Colonel Belcher Facility in Calgary

Ottawa - July 12, 2011

Last week, media outlets reported that dozens of elderly residents at Calgary’s Colonel Belcher facility, including many Veterans, will have to find new accommodations as a result of the termination of the Carewest Designated Assisted Living program.

Concerned by these reports, Gary Walbourne, my Director General of Operations, contacted Donna Marasco, the Senior Vice President Operations of Chartwell Seniors Housing, which owns the Colonel Belcher residence, to seek assurances that those affected will be supported throughout this transition and will have access to comparable housing.

Below is the email sent on behalf of the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman, as well as the response from Ms. Marasco. I want to assure you that the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman will continue to follow this issue closely.


Wednesday 6 July 2011 at 1:28 PM, Gary Walbourne wrote:

Dear Ms. Marasco,

It was with great interest that we read the various media reports today concerning the closure of the Colonel Belcher Center. While we at the Ombudsman's office are broadly concerned with all the persons who will be displaced, we are writing on behalf of the Veterans who are currently residents of this facility.

As the details in the various media reports are sketchy I was wondering what plans, if any, are being put into place to ensure that the displaced persons will have access to comparable housing.

I am sure that you can appreciate the sacrifice that has been made by Veterans for this country. The Veterans currently residing at this facility are elderly - many are dependent on assisted living so that they can continue, to be as self sufficient as possible, for as long as possible, in the latter years of their lives.

We would appreciate any information you could provide on what, if any, plans are being made to protect these individuals.

We await your response and thank you for taking time to consider our request.


Gary Walbourne

Director General, Operations

Office of the Veterans Ombudsman


Friday 8 July 2011 at 1:48 AM, Donna Marasco wrote:

Dear Mr. Walbourne,

Thank you for your e-mail concerning the recent media attention surrounding the expiry of the Carewest Designated Assisted Living (DAL) program that currently operates at The Seniors Residences at Colonel Belcher.  As you correctly point out, the media reports have been short on detail and we appreciate the opportunity to explain Chartwell’s role in this decision and our commitment to supporting this transition in a respectful manner for all of the residents impacted, including the veterans. 

First, I should point out that the Designated Assisted Living (DAL) program referenced is not specific to veterans, but to all eligible seniors who meet the Alberta Health Services (AHS) qualifications.  The 30 DAL beds at The Seniors Residence at Colonel Belcher are part of a complex partnership that brings together four difference operators and service providers – Chartwell, Carewest, AHS and CBI Home Health.  After participating in the program for 8 years, we have come to the conclusion that the complexity of this delivery model in this specific location can and does create inconsistencies for all residents, including the 30 Carewest residents.

We believe we can do a better job for all of our residents by managing the beds ourselves. We will continue to set reasonable, below market rates on those 30 designated beds so that they can be afforded by seniors of modest means.  Not only does that meet the conditions of the original agreement, but we believe it is the right thing to do.

As to your specific question about what plans will be put in place to offer comparable housing to the 30 DAL residents, I will need to refer you directly to Pam Brown, Executive Director, and Integrated Seniors Health.  Since Chartwell does not administer or manage the program or the residents directly, we are not privy to individual transition plans. 

However, I would like you to be aware that Chartwell, Alberta Health Services and Carewest have cooperatively agreed to a 90-day transition period that will allow for AHS to find alternate accommodation for their DAL residents and we have offered additional flexibility in special circumstances.  Many of those residents, including a number of veterans, have already approached us about staying and we welcome their interest and will work with them as they consider this option.  Again, while the rates will increase modestly, they will still be offered at a reasonable rate in line with the previously subsidized unites.  This information unfortunately was not clear in the media reports.

You correctly point out the sacrifices of our veterans and we are truly saddened that the media has chosen to portray Chartwell as targeting veterans through this program decision.  The Seniors Residence at Colonel Belcher maintains a strong and meaningful relationship with the over 75 WWII veterans who live at this residence, and in fact the entire veterans community in Calgary. We remain committed to their needs and to honouring their service to our country.  Many of our life enrichment programs and activities focus on veterans and we are blessed with a dedication wall immediately outside our front doors inscribed with the names of local veterans. 

As you may be aware, in 2010 Chartwell released a book entitled Honour which profiled WWII veterans living in Chartwell retirement homes across Canada, including three individuals living at the Colonel Belcher.  We created this book with the intention that the sacrifices of those who served in WWII should not only be commemorated but their stories shared with future generations. Again, the media portrayal of Chartwell as targeting veterans is not reflective of our deep respect for those who served and of our commitment to those veterans living at Colonel Belcher.

Chartwell has and continues to be a seniors housing provider dedicated to making life better for our residents.  We will continue to assist residents and families through this transition.

Yours sincerely,

 Donna Marasco

Senior Vice President Operations

Chartwell Seniors Housing

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RJT said:

I find the response from the operators of the Col Belcher residence to be very lacking and typical of an ungrateful money hungry operation. So the decided to opt out of the program that supported thirty beds, said they could do that on their own.....ok, why then are they still kicking out the vetrans from their homes? This is disgusting, words cannot express the actions of these money factories. The Col Belcher facility was set up for vetrans, not to be turned into a money grabbing venture and kicking our vetrans out to fend for themselves. More needs to be done for these vetrans, they deserve more than being treated as lower class citizens of this country, they desrve to be cared for, not pissed on by uncaring business ventures.

July 12, 2011 7:55 PM