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Vet who staged hunger strike will lose house after all (Fabien Melancon)


Sylvain Chartrand CD:
Vet who staged hunger strike will lose house after all (Fabien Melancon)

Published on June 1, 2012

Fabien Melanson during his hunger strike in front of Veterans Affairs Canada headquarters in Charlottetown.

Veterans Affairs inaction, minister’s refusal to discuss matter blamed for foreclosure

A New Brunswick veteran who held a hunger strike outside Veterans Affairs Canada headquarters in Charlottetown a year ago will lose his house and property today after all.

Veterans Affairs’ inaction and the refusal of Minister Stephen Blaney to discuss the matter are being blamed for the foreclosure.

A year ago, Cpl. Fabien Melanson, a veteran of the Royal 22nd Regiment, gained national attention with his two-week hunger strike at VAC headquarters. He started the hunger strike in early June of 2011.

The former Van Doo was protesting VAC’s repeated failure to take responsibility for a 2004 clerical error which sent his pension to the wrong bank account for five straight months. The loss of income halted renovations to his St-Andre Leblanc home, leaving it damaged and unliveable.

In an official letter, dated last June, Veterans Affairs acknowledged their error and the financial hardship it caused. Privately, the department told Melanson it had “no mechanism” for addressing the harm done to him.

Melanson ended his strike June 15 after an official apology from Keith Hillier, the VAC's assistant deputy minister for service delivery. Hillier also suggested Melanson's case be reviewed, and provided the veteran with contact information for a case manager in his home region of Cap-Pele, N.B.

Canadian country singer Julien Austin was also going to help with fundraising for Melanson.

The minister of Veterans Affairs has the authority to issue ex gratia payments — outside of policy — in such situations. Melanson has been appealing to Blaney for assistance for a year without response.

Now, time is almost up. The ruined house and property will be repossessed today and sold.

The mortgage holder has given Melanson until then to provide a detailed reconstruction and repayment plan. 

Otherwise, Bridgewater Bank will proceed with legal action and sale.

Jeff Rose-Martland, advocate for the veteran, has been trying to get Blaney to act.

“The minister refuses to engage,” he says, “Emails, phone calls, faxes, nothing. The closest thing we have to a response was a phone call in February from an assistant, who said they were looking into it.”

“The minister keeps saying in the House that he cares about our veterans,” adds Rose-Martland. “I don’t see him caring about this one.”

Rose-Martland said VAC admits its error, admits Melanson suffered as a result, but won’t fix the problem.

Melanson is going to lose his property — his 160-year-old Acadien ancestral home — because the minister will not discharge his duties, he added

“Minister Blaney has a duty of care to Fabien Melanson, to see that this wrong is corrected. In refusing to even enter discussions, Minister Blaney is neglecting his responsibility.”

Conservative government abandoning veterans: NDP

Minister claims case closed after veteran Fabien Melanson lost everything

OTTAWA — Shocked by the story of Fabien Melanson, a veteran who lost everything after financial problems due to an error by Veterans Affairs, Official Opposition Critic for Veterans Affairs, Peter Stoffer (Sackville–Eastern Shore) called on the Conservative government to “ensure that all veterans can live in dignity.”

 Melanson was supposed to obtained his pension in September 2004 and he began renovating his home. Several months into the renovations, he was still waiting for his first check. He had to stop the renovations because he couldn’t afford to pay the contractor, leaving the house open to the weather. Melanson says he lost up to $190,000.   

 Pressed by Deputy Critic for Veterans Affairs, Sylvain Chicoine (Châteauguay–Saint-Constant), Minister Steven Blaney falsely claimed in the House that this issue had long since been resolved. “I find it frankly appalling that the Conservative government can deny that there is a problem here. If the issue had been resolved, this man would be living in his house!” said Chicoine.

 “After years of military service, I was truly abandoned by the department,” said the ex-soldier. “The government refuses to admit its responsibility and is now acting as if nothing happened.” His advocate, Jeff Rose-Martland, also condemns this embarrassing situation. “The situation isn’t resolved, it was just brushed aside. The Department of Veterans Affairs and its minister have shown no leadership.”

