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Post by Rockarm on Wed 31 Oct 2018, 6:37 pm

Veteran seeks class-action lawsuit over ‘disastrous’ transfer of Ste. Anne’s Hospital

October 30, 2018

Wolf William Solkin Vets-pic
The Ste. Anne's Hospital for veterans has been under the care of the Quebec government since April 2016.

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Wolf William Solkin Empty ‘We’ve been stripped of our rights and our dignity’: Canadian WW2 veteran suing government for $30 million

Post by Guest on Wed 31 Oct 2018, 8:13 pm

Wolf William Solkin News_2x

‘We’ve been stripped of our rights and our dignity’: Canadian WW2 veteran suing government for $30 million

October 31, 2018 6:49 pm
By Dan Spector
Photojournalist Global News

https://globalnews.ca/video/rd/1358474307548/?jwsource=cl

Wed, Oct 31: Veteran Wolf William Solkin is seeking a class-action lawsuit against both levels of government for what he calls the degradation of services. Solkin says that since the Ste. Anne Hospital was handed over to the province from the federal government in 2016, services and care have gone downhill. As Global's Dan Spector explains, the lawsuit is seeking $30 million in funding for the hospital, as well as compensation for patients and their families.


A group of Montreal war veterans wants to sue the government for $30 million. The group is led by 95-year-old Wolf William Solkin, who fought on the front lines for Canada in World War 2 and has lived at Ste. Anne’s Hospital in Ste. Anne de Bellevue since 2012.

“I’m angry. We’ve been stripped of our rights and our dignity, and I’m just fed up enough to fight,” Solkin told Global News Wednesday.

Two years ago, he says, things changed for the worse. In 2016, the veterans’ hospital was transferred from the federal government to the Quebec government. Solkin says it was then that the quality of care began to drop.

“They had a culture of care. Now, it’s turned into a culture of, ‘I don’t care,” Solkin said.

The union representing workers at the hospital says the transfer came with a 40 per cent salary cut for many staff members.

“Workers had a really big reduction of salary,” said Fanny Demontigny of SCFP branch 2881. “Forty per cent of workers left when the transfer was done.”

“To replace that many of your staff is an impossibility,” Solkin said. “They’ve been struggling to that ever since and they have never been able to do it.”

The veteran believes the staff cuts nearly cost him his life one time. When the hospital was run by Canada, he said, he used to have a urologist come visit him every month to change his permanent catheter. After the transfer, he said the urologist would only come once every three months, and he developed a serious infection that found him rushed to the ER.

“I was really on the brink,” he said, adding that the number of head nurses has gone from one per floor to one per three floors.

Now, he’s had enough. Through his lawyer, Solkin has filed a demand to certify a class action lawsuit. The lawsuit says that during the transfer, there was a pledge to maintain the current level of service.

“They said that the service quality being provided to veterans at Ste. Anne Hospital would be maintained after the transfer to provincial authorities,” Solkin’s lawyer Laurent Kanemy told Global News. Now they’re going after the province, veterans affairs and the local health authority for $30 million. It’s money they said should have helped maintain care for all veterans at Ste. Anne’s Hospital.

“Seeing what’s happened to my fellow veterans, especially those who are more helpless and hapless than I, has fired me up to come to their defense,” Solkin told Global News. He said many veterans are either unable to speak, or afraid to speak out of fear of reprisals.

The 95-year-old is well aware he may not live to see the lawsuit resolved, but he says it’s not about him. Solkin thinks of all his fellow veterans, including his best friend Bill O’Donnell, who died in battle over a half century ago, and who may have been subjected to the same treatment had he survived the war.

“He’s worth fighting for, and so is every one of the guys around here,” he said through tears.

Veterans Affairs Canada and the West Island CIUSSS both said they would not comment on the lawsuit because it’s before the courts, but in email statements both spoke of their commitment to veterans.

https://globalnews.ca/news/4617241/canadian-veteran-suing-government/

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Wolf William Solkin Empty Re: Wolf William Solkin

Post by Mullberry on Sat 03 Nov 2018, 8:59 am

Edward Walshe

November 1 at 8:50 AM

Representative Lieutenant (Ret'd) Wolf Wm Solkin, of the $30 million-dollar Class-Action suit against the Federal and Quebec Provincial governments, at their first public meeting concerning the dwindling level of care afforded our nation's heroes in the former Ste-Anne's Veteran's Hospital in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, 14th October 2018. I hope you will support this class-action, as I wholeheartedly endorse this initiative on behalf of our Veteran's whose sacrifice has made a difference in our lives.


