Veterans who were in Ottawa to lobby against the closing of their regional offices left a brief, emotional meeting Tuesday with Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino visibly frustrated and saying they were disrespected.
The federal government has already closed one office in Prince George, B.C., and plans to close eight more on Jan. 31.
In a news conference, a group of veterans said their Tuesday meeting did not go well. Video from the meeting shows Fantino and veterans trading testy exchanges.
Ron Clarke, a 36-year veteran of the Forces, said the meeting was "unbelievable, unacceptable and shameful. The way we were treated is just not kosher." He demanded that Fantino resign and said he would campaign "across Canada" against the Conservatives during the next election.
Roy Lamore, a Second World War veteran from Thunder Bay, Ont., called it a "damn disgrace" that Fantino sent three Conservative MPs — Parm Gill, Erin O’Toole, and Laurie Hawn — to argue for the closures.
"There are a few things [Fantino] should be told," Lamore said. "Taught manners is number 1, number 2 to respect the veterans, and number 3, it's time that he better wake up and give us a break on these things."
Fantino released a statement saying that he and the veterans had a 'candid conversation' during a 'roundtable' and that meeting with veterans is one of the most important parts of his job.
"I am always willing to hear from veterans face-to-face on any issue," the release said.
Evan Solomon, host of CBC's Power & Politics, said the confrontation will be a public relations problem for a Conservative government that has built its brand on veterans and the military.
"That press conference could be the beginning of a much more significant debate about how vets have been treated," he said.
Volunteer warns of delays
Alban LeClair said during an earlier news conference Tuesday that he works with veterans in Prince Edward Island as a Royal Canadian Legion service volunteer...
"This government keeps saying it's enhancing services for veterans. It says these closures will not affect services. Well, I can tell you now, that before they started shutting down Charlottetown district office, a veteran could get a home visit within a couple of days. Now it takes up to six weeks to contact the veteran. And six weeks is a long time for a 93-year-old veteran, and even young veterans suffering with PTSD," he said, referring to post-traumatic stress disorder.
One veteran teared up as he described what friends were going through as they faced the office closures.
Offices are set to close in:
Corner Brook, N.L.
Thunder Bay, Ont.
Meeting with Fantino
. . . .
The government said services will still be available online.
But the website isn't easy to navigate, said Bruce Moncur, a 29-year-old who served in Afghanistan.
Moncur said he banks and does other transactions online, but it took him a whole afternoon to figure out the Veterans Affairs site.
Moncur described starting an account on the site, then waiting a day for it to be activated, and waiting another week to get the paperwork he requested.
"Something that I could have gone to the office for, that would have taken 10 minutes to get, ended up taking me a week. And that's indicative too of what's happening with these closures is that the service is going to [be] even slower. I never thought it would be possible, but it is," he said.
For those who still want to meet with a case worker, the closures could mean travelling for hours to get to the nearest office.
support-the-troops hypocrisy continues; angry veterans call for fantino's resignation
I am posting this article mainly so the commenter called "conservatives are lying scum" can repost his or her comments here. (You can currently read them on this old post: harper's support for veterans: wear a poppy. do nothing else.)