 “Once again Minister Blaney shows his true colours when it comes to the quality of life of our veterans. Mr. Melanson is a decorated soldier who deserves our utmost respect. Minister Blaney must fix this appalling situation immediately,” concluded Stoffer.


Opposition Joins Advocate in Condemning VAC Minister

St. John’s – While Steven Blaney was in Halifax touting his support of veterans to the Legion Convention, the NDP added their voices to the growing condemnation of the Minister of Veterans Affairs over his inaction towards a homeless veteran.

NDP VAC Peter Stoffer declared, “Once again Minister Blaney shows his true colours when it comes to the quality of life of our veterans. Mr. Melanson is a decorated soldier who deserves our utmost respect. Minister Blaney must fix this appalling situation immediately.”

“It’s hypocritical of the Minister to be talking about how much he listens to veterans, about how committed he is to meeting their needs, while the bank is preparing to sell Fabien Melanson’s home,” said advocate Jeff Rose-Martland, “Veterans Affairs destroyed that veteran’s life and the Minister won’t lift a finger, but he’ll stand before a crowd and talk about his dedication to former soldiers. It’s unbelievable.”

In 2004, a VAC error deprived Melanson of his pension for 5 months, setting off a chain of events which resulted in destruction of his home and a suicide attempt. The lost income halted renovations, leading to significant weather damage to his house. The financial stress aggravated the Bosnia-Croatia veteran’s PTSD and he wound up in hospital. He has spent the last 8 years homeless, fighting for compensation from Veterans Affairs.

Last week, Minister Blaney claimed that Melanson’s case had been addressed long ago. NDP Deputy VAC Critic Sylvain Chicoine was appalled at the response: “If the issue had been resolved, this man would be living in his house!” said Chicoine.

Rose-Martland agreed: “The Minister is saying that the case if over because VAC paid the back-pension. That’s nonsense. You can’t deprive someone of their income for months and not accept responsibility for the results. The situation wasn’t resolved, it was just brushed aside.”

Bridgewater Bank has now seized the property because the former Van Doo was unable to fix his house. “We’ve been appealing to Minister Blaney for a year,” said Melanson’s advocate, “But he has been ignoring Fabien ever since he became Minister.”

Two weeks ago, the Green Party condemned the Minister. Their 30 May release said, “This is inexcusable, heartless and shameful. All Canadians should be disgusted by this dithering and inaction.”

“Minister Blaney has a perfect opportunity here to demonstrate his caring for veterans,” said Rose-Martland, “He can perform the duty of his office and take responsibility for VAC’s error. He can give this veteran back his life.”


For Fabien Melanson
Jeff Rose-Martland, President - Our Duty Inc,

For the NDP
Youssef Amane, Caucus Press Secretary,

For the Green Party
Debra Eindiguer, Press Secretary,

Jeff Rose-Martland

We have received word that Cpl Fabien Melanson's house and property were sold at auction last Saturday. Closing is expected to be soon.

We'd like to thank all of you who supported Fabien during his fight, and especially those who donated funds. Your contributions meant a lot to the campaign and to us, personally. The fact that we lost in no way diminishes the importance of your support.

I'd like to thanks those politicians who supported us, especially Sylvain Chicoine, Sean Casey, Peter Stoffer, and Elizabeth May.

And my personal condemnation goes out to the Ministers of Veterans Affairs, who, having been made aware of what happened to Fabien, didn't do a damn thing to fix it: Albina Guarnieri, Greg Thompson, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, and, most especially, Steven Blaney. Blaney, who, despite repeated requests and two hunger strikes, has yet to speak to the man so royally screwed by his department.

What happened to Fabien was wrong, plain and simple. They took away his income for 5 months, then said "oops" and gave it back. They never attempted to address the havok they caused. This is despicable behaviour for any department responsible for income. This is outrageous for a department charged with caring for our veterans.

Today, I am ashamed to be a citizen.


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