Tbnewswatch Local News
Sunday July 5 2015
9:17 AM EDT
2014-01-31 at 16:36

'A disgrace'

A veteran places a poppy on a wreath laid outside the city
Jodi Lundmark, tbnewswatch.com
A veteran places a poppy on a wreath laid outside the city's veterans affairs office on Red River Road Friday morning. Local veterans and supporters held a memorial service for the office, which closes its doors for the last time Friday.
By Jodi Lundmark, tbnewswatch.com

Rotten, discouraged and bewildered.

That's how Second World War navy veteran Roy Lamore felt after local veterans and supporters held a memorial service for the city's veterans affairs office on Red River Road Friday morning.

The local office is one of eight across the country closing permanently after Friday, leaving the closest veterans affairs office in Winnipeg, an eight hour drive away. The closest office to the east is in North Bay.

For a 21-year-old veteran, an eight hour drive might not seem so bad, but Lamore said there's is no way that will work for older veterans who are in their 80s and 90s.

"If they think these fellas 89 and 90 and up are going to be the best guys on computers, that's wrong. They want to meet a person face-to-face," he said. "That's a disgrace to take that away. Give them 10 more years; let them die in glory."

Lamore joined other veterans in Ottawa earlier this week to meet with Julian Fantino, the minister of veterans affairs, and he wasn't pleased when the minister sent three other men Lamore described as twentysomething veterans in his place.

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"How does that look, them sending veterans to fight veterans?" said Lamore. "It was a disgrace."

The loss of the local office won't just be difficult for older veterans who aren't familiar with computers, said Robin Rickards, an 11-year veteran with the Canadian Armed Forces.

The Thunder Bay man served once in Bosnia and three times in Afghanistan and said many issues veterans face are latent, particularly operational stress injuries (OSIs).

"A lot of guys don't realize they have it until later on in life and a lot of times they're difficult to diagnose so having staff here helps ease that transition particularly because what will end up happening is guys get frustrated," he said.

Navigating operating systems over the phone or online can be tough and often vets will hang up in frustration and try to deal with their issues alone.

"They really can't and they really don't achieve what they could in life because they're not getting the support they need," Rickards said.

And having young policymakers in Ottawa talk about online portals with apps for tablets doesn't mean much to older veterans, he added.

"It would be no different than if those old veterans came along and started talking military briefings to the twentysomethings in Ottawa; they wouldn't know what the terms are," said Rickards.

Closing the offices takes the human face away from government and Rickards said that makes it difficult for average Canadians to access the services they rely on.

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The government is closing the veterans affairs offices to balance the books and while Rickards believes fiscal responsibility is important, he said it shouldn't be done at the expense of veterans.

"If the government is willing to balance the books on the backs of veterans who fought for their country, been wounded and require the services that are handled by veterans affairs, who won't they balance the books on the back of?" he said.

The closure of the Thunder Bay office could also mean added pressure to the local legions.

Royal Canadian Legion Port Arthur Branch No. 5 president Rob Cutbush said the RCL is the country's largest veteran service organization and their branch is the only one in the city open seven days a week.

"I feel with this downsizing of services, the government has now downloaded to a not-for-profit, non-government organization a problem that we as a veterans organization are going to have to take care of," he said, adding it's disheartening since they don't receive any federal funding, tax breaks or subsidies.

"That really disturbs me."

And Cutbush said the legion just doesn't have the resources to fulfill the need.

"We can't operate 24/7 or even bankers hours Monday to Friday. It's not feasible. We just don't have the volunteers to do it."

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We've improved our comment system.
fairlane says:
Mr. Lamore we are so sorry to hear how our government has let you and other veterans down.

Although we cannot control the actions of self-serving politicians please remember there are millions of citizens the remember what you all have done for us.

We remember, and we will never forget.
2/1/2014 10:19:21 PM
Watchful says:
This does appear to be harsh, but not once have I read how often this office was used. With the stats then perhaps as a group this could be pushed to be reopened. Until then, could not the local legions offer an office area where a computer could be set up and volunteers recruited to help the vets in Thunder Bay. This would at least be a big support for our local vets. As sky
high would say, there are many cane shakers out there who could help. I would like to think that maybe students could also give a hand in this
2/1/2014 9:44:56 PM
Curious says:
Shame on the government! They will give millions to other countries, and nothing to the men & women that sacrificed everything only to be treated like low life citizens! You have lost a lot of votes!
2/1/2014 6:39:07 PM
Enquirer says:
I cannot help but wonder, "Why?", in the Federal Government making this move?

