Veterans Affairs offices to reopen within a year: Hehr

Nine veterans affairs offices controversially closed under the former Conservative government will reopen within a year, according to Veterans Affairs minister Kent Hehr.

“I say that you can put a pretty good bet on it that we’ll definitely be done before a year – possibly sooner,” Hehr told Global News in an interview. “But, I don’t want to start drawing lines in the sand that I quickly have to walk back from.”

Hehr also confirmed all nine offices will reopen in the locations they closed in.

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

Last month, Hehr appeared unsure if the offices would reopen in the same locations, drawing some backlash from veterans who had fought to get the offices re-opened in their communities.

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The offices, which provide support services to veterans across Canada, were closed as part of an effort by Veterans Affairs to move more services online and to Service Canada outlets.

The move was protested by groups of veterans across the country.

The pledge to reopen the offices was part of an ambitious set of election promises directed at veterans, amounting to about $300 million of spending a year.

That includes $100 million to expand support for families of veterans and $20 million dollars to create two new veterans’ care centres.

Another major pledge is to reinstate lifelong pensions for veterans, something advocacy groups have long pushed for.

READ MORE: Invisible wounds, revisited: Canada still falls short in treating soldiers’ psychic scars

Hehr said that promise will take longer than a year to fulfill.

“Look, we want to get this right not done quickly,” he said. “This is complex. There’s very many different streams of veterans’ supports and options out there and it’s not a magic wand that I have that can just say roll them all into one.”

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Global News will begin a series of profiles of the new Liberal cabinet ministers this week on Global National. A profile of Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr will air Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET/AT and 5:30 p.m. MT/PT

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