No matter what side of the issue anyone is on, remember a man’s life is at stake, and it’s ebbing away. This is Veteran Fabien Melanson’s seventh day on a Hunger Strike in Charlottetown, PEI, in front of the VAC headquarters building.
Today, Our Duty has announced that the Canadian Country Western singer Julian Austin has sent a plea to Justice Minister Vic Toews to persuade Veterans Affairs Canada to respond to Fabien’s Hunger Strike by apologizing to him and restoring his home to what it was before the VAC paper error cut off his pension payments for five months. This is the right and decent thing to do.
The essential facts are these: VAC made a clerical typo that sent Fabien’s pension into a bank account that was not his. After Fabien reported the mistake immediately, VAC took five months to rectify it. During that time, Fabien was in constant contact with VAC because, as the months passed, he had no money to support himself.
A clerical error should not take five months to fix. That is unacceptable business procedure under any circumstance. All a VAC representative had to do was ask Fabien to give them a cancelled cheque or copy of a bank statement to make sure their records had the correct account number in which to deposit his pension.
What is more condemning is that it is after Fabien tried to commit suicide and was hospitalized that VAC suddenly gets its act together and deposits Fabien’s five months of back pay into his account. Coincidence? What do you think? What if Fabien had died in his suicide attempt? How would that have reflected on VAC?
For a person who lives by “what if” scenarios, it seems to me VAC was suddenly concerned about its involvement in a public relations nightmare that could bring down the minority Harper government. VAC’s backpay to Fabien proves his entitlement.
Now, what about the pain and suffering Fabien endured through that five-month nightmare? Wouldn’t you expect at least an apology?
Everything Fabien valued disappeared when he couldn’t pay his bills.
What’s so appalling is that VAC’s treatment of Fabien through this period was so insensitive. Fabien isn’t an isolated case. He’s the tip of an avalanche of complaints from hundreds of veterans, especially those suffering from PTSD. Government officials seem to have no desire or obligation to learn about these wounded souls behind the “cases” they administer.
A comment made by Dave Campbell in The Guardian explains it best: “This is a slap in the face to any person serving our country. People do not realize what the men and women in the armed forces go through in places like Afghanistan. Many of the wounds are not visible. Remember Bosnia [and Rwanda]. Our soldiers watched in horror as genocide took place in front of them, while the UN hummed and hawed about what to do. As you sit in the comfort of your home, remember there is only a few police and military personnel making it safe. I find it hard to recommend to a family member to join up as our government does not show a clear transparent support for those men and women. May God Bless and keep them all, since our Government is failing to extend the maximum support possible.”
Another Campbell, and I don’t know if Doug Campbell is related to Dave, but as Doug suggests: “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a minute. They are the people who have to attend to fires, accidents, and shootings. They are our first responders and they carry the cries of pain, images of dismembered persons with them for the rest of their lives. Now add in possible bombs and being shot at and having to attend to all the above at the same time. The persons that one has to help under these conditions are their friends and roommates or pick up what’s left of them. These people pay dearly for others’ freedom and peace, a peace that their battered souls can never recover for the rest of their lives. I have lost uncles, whom I cared for greatly, to the events. They have climbed into a bottle of booze and never come out because it was too much to face for them. Their families have paid a great price in their loss. Is it really too much to ask to take care of our protectors while we freely spoon feed the leaches in our free country?”
Fabien Melanson had a life. He’s on a Hunger Strike to get it back. He’s also on a Hunger Strike to bring the public’s attention to the plight of hundreds of veterans like him, many suffering from PTSD like him while others suffer from conditions resulting from adverse effects of drugs the military issued to troops or environmental toxins in the locations where troops were sent. Even with civilian medical proof, VAC’s Review Board seems to take pride in turning down veterans’ claims on the smallest legal technicalities it can find.
If the government has allotted budgets to look after our veterans, why is VAC working so hard not to pay them? If our veterans are not receiving what was put aside to cover the costs of caring for them, where is the money going?
If Fabien Melanson dies on his Hunger Strike, whose fault is it?
And what does this tell all our veterans about the country and people they have fought to preserve and protect no matter what mission–whether peacekeeping, training, humanitarian relief or combat–they were commissioned to carry out?
Pleas were sent out to Debbie Travis, Mike Holmes and Don Cherry–all public champions of the underdog. So far, no word from them. Fabien needs his home restored. That is something volunteers can do to show him and other veterans like him that the people they’ve willingly sacrificed to defend do care for our live veterans as much as they do for our dead heroes. We need a HIGHWAY OF HEROES for our living veterans.
Come on Debbie, Mike and Don. Step up to the plate! Lead the way to rebuilding Fabien’s home and showing Canada how they can help all the other veterans our government has ignored or turned away.