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Post by Hammercore on Wed 23 Jan 2019, 7:11 am

Abandoned Veterans - Update Jan 2019

JAN 20, 2019
In a refreshingly optimistic note, Wolf Solkin, a feisty Canadian Veteran who turns 96 in February, has confirmed that a remarkably quick first court date of 20 February 2019 has been set in the recently-launched class action suit against the Governments of Canada and Quebec on behalf of the remaining 138 Veterans at Ste. Anne's Hospital in Quebec.

In September 2018, FrontLine published a letter from Solkin, in which he detailed some of the more egregious examples of an immediate drop in service quality (including many staff members quitting and not being replaced) when ownership and operation of a Veteran's hospital in Quebec was transferred from the Government of Canada to the Government of Quebec.

Entitled "Abandoned Veterans" the article has attracted much attention and marked a step towards the launch of this class action suit so that Veterans in future may not have to fight so hard for the dignities they deserve so late in life after putting their very lives on the line in the service of the Canadian people.

https://defence.frontline.online/article/2018/4/10243-Abandoned-Veterans

Will the new Minister of Veterans Affairs, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, have some impact in making sure this issue is dealt with swiftly and positively, or will she allow it to be swept under the rug waiting for more Veterans at the facility to die amid serious allegations of negligence of duty to protect this vulnerable group of brave citizens? It is time for her to prove she can pave the way for positive change and turn this beleaguered department around.





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Wolf William Solkin Empty Re: Wolf William Solkin

Post by Quatorze on Fri 25 Jan 2019, 7:00 pm

Wolf William Solkin 50914619_291804801483949_1033613828589355008_n.jpg?_nc_cat=110&_nc_ht=scontent-lga3-1

Wolf Wm Solkin Jan 25, 2019

YOU ARE SINCERELY INVITED TO ATTEND

To my (nearly nearby) Dear Fellow-Veterans and Friends:

I know that you are aware of the class action suit I have filed, as plaintiff, on behalf of the Veterans at Ste Anne's Hospital, vs the governments of Canada and Quebec, (plus the Provincial Health Department CIUSSS body).

In view of our Vets' rapid rate of attrition, the first court date, to consider my petition, has been favourably set for the early DATE of WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 20th, 2019.

I intend to appear there, at least for the morning session, accompanied by my close (albeit creaking) comrades on our Ste. Anne's Veterans' Committee, to enable the court to see the human face of our plea for plain and proper justice.

It would be greatly gratifying and hopefully helpful, if you, too, were also to attend court that morning, and take your rightful and righteous place in the Visitors' section, along with a number of others among your peers and counterparts, in a simple, silent, show of strong support for our supplication.

R S V P..... If, as I wholeheartedly hope, you can join us on this journey, please (soon) e-mail your intent to me, and I will send you the logistical details re time and place, etc., upon confirmation. If you can't make it, so be it, but I know you will be there and with us, in spirit.

Wolf

E-mail address:

Tel. No. ; 514-505-3914



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Wolf William Solkin Empty Re: Wolf William Solkin

Post by Warrior on Wed 20 Feb 2019, 5:14 pm

February 20, 2019

Quebec Superior Court judge authorizes veteran’s class action lawsuit over deteriorating care at Ste-Anne’s Hospital

By Anne Leclair
Reporter Global News

Wolf William Solkin Wolf-william-solkin
Wolf William Solkin, Second World War veteran and supporters. Wednesday February 20th, 2019.



A 96-year-old veteran has received authorization to launch a class action lawsuit against both the federal and provincial governments for failing to uphold the level of care that was promised when the Ste-Anne’s Hospital was transferred to provincial jurisdiction close to four years ago.

“I look forward to a very successful outcome,” said Second World War veteran Wolf William Solkin. “It will take time of which we don’t have very much left but there are other veterans, there are also the families.”


Solkin is spearheading the case against the Canadian and Quebec governments as well as the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal.

Watch below: EXCLUSIVE: Family claims veteran received inadequate care at Ste. Anne’s Hospital


He claims despite a signed transfer agreement between both levels of government, the level of care took a dramatic drop after April, 2016.

