February 3, 2014 - No. 8
Attacks on Veterans and Veterans
Harper Government's Despicable
Signs seen at actions in
Windsor (left) and Sydney, January 31, 2014.
on Veterans and Veterans Affairs
• Harper Government's Despicable Anti-Human
• Spirited Actions of Veterans and Their
Supporters Across the Country
Attacks on Veterans and Veterans Affairs
Harper Government's Despicable Anti-Human Agenda
January 31 saw veterans and their supporters in action
across the country to denounce the Harper government's closure of eight
district Veterans Affairs offices that day, plus the closure of another
office in Prince George, BC that had already taken place. These offices
provide crucial services to veterans, many
of whom suffer from mental or physical injuries as result of their
deployments. In some cases, these services are required on a day-to-day
basis to allow the veterans to heal, recuperate and re-enter civilian
life. In the case of permanent injuries, the veterans may require the
services their entire lives.
Sydney, Nova Scotia,
January 31, 2014 (PSAC)
The Harper government pretends the cuts and closures are
run of the mill modernization of service delivery for purposes of
achieving what are called efficiencies and cost-savings and that the
service is improved. Far from it. It is a straightforward attack on the
human factor which is the essence of the anti-social
offensive. The state structures, established in the 19th century with
the aim of upholding what was defined as the public good, were modified
in the 20th century but today they are being dismantled. Neo-liberal
governments do not even recognize that society is an objective thing
which exists and that people depend on it for their well-being and that
governments are duty bound to uphold public right, not monopoly right.
Sydney, January 31,
As in the case of changes to Employment Insurance, the
government's assault on veterans is a new low. In the case of veterans,
the government's cynicism is starkly evident. It cannot expect to keep
sending young Canadians to wars to serve as cannon fodder and then not
look after the wounded and the families
of those who died. It means that the government is counting on the
disenfranchisement of Canadians in terms of the electoral process. It
does not think their opposition can be made effective. Furthermore, it
is hoping that the changes will be so profound and irreversible that a
public authority will become a thing
of the past no matter what party is brought to power. This explains the
insulting behaviour of the Minister of Veterans Affairs and the Harper
government towards the veterans. The humiliation is designed to bring
home the point that they count for nothing and have no voice. But the
government may yet be in for
a rude awakening.
CPC(M-L) calls on Canadians from all walks of life to
make sure this is the case. Join the protests of the veterans and
support their just demands. No-one should be forced to fend for
themselves, chasing insurance claims, services or anything else which
belongs to them by right. This is especially evident in the
case of veterans who the government does not stop telling us carry out
the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
This shows that as we enter the centenary year of the
start of World War I, Canada faces a defining moment. It is time to
dispense with governments whose aim is to pay the rich. Reforms are
needed but the kind which strengthen the human factor/social
consciousness, not the kind which oppose it.
Veterans Must Not Be Forced to Fend for
No to the Closures of Veterans Affairs Offices and Dismissal of
Veterans Affairs Personnel!
Spirited Actions of Veterans and Their Supporters
Across the Country
On January 31, thousands of Canadian military veterans,
many in their 80s and 90s, from World War II to the present, along with
people from all walks of life including many representatives of trade
unions, participated in actions at the Veterans Affairs Canada district
offices slated for closure that day in eight
cities across the country -- Kelowna, Saskatoon, Brandon, Thunder Bay,
Windsor, Sydney, Charlottetown and Corner Brook. A common demand at the
actions was for the immediate resignation of Minister of Veterans
Affairs Julian Fantino and Prime Minister Harper because of their
despicable treatment of veterans.
The actions come as the veterans and their
organizations, side by side with the workers responsible for providing
services to them, have been organizing for months to challenge the
closures and the government's attempt to fool veterans by presenting
these attacks on their well-being as improvements in efficiency
that will not impact veterans' access to the services they require.
They are resolutely demanding that the government stop dismissing
veterans' concerns and nickelling and diming them through service cuts.
Veterans' concerns go beyond the office closures and
address the anti-human and anti-social manner in which they are being
treated. They are opposing schemes that would see the government rid
itself of social responsibility for those it has sent to war by giving
lump sum payments to injured veterans and then
leaving them to fend for themselves, rather than receiving the lifetime
care they require for their mental and/or physical injuries.
An example of the government's callous disregard for
veterans are the recent suicides of soldiers who served in Afghanistan.
Veterans, their loved ones and those who provide them with care
strenuously object to the government's dismissive attitude towards the
care required by soldiers who return home with
post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses. All of this
has confirmed to veterans that the Harper government does not respect
their rights despite its claims to "honour their sacrifice," while the
epitaph for fallen soldiers "Lest We Forget" rings completely hollow.
In order to try to fool veterans and justify the
closures, the government endlessly repeats the disinformation that
veterans will get the same services despite the large reductions in
staff and the closure of offices which mean that veterans in some
places face the prospect of having to travel eight to ten hours to the
nearest office to get face-to-face assistance from Veterans Affairs.
Delegation of veterans,
young and old, go to Parliament to raise their concerns about cuts to
services and meet with
Minister of Veterans
Affairs Julian Fantino, who was an hour late, January 28, 2014.
