Jan. 13, 2013
By Brett Poirier
At an NDP-organized rally in Charlottetown on Friday, party leaders and MPs spoke about the negative impact cuts will have to veteran services.
Over 75 people gathered in the city’s Legion to protest the closing of the province’s Veteran Affairs office.
Prince Edward Island’s NDP leader Mike Redmond felt the rally was necessary.
“We have a moral, ethical and civic duty to support [veterans] in our country and our province,” said Redmond. “These changes make no sense for the men and women who have worn the uniform for Canada in Normandy, Sicily, Cyrus, Lebanon, Bosnia, Rwanda, Haiti and so many others.”
The federal government announced in 2012 that P.E.I.’s office would be closing. The office acts as service for veterans who require insurance, financial and personal attention.
With the closures, veterans are forced to go online or call a 1-800 number for assistance with these issues.
Keynote speaker, N.S. MP Peter Stoffer, said the closures shouldn’t be allowed.
“It is unacceptable that these offices are being closed,” said Stoffer. “We in government and in opposition have the ultimate responsibility to care for these veterans all the way to the headstones.”
Stoffer, who’s the NDP critic of Veterans Affairs, said it’s gotten to the point where some veterans are turning to outside organizations for assistance.
“Veterans should not be relying on the help of charity organizations to get the help they need.”
Stoffer told the story of a retired military corporal who took her life on Christmas Day after a long battle with Veterans Affairs. After her many failed attempts to gain medical benefits, her post taumatic stress disorder increasingly bothered her.
Her body was found near a Calgary highway.
As Stoffer told the woman’s story, people from the crowd began to shout.
One man yelled “shame,” another hollered “terrible.”
Stoffer said it’s important to talk with veterans to hear first-hand how they’re being affected.
“Talk to your service officers, talk to their families. Talk to the many, many of them across this county who can’t find help for their mental health issues.”
Stoffer encouraged everyone in attendance to contact Federal MP Gail Shea about the cuts.
“We need to encourage Gail Shea to stand up in the House of Commons and say ‘no’ to these cuts. We’re fighting for what’s right.”
Liberal MP Sean Casey was invited by Redmond to attend the event. Casey spoke for several minutes and supported the cause. He pointed out that P.E.I. is the only province that will be without a district office.
“Out veterans will have to call out of province to get the help they need,” said Casey. “Stephen Harper doesn’t like us, it isn’t right. It’s a nonpartisan fight but it’s a fight we have to have.”
When the rally concluded, everyone was handed a postage card with a message directed against the cuts that would be sent to the Prime Minister’s Office.