Roundtable consultation too little too late for veterans

On February 23, Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Larry Maguire and Edmonton Centre Conservative MP Laurie Hawn held a roundtable discussion in Brandon and invited veterans to attend to provide feedback on the federal government’s new veterans charter.

Suddently, after closing nine Veterans Affairs Canada offices across Canada without consultation with the veterans affected or the union representing the employees, the federal government is interested in what the veterans have to say.

Martin Haller, the local veteran leading the charge against the closures in Brandon, attended the meeting, but felt it was too little too late.

“Maguire says that all these concerns are going to go up to the veterans committee, but in reality the decisions are already made,” Haller told the Brandon Sun.

Following Sunday’s meeting, Haller put pen to paper to share his thoughts on the meeting and some of the veterans concerns:

“It was good to see the RCMP there and veterans from Boissevain, too. It was also nice to see regular citizens attend in solidarity to support the veterans struggle and to know that we are not alone.

Despite being late to the party, I welcome Mr. Maguire’s efforts to finally consult with veterans on the matters that directly affect them. However, the messages conveyed are evidence that the Conservative government still doesn’t understand what the real issue is.

Mr. Hawn even accused the veterans who travelled to Ottawa of being rude to him. Perhaps he wasn’t aware that I was, in fact, one of those veterans and was in the room at the time and can attest to the fact that we were nothing but cordial.

The veterans who attended Sunday’s meeting voiced their concerns about how this will impact their lives and the services they are entitled to. This is not just a Brandon issue, but one that affects veterans across the country. The closures of nine offices means less services overall for veterans, including the ones living in communities where offices have closed and those living in areas shouldering the burden from increased caseloads.

Veterans have complained about the department’s phone system and online services, calling them confusing and inadequate. With the closures behind us, and the government’s reluctance to admit their wrong, I fear it’s only going to get worse for me and tens of thousands of veterans like me across Canada.”