The veterans are not buying the government's claims and
on January 28, a delegation of veterans made a special trip to Ottawa
to hold a press conference and meet with Minister of Veterans Affairs
Julian Fantino. Fantino, showing great disrespect, not only showed up
70 minutes late for the scheduled meeting
but then spent his time with the veterans trying to undermine their
claims. He further insulted them by saying they were being duped by the
Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and claiming the union's only
interest is to save its members' jobs, an odious remark that has also
been repeated by the Prime Minister in
the Parliament. Minister Fantino's disrespect toward the delegation of
veterans is exactly what the closures and other anti-social changes
will do to thousands of veterans -- force them to make special trips
far out of their way to have someone lend them an ear, only to have to
wait and then be denied the services
they require. The self-righteous remarks by the Minister and the Prime
Minister underscore that they see nothing wrong with this.
Veterans hold press
conference on Parliament Hill, January 28, 2014.
A Navy veteran and local Legion president who took a day
off work to speak at the protest in Thunder Bay was incensed at
Fantino's remarks about veterans being "duped" by PSAC. "What right
does he have to tell me, as a Canadian citizen who defended democracy
for 25 years, who I can talk to, speak to
or associate with?" he demanded.
In another move to dismiss the concerns of veterans and
their supporters, the Harper government used its majority to "punt" an
opposition motion from the NDP which called on the Parliament to vote
to keep the offices open. The vote, which was to take place on
Wednesday, January 29 before the Friday, January
31 closures, was moved to Monday, February 3, after the offices were
Clearly Harper and his ilk cannot believe that veterans
would not simply "trust" vague promises about maintaining services and
demand their rights be affirmed.
In Sydney, Nova Scotia close to 1,500 people
participated in a "wake" outside the local Veterans Affairs office. The
closure of this office means that more than 4,000 veterans will no
longer be able to get personal service at the Sydney office. One of the
speakers, retired sergeant Ron
Clarke, participated in the January 28 meeting in Ottawa with Minister
of Defence Julian Fantino on behalf of veterans. "All we're trying to
do is wake the government up," he said. "We wanted to do a type of
funeral for the closing of the office. We need these offices to remain
open for people like myself with
post-traumatic stress disorder."
"We'll see how many Conservatives are in agreement with
the Prime Minister," he added. "Those who are voting for the closure of
the offices will pay the price. And we'll see to that."
Veterans and their supporters placed black wreaths
outside the office and donned black ribbons to show their dismay at the
closures. A week before, four veterans held a sit-in at the office.
Protests were also held in Charlottetown, PEI and Corner
Brook, Newfoundland. In Corner Brook, local veterans and others
travelled from all over western Newfoundland to participate.
In Windsor, some 200 veterans and their supporters held
an energetic rally outside the Veterans Affairs office. They were
joined by many community members and representatives of local unions.
Speakers unanimously denounced Veterans Affairs Minister Julian
Fantino, Prime Minister
Stephen Harper and the Conservative MP for Essex Jeff Watson for the
contempt shown to veterans. The also expressed outrage at how the
serious concerns they have been raising have been ignored or dismissed.
The closure means that the closest office for Windsor
veterans to get direct personal service is two hours away in London.
One of the speakers announced that the Legion in London has decided to
bar Conservative MPs from their facilities until the decision to close
the Veterans Affairs offices is reversed.
Local NDP MP Brian Masse rejected the government's
claims that there is no loss of service from the closures, as services
will simply shift to Service Canada offices. He pointed out that his
office already gets calls from constituents who use Service Canada and
complain of long line-ups and having to wait hours
on the phones. One veteran pointed out that when he goes to Service
Canada he now packs a lunch, knowing it will be a long wait to see
Veterans spoke with great emotion about their betrayal
by a government that says it honours their sacrifice. One young veteran
of the war in Afghanistan who sustained a serious head injury that
makes it difficult for him to remember names said that he would not
forget the name of Conservative MP Jeff Watson
who had spoken in Parliament of how he would remember the young
soldier's sacrifice, a promise now shown to be empty. He also commented
to the media that the Harper government's three "Ds" for the military
are now "Deny, Delay, Die" rather than "Defence, Diplomacy and
The Prime Minister claims the opposition to the closures
is trouble-making stirred up by "unions." However, the emcee pointed
out that it is the Harper government which is being self-serving. Had
it not been for the action of PSAC, veterans and others would have been
in the dark and the government would
have simply slipped the closures through Parliament without anyone
knowing until after the fact.
At protests in Thunder Bay, veteran Peter Ewasuki said:
"We put our lives on the line, we spilled blood and now all we're
getting is lip service. I'm ashamed of this government and of Minister
Veterans in Brandon and Saskatoon held actions at the
offices slated for closure.
In Saskatoon, where 4,500 veterans will be affected by
the loss of the local office, veterans and their supporters held a
press conference. There, 83 year-old Bill Dubinski told the crowd that
he feels betrayed by the government's decision. "You see how badly it's
going, and what's going to happen to those people
who put their lives on the line expecting that they were going to get
some assistance?" he said.
The only affected city where a public protest was not
reported was Kelowna, BC. Veterans there reportedly feared reprisals if
they spoke out.
A ninth Veterans Affairs office in Prince George, BC was
closed prior to January 31 and the demand is that it should also be
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