I need not point any further than some of the most staunch Conservative/Harper supporters on national news outlets questioning the same move.

For a relatively small amount of money in comparison to other social and political programs, this seems like a rather small investment to make to sure up your base of political backers.

In making this move, I cannot help but feel this goes to alienate one of the strongest and most core bases of the Conservative's voting blocks. While some may point to the idea of attrition in this older voting block, you are forgetting about the younger solider/solider families demographic of those who have served in Afghanistan and elsewhere, or had a family member who did. This move puts severe strain on this voting block.

Ironically, the Conservatives have championed themselves as the party of the soldiers, this move makes them appear otherwise.
2/1/2014 1:03:29 PM
coffeshoppolitician says:
Another example of how the Harper Conservatives continue to hollow out this once great nation.
2/1/2014 12:42:25 PM
Melvin Pitt-Balsam says:
YellowSnow13 makes a valid point...how often were local VA services utilized before they closed down? Are local Veterans using telephone and internet services already? What exactly does a VA office provide that a Service Canada office can not? None of these questions are being answered to my satisfaction, either in the local or national media.
As a taxpayer and as a CF Veteran I understand that you can't have all services, everywhere...our nation is too large and sparsely populated. I just wish there was a balanced, informed discussion of all the facts before people allowed partisanship and slanted coverage to influence their opinions.
2/1/2014 10:58:06 AM
S Duncan says:
Its just more left wing media taking stabs at the Conservatives.

You are asking questions that our media should be asking. The truth is none of these services aren't offered somewhere else. These places have become redundant. The complaints about seeing them go are the same ones we see from all human beings who just don't like change.

Its quite sad that there is no balanced informed discussion like you wish for, instead we just have sheep piling onto the hate Harper wagon because the author feels that way. We saw the same factless approach the other day with the union stories which went unquestioned and put out as a ndp propaganda piece loosely disguised as a media story.

Whats it going to take to get both sides represented in these types of stories? You'd think the reporter would ask, but no way.

Instead we get a chest thumping session of Harper hating because these people will have to navigate a phone tree which Im sure wont be the first one they have been faced with.
2/1/2014 9:39:14 PM
cityisgreat says:
they replaced nurses and social workers who set up services for these elderly veterans and their families. Having them go on line or to see a clerk at a service Ontario counter is not a replacements its a sham. My daughter was one of those nurses who set up services for these elderly veterans, many of whom have dementia. A clerk wont make home visits, set up home making and personal support, nursing, ot/pt. Just to be clear. No one will do this for these people. pretty sad. Also the money the gov't has spent on ads to try to convince Canadians that this is the right thing to do, was the cost of running the offices across the country.
Just another nail in the coffin for the conservatives, i wonder what Trudeau will do?
2/1/2014 10:49:44 AM
fastball says:
It's about the optics, Mr. Harper. Some things just LOOK terrible. And messing around with the benefits of 80-90 year-old veterans is about as low as you can get, sir.
A lot of these guys were your staunchest supporters - but you can kiss those votes goodbye. But I suppose some cold-hearted beancounter in the Prime Minister's office has run the numbers...and calculated the lifespan of the remaining WW2 vets versus the cost-benefit financial savings won't negatively affect any future Conservative voting patterns.
Go crawl back under your rocks.

