canadian Forces following the war. (Courtesy Alan Sagar)

Alzheimer's, Parkinson's

Meanwhile, Alan Sagar continues to fight the effects of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and he and his wife want him to stay at home as long as possible. 

Margaret Sagar worked at Camp Hill in the 1980s as the coordinator of volunteer services. She reached out to staff to be assured her husband could have a place at the facility for respite, or long term if his condition gets worse.

His status as an Canadian serviceman secured some of the care he needs, including assistance with home-care, day programs and physical rehabilitation.

But it doesn't secure his place at Camp Hill. 

Entitled to a bed, but not at Camp Hill

Camp Hill operates as part of the QEII Health Sciences Centre, but admissions are handled by Veterans Affairs Canada. 

Veteran Affairs said Allied veterans in Canada are entitled to long-term care in a "community bed" in a place like a nursing home, but not to a bed in Camp Hill.

"Community facilities with contract beds (like Camp Hill) [are] designated through contractual arrangements with the province, health authority and/or facility for priority access of Second World War and Korean War Veterans of Canada's Armed Forces," department spokesman Marc Lescoutre said in a statement.

"While we always work to deliver the support a veteran and his/her family needs, it is not always possible to do so in a specific facility of a veteran's choosing."

Lapel pin for service

For now, Alan Sagar cherishes one concrete reminder that Canada has recognized his status as a veteran. Then Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave him a lapel pin and certificate of honour in recognition of his military service. 

Margaret Sagar wants recognition with more tangible benefits for her husband. 

"I do wonder how much bureaucracy and how much office time was used to process all those [lapel pins and certificates] and how much better the money could have been spent in looking after veterans' care." 

Sagar brought his diving skills to Canada and became commanding officer of the fleet diving unit. (Courtesy Alan Sagar)

About the Author

Moira Donovan

Associate Producer

Moira Donovan is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. She's worked in Lyon, London and now reports from Halifax. She can be found on Twitter @MoiraDonovan