No Big Announcement From Veterans Affairs Session in P.G.
Prince George BC – The meeting between Veterans Affairs Canada Reps and veterans at the Legion in Prince George was not what had been hoped for.
While there were a handful of veterans in attendance, they were outnumbered two to one by politicians and political hopefuls.
It was the first time since the Veteran’s Affairs office in Prince George closed in 2012, that a Veteran’s Affairs team had come to Prince George. It was hoped there would be good news about the re-opening of that office.
Such was not the case.
What they heard was a presentation on the services and benefits offered to Veterans and their families, and how to apply for such benefits.
“Unfortunately, they should have had somebody here who could speak on what the political situation is, what is going to be happening and what is it going to take to get our green dot ( location for a regional office) as they show on their map” says John Scott, Vice President of the BC/Yukon Legion. “This is not an office for Prince George, it was an office for the Northern Region.”
Instead, the presenter, informed those in attendance to contact Veterans Affairs by visiting the website, downloading an app, visiting the office in Vancouver, or calling a toll free hotline to find out about benefits and services, or to apply for benefits. Certainly not the one on one relationship building connection Councillor Brian Skakun says veterans tell him they want. When Councillor Skakun raised that matter, the lone VA rep from Ottawa, a public relations person, told the audience, the team was not able to discuss matters of policy or decision making. That put an end to any chance of the team ( from Vancouver) hearing any case in favour of re-opening the Prince George office.
“I was expecting more today” says Mayor Lyn Hall, while saying it’s important the services and benefits be detailed, he thought there would be something more “I was expecting how we were going to resolve the issue about services being delivered to our veterans, some talk about whether or not we are going to open up an office, whether it would be on an intermittent basis or full time office, or how we can utilize the Legion as office space for these folks from Veterans Affairs to come here and deal with veterans in the region.” Mayor Hall says his concern, and that of Council’s is “How do we get that direct contact that we lost, so we’ve been talking to members of parliament about it, and I was hoping to hear something back today.”
Mayor Hall says there is more at stake than just Prince George “We sometimes forget this isn’t just veterans in Prince George we’re dealing with, this is about veterans throughout our entire northern region.”
Prince George-Peace River MP Bob Zimmer attended the session and says he is trying to link veterans with the services they need through his constituency office “I want to offer, my staff to come in( to the Legion) at least once a week to offer that service. My staff have already being going to the hospital to visit with some of the veterans and having that personal service, and that was missed during the presentation and that’s what I’m trying to address.”
Zimmer says the crux of it all is that the veterans gets the services they need.
Mayor Hall says the City and Legion will continue to work with Members of Parliament to have a regional Veterans Affairs Office in Prince George.