NEWS

Veteran on Fantino: 'What the frig is wrong with that guy?'

01/29/2014 12:26 EST | Updated 03/31/2014 05:59 EDT
Veterans taking part in a sit-in at the Veterans Affairs office in Sydney, N.S., broke down in tears on Wednesday, visibly shaken by the federal minister's reaction to their concerns.

Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino was late for a meeting in Ottawa about the closure of Veterans Affairs offices in nine communities.

He left early and a video from the meeting shows the minister and veterans having testy exchanges.

A rotating group of four veterans have been sitting in the lobby of the Cape Breton Veterans Affairs office every day this week and have been keeping an eye on the coverage.

“I was tremendously disappointed with the minister’s reaction,” said Alfie Burt. “He wasn’t there to listen.”

The 59-year-old joined the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps in 1975 and says he suffers from chronic back problems as a result.

“I could just start crying right now. It just wasn’t right," he said. "What the frig is wrong with that guy? Like knowing you have people right across Canada saying you’re not doing the right thing.”

Fantino released a statement on Tuesday saying that he and the veterans had a "candid conversation" during a "roundtable" and that meeting with veterans is one of the most important parts of his job.

The protesting veterans said without local staff guiding them through applications and program requirements, they would have been refused the help they now depend on. The Sydney office is on the list for closure.

PTSD help

Vince Rigby, 49, said memories of a civilian massacre in Bosnia still affect him.

“My emotions are flopping up and down," he said.

Rigby said Fantino should resign.

“He’s not listening to us at all. I would like to see him go over to Afghanistan, put on a uniform, follow the soldiers through a foot patrol and then come home and seek out a young man that’s got PTSD and follow him through your system through the DVA and then let us know how it goes.”

Fantino's office said the services veterans now receive at the offices will be provided by a trained worker at Service Canada offices.

The federal government has already closed one office in Prince George, B.C., and plans to close eight more on Jan. 31.

“We have gentlemen in here right now who swear this office has saved their life," said Royal Canadian Air Force veteran Donald Lloyd Gardner. "There are still a lot of our young folk coming down the pipes.

“How many of the them are going to take their own life? They closed this office at what cost?”

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