Veterans Affairs Canada opens new office in Surrey, in Whalley

Veterans Affairs Canada opens new office in Surrey, in Whalley

But at least one veteran isn’t moved

Veterans Affairs Canada has opened a new office in Whalley with 21 staff with an aim to served roughly 7,500 veterans in this area.

Good news, yes?

At least one veteran, Aaron Bedard, isn’t moved.

“I don’t think this is moving any bloody mountains,” Aaron Bedard told the Now-Leader. “It’s not a new office. It was part of a dozen offices closed in 2011. There was an office there in Newton before.”

The others, he noted, were “scattered across Canada.”

“This is nothing new — they are simply returning the level of manpower that was previously existing prior to 2011.”

Corporal Bedard, of Chilliwack, served in Afghanistan in 2006, where he was injured in a mine strike. He was “medically released” from the military in 2010.

Kent Hehr — minister of veterans affairs and associate minister of national defence — opened the third-floor office, at Suite 350, 13479-108 Ave., on Wednesday.

Office staff will answer veterans’ questions about services and benefits, arrange pension medical examinations and help veterans with applications and receipts.

‘Today, in Surrey, we are making a truly significant accomplishment that will have long-term and far-reaching benefits for veterans and their families across Canada,” Hehr said. “The Government of Canada has not only re-opened the offices previously closed, but we went even further by opening an office in Surrey and expanding outreach in northern communities.”

Re-opening nine Veterans Affairs offices that were closed under Stephen Harper’s government is a “top priority,” a federal government document states, adding that since April more than 420 new front line staffers have been hired to help veterans, members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and RCMP.

Stephen MacKinnon, parliamentary secretary to the minister of public services, said re-opening the nine offices and this new office in Surrey “in such a short period of time is a major achievement.”

Bedard and six other veterans launched a lawsuit in 2012 against the federal government. “We are seeking the return to pension for life for veterans that was taken away in 2006, the same year we went into combat,” he explained. It is currently before B.C.’s Court of Appeal. “We are waiting for a ruling on the government’s move to strike down our case.” He expects the case will continue on, “win or lose,” to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Bedard said Justin Trudeau, before he became prime minister, told veterans during the last federal election campaign that they wouldn’t have to fight the government in court if he was elected. “Well, he took us right back to court.”

Bedard said veterans were concerned cuts were being done under Harper’s government to make Veterans Affairs Canada “dysfunctional enough that it may fail and be picked up by an outside insurance company.”

As for Wednesday’s announcement in Surrey, Bedard said, Trudeau’s government is “focussed on counter-politics to what the Conservatives did, which was close down a bunch of offices.”

tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com