Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for November 6, 2013

‘Our life was on the line every single day’

Longtime Whitehorse resident Red Grossinger, 72, served in the Canadian armed forces for 30 years.

By Ainslie Cruickshank on November 6, 2013 at 3:52 pm

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

FEELING LET DOWN – Yukon veteran Red Grossinger is seen with a copy of the Veterans Bill of Rights during Tuesdaysʼ news conference in Whitehorse (top). Steve Geike, left, Darcy Grossinger

Longtime Whitehorse resident Red Grossinger, 72, served in the Canadian armed forces for 30 years.

Six years in Europe with NATO trying to impede the advance of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Two tours in Cyprus and UN peace-related missions in Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria.

Grossinger’s son, Darcy, 43, spent 15 years in this country’s armed forces, serving in Croatia, Bosnia, and Afghanistan.

Speaking at a news conference early Tuesday afternoon, the father and son took a stand against the government they dedicated all those years of service to.

The federal government has announced plans to close nine Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) offices across the country by February 2014.

The offices are in Corner Brook, N.L., Charlottetown, P.E.I., Sydney, N.S., Windsor and Thunder Bay, Ont., Brandon, Man., Saskatoon, Sask., and Kelowna and Prince George, B.C.

The Yukon has never had a VAC office, but neither Red nor Darcy want other veterans to experience the difficulties they’ve faced obtaining service in the territory.

“In these communities where they’re losing these offices, they are going to face a huge burden .... And in the Yukon, Yukon veterans are going to face cuts to VAC meaning less and less service,” Darcy said at Tuesday’s Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) event.

In the Yukon, those cuts will mean fewer visits from counsellors and less help from government workers with paperwork, he said.

In his position as service officer for the Whitehorse branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, Darcy often liaises between local veterans and Veterans Affairs through the 1-800 service line.

“It is very, very difficult because you’re talking to a call centre in Charlottetown, but really who you need to talk to is your case worker in Vancouver,” he explained.

His experience with Revenue Canada, by comparison, has been smooth and efficient, he noted.

In 2003, Darcy was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Two years later, he was released from service.

During the release process, he was required to see a Veterans Affairs counsellor.

“That lady was instrumental in getting me the help I needed for a post-military career,” he said.

“She helped me with my claim, she went through my medical files. If it hadn’t have been for her, I would probably be homeless now. She did everything for me, I was unable to function in any real capacity,” Darcy said.

He used his own experience to illustrate the need for easy access to Veterans Affairs workers.

“When you’re in a bad way with mental health issues, operational stress injuries, a thing like filling out a form is almost an insurmountable obstacle in your way. It’s really, really difficult.”

Only members of the military work under unlimited liability, Darcy explained.

That means they’re willing to lay down their lives in the line of duty.

But the switch side is the government promises to care for you and your family.

“As it stands now, the Canadian government is not living up to its end of the bargain,” Darcy said.

“If you’re not willing to take care of your veterans, then you do not have the moral right to send them on these missions in harm’s way.

“They go there willingly with the understanding they’re going to be taken care of if they get hurt.”

His father agrees.

“They’ve broken our bill of rights, they’ve broken their pledge to us,” Red said.

“Our life was on the line every single day. Every day. It was the Cold War. Every day, our life was on the line. Constantly.

“And what do we get?” he asked, his voice breaking with emotion.

While PSAC and locally, the Yukon Employees’ Union (YEU), represent the Veterans Affairs employees, YEU president Steve Geick said it’s not about their jobs, but about the services they offer veterans that will be lost.

“Our veterans deserve better than that. Our members who work for Veterans Affairs work one-on-one with veterans in their homes and in their offices, providing much needed services,” Geick said.

“They want to know who’s going to take care of these clients, who’s going to look after them when these veterans’ offices close,” he said.

Members of both the territorial NDP and Liberals were present at Tuesday’s event.

Yukon MP Ryan Leef was invited but was unable to attend due to parliamentary responsibilities in Ottawa.

Leef was unavailable for comment about the veterans’ concerns this morning and early this afternoon before press time.

See related coverage.

CommentsAdd a comment

Mark Wallace

Nov 6, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Well said Darcy and Red.  Our vets deserve better than this.

Denise G

Nov 7, 2013 at 10:56 am

Harper and his government have absolutely no qualms about breaking the social contract that we Canadians have with our Veterans.  Cutting services is just disgusting. And completely unnecessary.

And they will continue to do their worst for Veterans and the same for all retired seniors.

Piper

Nov 7, 2013 at 4:15 pm

I know first hand about cut backs etc.I no longer live in the Yukon but my PTDS treatment is out of my own private coverage. As a veteran myself I am disgusted with the Harper govt. attitude regarding all of us veterans. Very glad to see Red & Darcey speaking out many of us just suffer in silence.

Arn Anderson

Nov 8, 2013 at 10:19 am

And people said the military suffered under the Chretien years….

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