Published on October 15, 2013
SYDNEY — Using its new video technology to get the message out to residents, Cape Breton regional councillors urged people of all ages to attend a march of concern for veterans who fear the closure of the local Veterans Affairs office will mean they won't receive the supports afforded to them.
Veterans have been told they will be able to access services through the Halifax Department of Veterans Affairs office, a toll-free telephone number, or via the Internet through the Veterans Affairs website, or by using an app designed for smartphones and tablets.
"Yes, I can turn my computer on and check my email and send email, but don't ask me to go on Facebook," said Ron Clarke, 73, a veteran from North Sydney who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
He said for most veterans don't have the skills or interest in using modern communication tools such as social media applications or an app on a smartphone to access vital services through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
A telephone line and an office that's a five-hour drive away isn't comparable to the convenient face-to-face service veterans can get now at the local office on George Street in Sydney, he said.
The CBRM council agreed.
It unanimously approved a resolution strongly condemning the federal government's decision to close the Sydney office. The resolution also called for residents to sign a petition at the civic centre opposing the February closure of the office.
The 10:30 a.m. march on Nov. 9 will take protesting veterans, politicians and the general public from Royal Canadian Legion branch 12 at the corner of George and Dorchester streets to the DVA office a short distance away.
"I would implore anyone that's listening to take one hour — it's a two-hour protest if you want to call it that — take one hour of your life. It's a very small amount of time a person can give to show the veterans that you care about them and you want this to be stopped," Dist. 5 Coun. Eldon MacDonald said.
Dist. 3 Coun. Mae Rowe said it's about showing respect to people who defended the country in past wars and conflicts.
"Now is our time to fight for them," she said of the veterans.
"They put their lives on the line for us for the freedom that we enjoy today, so that's the least that we can do.
"There's no excuse for not being there in my eyes. There's absolutely no excuse for not being at that event on Nov. 9."
She said it would also be heartening to see schoolchildren of all ages and various unions participate in the march as well.
At deputy mayor Kevin Saccary's suggestion, the resolution approved by CBRM council will be brought forward at the Atlantic Mayors' Congress meeting, which begins today in Membertou, and will also be forwarded to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the national body that lobbies Ottawa on issues affecting municipal units across the country.
Beside the Sydney office closure that will affect 13 employees, the other district offices slated to close include Charlottetown, P.E.I.; Corner Brook, N.L.; Thunder Bay and Windsor offices in Ontario; Brandon, Man.; Saskatoon, Sask.; and Prince George and Kelowna offices in British Columbia.
The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.