Thousands protest closure of Veterans Affairs office in Sydney, N.S.
More than 3,000 people gathered in Sydney, N.S., on Saturday to protest the federal government’s plan to close the local Veterans Affairs office.
The government had previously announced it would be closing nine offices by February 2014, and the Sydney office is believed to be one of the ones on the chopping block.
Ron Clarke, who served in the army for nearly four decades, said he depends on the local Sydney office for benefits and other services.
“It’s just going to kill us…take note of that word: going to kill us,” Clarke had told CTV Atlantic. “They couldn’t do it on the battlefield so they’re going to do it right here in Ottawa.”
Clarke, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, said he will instead have to drive five hours to the Veterans Affairs office in Halifax.
Veterans Affairs has said the department is “adjusting the footprint” of its offices to better reflect the demographics of Canadian veterans. The department said it will continue to support veterans at Service Canada locations, and that many services currently offered at district offices are available online.
At Saturday’s gathering in Sydney, which fell just before Remembrance Day, protesters marched carrying banners and signs, and sang the national anthem.
Normi Noel told CTV News she was attending the protest on behalf of her father.
"My father is a veteran. He's a bomber pilot. He's 93-years-old and he flew 40 (operations) over Germany," Noel said. "And all of these men and woman who fought for us are abandoned by the Canadian government, as far as I'm concerned and it's wrong."
The rally ended with thousands of postcards being mailed to Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino.
“Hopefully, hopefully I say, it will at least cause Mr. Fantino – because it is his portfolio – to think twice about closing this office down,” Clarke said. “I’m sure the prime minister will have a chat with him anyway … I hope.”
Along with the office in Sydney, the federal government is set to close offices in:
- Corner Brook, Nfld.
- Windsor, Ont.
- Thunder Bay, Ont.
- Brandon, Man.
- Kelowna, B.C.
- Prince George, B.C