2/1/2014 10:10:18 AM
arjay says:

"lest we forget"
2/1/2014 8:04:30 AM
keep it real says:
I assisted my dad in dealing with veterans affairs 15 years ago and it was awful then. it is truely sad what they have to go through to get the support they need, The old boy's are dying off and no longer a political force so they are being swept under the rug. What a country they fought for, we have a society will bend over backwards for prisoners, junkies and other so called victoms but the elderly especially those that served our country are crapped on.
Where is the respect?
I applaud Roy for standing up and I hope he continues and not only Vets but the young men and women serving today will stand up too. Someday it might be them suffering from ptsd after witnessing something horrible while in service of our country.
Never forget what theese people did for all of us, is being able to deal with a person face to face too much to ask for?
2/1/2014 12:58:47 AM
I support working families says:
It's another Harper conservative disgrace, then Harper and his cronies have the nerve to say its a union plan. Did you see the news, the honorable vets who sacrificed so much for our country could hardly hold back their tears.
1/31/2014 11:30:16 PM
Dunroamin says:
Do you think this would happen if Thunder Bay had a member of parliament on the party in power thank you
2015 is our chance to be
At the decision table in Ottawa think about it in or outside the tent

1/31/2014 11:07:33 PM
lunker says:
So what are you suggesting? We just submit to political blackmail and vote Conservative? Pretty weak. Why don't you want us to stand up for ourselves against a callous government that screws it's own people?
2/1/2014 3:04:18 PM
Eastender says:
They have to save money somewhere to make up Buchanans forgiveable loans!
1/31/2014 7:13:47 PM
educator says:
If you're going to try and make a joke, shouldn't you at least keep things in context?

Buchanan's money came from the province, it's the feds who fund Veterans Affairs.

1/31/2014 9:42:12 PM
sky high says:
Got a little excited there and forgot to put your thinking cap on did you Eastie? The misinformation that is strewn around in here by misleading comments is astounding. One should have to submit a grade 12 diploma to be able to comment in here
2/1/2014 10:02:13 AM
Eastender says:
Oops! I did a boo boo, but the jackals are there to pick my bones, thank goodness.

Any way, the point, erroneous as it may have been was made. 33 agrees got the gist of the message.
2/2/2014 5:33:31 PM
YellowSnow13 says:
I finely understand Mr. Lamore's issue. Please do not take this the wrong way I have a huge respect for the military. I realize you may not have computer skills but it does make more sense financially to put in a computer to replace the 1 or 2 people and their salary and office expenses. It is probably saving them at least $200G's/year. Might I suggest you and other Vets get together and set something up to still have the face to face but with other Vets and volunteers to get the information you need. You may find somebody that can do it. It might of been nice to know how busy that office was?
1/31/2014 6:58:30 PM
animiki says:
For the relatively small amount of money involved in keeping these offices open, the government could have maintained a commitment to those who served and suffered. Why should the vets have to organize services for themselves?

Even having said that, I can see your point--money has to be saved somewhere. But for the government that spent $1 billion on a disastrous G8 Summit in Toronto and to spruce up the Muskoka region to receive other world leaders for a couple of days, this is pretty rich. I'm afraid that this government has largely surrendered its moral authority to preach austerity to the likes of military veterans. I'm sure they could find these savings somewhere else--for example, how about the bloated National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa? That's a target even veterans could get behind engaging.
2/1/2014 10:08:55 AM
sky high says:
Sometimes you just have to forget about 200,000 dollars and do the right thing. How is it so easy to let Senators claim hundreds of thousands of dollars in living expenses and then try to give them hush money but the veterans that defended our freedom get quashed as if they don't exist anymore. 'What have you done for us lately'? Always been a Harper supporter but he's a jackal for this move.
2/1/2014 10:37:58 AM
det john kimble says:
sky high comes to the defense of well...real cane shakers !!! ( no disrespect my grandfather used a cane and I feel its an item that distinguishes an individual not diminishes them), WOW there is hope and some normalcy in you!
2/2/2014 10:04:52 AM
Threefish says:
1/31/2014 6:52:41 PM
nvjgu says:
They needed the 16 million for the trip he just took over seas with the other 250 people.
1/31/2014 6:15:03 PM
gwilson010 says:
I dont agree with the closing of any of these offices. I can understand with closing some in densely packed areas like Southern Ontario where the next office might only be a 40 min drive. Yes there is Service Canada, the phone, email, etc. but if a face to face is required, these veterans would be required to make an 8 hour drive each way plus accommodations. Spare me the spin, you cant be honest and say one person can do the work of 13 and actually give a proper level of service.
1/31/2014 5:38:13 PM
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