Local MP Ron Cannan was happy to announce a partial victory today to the complaints locally about the federal government’s plan to close the Veterans Affairs office in Kelowna.
While the office closure is proceeding, Cannan says Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino has now stated a veterans affairs client service agent will remain stationed in Kelowna, working out of the Service Canada location, 206-471 Queensway Ave. in the downtown core.
Cannan said he along with his staff have worked on this idea since the February 2014 deadline to close the office became known.
“I am pleased to report that the minister of veterans affairs…has listened to our concerns and today has announced that a veterans affairs client service Agent will remain and be available at the Kelowna Service Canada location to assist veterans with their benefit applications, answer their questions, and help them get access to services,” Cannan said.
“By having an experienced veterans affairs staff member in the Service Canada building, veterans who want to speak personally to a veterans affairs staff member will again have that opportunity.”
Cannan added it will also be important to reinstate proper signage to ensure that local veterans know that face to face assistance is available at Service Canada location.
“Our government is dedicated to ensuring veterans and their families have the support they need, when and where they need it, from coast to coast to coast,” Cannan said.
“This supports Canadian Veterans in communities like our own and enhances a number of personalized benefits such as home visits by a registered nurse or case-manager, and help with home maintenance including grass cutting, snow clearing and home cleaning services.
“In addition, all other ongoing services and support continue to be provided, including ongoing home visits for those Veterans who are seriously injured, the toll-free service offered through our National Veterans Contact Network and the range of payments provided to veterans going through rehabilitation and transitioning into civilian life.”
But while Cannan’s praised Fantino’s decision, the president of the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees, Yvan Thauvette, says it will be impossible for client service agents to replace the services offered at a veterans affairs office.
It is impossible for eight client service agents across Canada to make up for the 89 frontline office workers being put out of work by plans to close veterans affairs offices in Kelowna, Cornerbrook, Charlottetown, Sydney, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Brandon and Saskatoon.
“This government is betraying the more than 17,000 veterans who rely on these offices for front line services,” argued Thauvette. “It simply isn’t possible for one worker to make up for the number of front line workers being lost when these offices close. For example, how is one worker going to make up for the loss of 13 who serve 4,200 clients in the Sydney office?”
Ron Clarke, a Sydney veteran who has been at the forefront of the veterans fighting the office closures, said veterans have not had any input into Fantino’s decisions. “To go ahead with this without even talking to us first is an insult,” Clarke said.