OTTAWA, July 22, 2015 /CNW/ - Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O'Toole announced last week that the government plans to hire more staff in Atlantic Canada by March 2016.
PSAC sees this as an admission by the Harper Conservatives that $113 million in cuts to Veterans Affairs and the decision to close nine district offices was a mistake.
According to veterans and their advocates, this latest announcement will do little to fix the damage that has already been done to veterans' services.
"Veterans used to have a personal relationship with the client service agents and case managers. Now they say they just feel like a number," said Robyn Benson, PSAC National President. "The way the Conservative government has been treating veterans is only one example of what we are seeing all across this country in many different sectors. Our veterans deserve better."
"If Minister O'Toole is serious about making amends with Canada's veterans, his government should immediately re-open the nine Veterans Affairs offices that were closed in 2014, including the one in Sydney," added said Carl Gannon, National President of PSAC's Union of Veterans Affairs Employees. "This latest announcement doesn't come close to filling the gap left by the closure of the Sydney office."
Gannon points out that the four new case manager positions in Sydney, while needed, will not replace the loss of front-line workers at the former district office.
"Veterans still need brick-and-mortar offices, where they can walk in and have their issues dealt with in a quick and efficient manner by knowledgeable staff."
In a series of testimonial videos released by PSAC in June, Canadian veterans spoke plainly about the devastating impact that the closure of Veterans Affairs offices has had on their lives.
Vince Rigby, 50, served 22 years in the Canadian military, including time in Croatia, Bosnia and the Medak Pocket. In his testimonial, he describes how a worker in the Sydney office saved his life when he was on the verge of suicide.
Now he says that, "I have to go through a series of transfers from phone call to phone call, from person to person, from office to office, before I can get to a person that can deal with what I need."
"We encourage our members and all supporters of Canadian veterans to send a letter to Minister O'Toole today," said Gannon. "Our heroes deserve better than the way they are being treated by this government."
"PSAC is reaffirming its position to get the calling on the federal government to re-open the nine Veterans Affairs offices across Canada," Gannon concluded.
PSAC recently launched the Vote to Stop the Cuts campaign to encourage Canadians to vote in the next federal election for candidates who oppose further cuts and seek to restore vital public services, including at Veterans affairs.
To learn more about the campaign, visit Votetostopthecuts.ca.
For further information: For media interviews: Jonathan Choquette, (819) 773-2511, [email protected]