Veteran’s Hunger Strike Ends. VAC Apologizes.

I am posting an announcement posted today in its entirety so there is no misunderstanding about Fabien Melanson’s hunger stike ending. BONNIE

Written by Jeff Rose-Martland  
Wednesday, 15 June 2011 04:25

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 ***** MEDIA RELEASE *****
Cpl Fabien Melanson (ret’d) ended his hunger strike at 6p.m. today.

Capt. Sandy Brace (ret.) left, Fabien Melanson (the veteran on hunger strike) and John MacDonald right, sit in front of the Daniel J. MacDonald Building that is VAC's national headquarters.

The veteran of the Royal 22nd Regiment had last eaten on 4 June. He had been protesting at Veterans’ Affairs Canada’s headquarters in Charlottetown, PEI. An accounting error in 2004 sent Cpl. Melanson’s pension into the wrong bank account. It took VAC 5 months to correct this error, by which time Melanson’s house and finances were ruined and his mental health at risk. While VAC had acknowledged the error, it had refused to admit any responsibility for the consequences.
Mid-afternoon on Tuesday, Cpl. Melanson and his personal advocate, Capt. Sandy Brace (ret’d) were finally invited inside to meet with a VAC official. At that meeting, Assistant Deputy Minister for Service Delivery, Mr. Keith Hillier, expressed profound regret for Melanson’s plight. Hillier assured he would act immediately to draft a letter outlining the fact that Veterans’ Affairs was responsible for the lack of funds, not Cpl. Melanson.
While the Assistant Deputy Minister offered no guarantees, he hopes that such a document would assist Melanson in rebuilding his credit rating. The corporal had to declare bankruptcy as a result of the error. Hillier stated the forthcoming letter could be used with creditors and financial institutions to explain that the bad debts were not Melanson’s fault, but that of Veterans’ Affairs.
Keith Hillier also expressed concern over Melanson’s level of support and provided Capt. Brace with contact information for a case manager in the veteran’s home region of Cap-Pelé, NB. Hillier suggested Melanson’s case should be reviewed.
Cpl. Melanson has also been seeking funds to restore his home to liveable condition. When his pension went missing, the 160-year-old farm house he inherited from his grandparents had been undergoing renovation. Without an income, work halted and the dwelling quickly fell into disrepair. It remains derelict.
The Assistant Deputy Minister advised Melanson and Brace that, while he was sorry for situation, Veterans’ Affairs has no mechanism in place for rectifying the problems they created. Hillier concluded with a promise to deliver the letter by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, in the House of Commons, in response to a question by Opposition Critic Peter Stoffer, Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney assured Parliament that the government was acting to address the plight of homeless veterans. “One veteran in the street is one veteran too many,” he said.
 After the meeting with Hillier, Capt. Brace drove Fabien to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where he was given a full medical check. Melanson received three units of IV fluids and a clean bill of health. Cpl. Melanson extends his heartfelt thanks to ER staff and says he received excellent care in their hands.
Fabien Melanson set out to accomplish three goals with his hunger strike: an apology, a house to live in, and to raise awareness of the problems veterans endure.
While he still does not have a home, Melanson considers his results to be satisfactory. The apology and acknowledgement he received from Assistant Deputy Minister Hillier has granted him peace of mind and he looks forward to receiving the promised letter. Melanson feels that media interest of his hunger strike and the public support he received show that Canadians are concerned for their veterans.
 At 6:10PM, after more than 11 days, Cpl. Fabien Melanson ended his 265-hour hunger strike with a bacon and egg breakfast. 
PLEASE NOTE: Cpl. Melanson will be returning to Cap-Pelé on Wednesday.
Jeff Rose-Martland

About Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

Bonnie's Blog Posts invite our readers and free spirits everywhere to share life's adventures with us. I talk about writing my novels, reading books, chatting with other writers and John's and my journeys around the world. We welcome your anecdotes to our experiences and discussions.
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