In just two weeks, veterans in Northern Saskatchewan will be left without the face-to-face services they deserve when the federal government closes the Saskatoon Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) office, along with seven others across the country: Charlottetown, Corner Brook, Sydney, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Brandon and Kelowna. The Prince George office closed last year.
The Saskatoon VAC office serves 4,500 clients in Saskatoon and throughout Northern Saskatchewan, including La Ronge, Meadow Lake, North Battleford, Prince Albert and reaching into bordering communities Lloydminster, Alberta and Flin Flon, Manitoba.
As older veterans age, they require more care and services. Younger veterans, such as those returning from Afghanistan, tend to have more complex needs, like those who have been diagnosed with serious mental health conditions as a result of their deployment.
After the closure, the federal government will post one Veterans Affairs worker in the Service Canada outlets where Veterans Affairs offices are closing. However, this is simply a temporary measure. Even if this were to become a permanent measure, it just isn’t possible for eight workers to make up for the almost 90 front line workers being lost when these offices close. In Saskatoon, 14 staff assisted more than 4,500 veterans.
This will also have an impact on veterans in Southern Saskatchewan serviced out of the Regina VAC office, which will be required to take on thousands more files. Regina will be taking on 4,500 files from Saskatoon, doubling its client numbers, but has seen a reduction in staff from 16 to 11.5 since 2012. The workers in this office will have increased caseloads, which will mean longer wait times for service for all the veterans being served out of this office.
Meanwhile, in Brandon, veterans will be required to travel to the nearest office in Shilo. While this is only a 30 to 45 minute drive away, veterans point out that there is no public transportation between the two locations and most can’t afford the round trip taxi fare of about $60.
The government seems determined to move ahead with the closures as planned, despite continued pleas from veterans and Canadians alike. Find out more about what the closures mean for services to veterans, and write your MP to ask them to respect our veterans and keep the offices open.