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Legion president Ross Petten decries closure of district offices

I call on the government to immediately cancel the decision to close the eight district Veterans Affairs Offices.

As president of the Royal Canadian Legion Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Command, I hereby call upon the Government of Canada, through the Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), to immediately cancel the decision to close the eight district Veterans Affairs Offices. This, of course, includes the one in Corner Brook.

Further, on behalf of the more than 4,000 members of our Command, and on behalf of veterans and their dependents, I also ask that VAC immediately move towards initiating an effective consultative process, whereby key stakeholders are given the opportunity to have direct decision-making input into appropriate, equitable, fair and timely service delivery for our veterans and their dependents in relationship to this matter.

In our opinion, as steadfast advocates for our veterans, the RCL cannot stand silently by and watch the unprecedented erosion of service delivery for the men and women who have given outstanding service to the people of Canada and the world.

These proud veterans of Canada unselfishly placed their lives and personal safety in danger, so as to ensure that people can live their lives in a pluralistic liberal democratic society, where freedom and safety are paramount.

In our opinion, in an environment where suicides of veterans have suddenly increased, and where the average age of Second World War and Korean War veterans is within the late 70s, 80s and 90s, and where cases of post-traumatic stress disorder/occupational stress injuries have skyrocketed, we firmly and sincerely believe that now is not the time to have cutbacks to veteran service delivery, by closing Veteran Affairs district offices.

It is not our intention to get involved in a finger-pointing exercise with any stakeholder, but it is our sole mission to have this critical issue effectively dealt with in a timely fashion, through meaningful consultation, so as to ensure no negative effect or extra stress is placed upon our veterans or their dependents.

They have enough challenges to deal with as it is.

We also sincerely believe that the closing of the respective offices will place undue hardship on our veterans and their dependents in relation to service delivery.

In closing, on behalf of all our veterans and their dependents, as we rapidly move towards commemorating the centenary of the First World War,  I ask for the strong support of all of our Canadian citizens, which certainly includes all levels of government and community groups.

Ross Petten is president of the Royal Canadian Legion in Newfoundland and Labrador. He is a resident of Port de Grave.

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