|'Today I am ashamed'
Gulf War vet's widow stuns politicians with tales of neglect
By Clare Mellor / Staff Reporter
Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press
Sue Riordon, the widow of Capt. Terry Riordon, a Canadian
Forces officer who served in the Gulf War, testifies at the Nova Scotia
legislature in Halifax on Thursday.
Members of a legislature committee were floored Thursday on hearing
from a Yarmouth woman about the treatment Persian Gulf War veterans and
their families receive from the federal government.
Sue Riordon, widow of Gulf war veteran Terry Riordon, told the committee
meeting in Halifax that many sick veterans in Nova Scotia are living on
welfare and being denied proper psychological support and home care.
Most Gulf War veterans receiving a federal pension for illness get a
maximum $91 a month, she said.
"At times I have been disappointed (in government) . . . but today I
am ashamed," said Mary Ann McGrath, Conservative MLA for Halifax Bedford
Basin and a member of the all-party committee on veterans affairs.
Terry Riordon suffered for nine years from a debilitating sickness after
he served in the Gulf. When he died in April 1999, he was unable to walk
or feed or bathe himself.
Ms. Riordon, Atlantic director of the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans
Association, began fighting Ottawa for adequate financial and medical support
for her husband years ago.
Now that he's dead, the 45-year-old mother of two continues the fight
on behalf of all sick veterans and their families.
She pleaded with the committee Thursday to take a stand and demand the
federal government take better care of its veterans.
The province shoulders the main costs of veterans' care through welfare
and the health system, Ms. Riordon said.
She said the province spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on medical
care for her husband after military physicians failed to help him and wrongly
diagnosed him with epilepsy.
"Why can this province not stand up and say enough is enough?
"Will Nova Scotia be the first to take care of the veterans?"
The committee decided Thursday to write the Veterans Affairs Department
and demand an explanation. It will also ask veterans affairs and Defence
Department officials to appear before it within several weeks to reply
to Ms. Riordon's charges. The committee doesn't have power to force anyone
About 200 Canadian Gulf War veterans receive federal pensions for illness,
but Ms. Riordon said she knows of about 200 in Nova Scotia alone who should
Cape Breton West MLA Russell MacKinnon, whose family was embroiled in
a battle with the military a few years ago, said he has empathy for Ms.
"The military seems to push all this under the carpet. . . . Clearly
we have a major issue here," said the Liberal MLA.
His nephew, Cpl. Neil MacKinnon, died in a training exercise several
years ago in CFB Suffield, Alta. The military claimed he was killed by
falling on his own grenade, but his family's two-year search for answers
revealed he was accidentally shot in the back of the head first.
Ms. Riordon told the committee that the Veterans Affairs Department
must begin to employ veterans to help other vets. She said supports are
needed to help spouses and children of Gulf War veterans who have to live
with illness daily.
She recounted for the committee how she recently spent several hours
at a hospital offering support to the wife of one of the veterans. The
man had tried to kill himself with an overdose.
"I was the one they called. There is no one else to call."