“We feel that the promises that were made to us both verbally and in writing have been breached,” Solkin told Global News.

Quebec’s superior court had agreed to give him an accelerated hearing, considering the average age of veterans covered under the claim is 93.

Many potential class members have passed away since the transfer, close to four years ago.

“We’re here to fight for him, for his honour,” Kathy Duke said of her father, D-Day veteran Gordon Duke. She was his main caregiver and saw the deterioration in care first hand.

“He was there for almost six years and it was almost to the day they transferred that the services got really bad,” Duke said.


Younger veterans were also on hand to show support, including one woman who drove from Ottawa.

“Mr. Solkin is a real inspiration,” said retired veteran Jill Greenwood. “It’s an emotional day too because you don’t want to see a 96-year-old War World II veteran fighting for standards of care for veterans.”


“I feel just ashamed that he has to be here today to fight for his rights at 96 years-old,” said veteran Martin Fréchette.

The goal, according to the plaintiff’s legal team, is to essentially restore services to what they were prior to the transfer and to compensate veterans and their families for damages.


“It’s basically asking that the governments that are involved respect the agreement that they made, which was made for the benefit and goodness of the veterans,” lawyer Larry Kanemy said.

According to the claim, there were 300 veterans living at the Ste-Anne’s Hospital at the time of the transfer. In September, that number had dropped to 156.

Lawyers for the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal promise to provide an updated list within the next 30 days.

“I would like to see the day when our proper level of care is restored along with our dignity as veterans and Canadians,” Solkin said.





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Post by Victor on Thu 28 Mar 2019, 2:01 pm

‘I won’t take it.’ Wolf Solkin, a 96-year-old WWII veteran, is suing two governments. And he’s not one to retreat

By Sandro ContentaFeature Writer
Thu., March 28, 2019

Wolf Solkin lives with a pacemaker, legs that don’t support him and bedsores that need constant attention. But at 96, his wits are as sharp as a spear and his fighting spirit remains intact.

He helped liberate the Netherlands during the Second World War and watched men he led get shredded by artillery. His closest friend fell days before Germany surrendered.


Wolf William Solkin _1_wolf_solkin_closeup2
Soon after he arrived at the Ste. Anne’s facility, Wolf Solkin called it a “fantastic place,” where “everybody treated you with respect. Everybody gave you the attention and care you required.” In April 2016, things changed rapidly when Quebec took it over, he says. (GRAHAM HUGHES / FOR THE TORONTO STAR)



He now watches old soldiers die from his room on the 11th floor of Ste. Anne’s Hospital, a long-term-care facility for war veterans in the Montreal area. Of the 32 veterans who lived on the floor when he arrived in 2013, only Solkin and another are still breathing.

Three times a week, he rides his battery-powered wheelchair to a memorial on the ground floor, where pictures of the latest deceased veterans are posted. And with a steady hand he salutes them.

For Ste. Anne’s veterans, those dead and alive, Solkin has gone back to war. Much to his anger and regret, his foes this time include the federal government he once risked his life to defend.

He has launched a class-action lawsuit that accuses the Quebec government of allowing care at Ste. Anne’s to deteriorate, and Ottawa of betraying the veterans it has a duty to care for. “It’s an injustice of the worst order,” he says. “It’s a corruption of morals and I won’t take it.”

Ste. Anne’s was the last federally operated veteran’s hospital to be transferred to a province. By all accounts, care declined literally overnight on April 1, 2016, when Ste. Anne’s was handed to the Quebec government. A written agreement to maintain the same level of bilingual care was broken.

“We went from being a fine federal facility to a provincial geriatric garage,” says Solkin, who pays a monthly rent of $1,039.

Veterans long cared for by staff they had known for years suddenly found themselves dealing with a revolving door of part-time workers whose skills and experience seemed limited.

Solkin, for example, needs a hoist to get him out of bed and into his battery-powered wheelchair. Recently, a new orderly strapped him in the harness, raised him with the hoist but realized as he was being lowered that the chair was out of place.


What the orderly apparently didn’t know is that, as a safety mechanism, the chair can’t be moved when it is tilted slightly upwards. The orderly had no idea which button would level it, and communication was an exercise in frustration.

“I tried to explain it to her but her English is extremely poor and my French is fractured,” Solkin says. So he remained hanging, “like a stuffed pig in mid-air,” while the orderly fumbled with the controls and Solkin’s cramped hips registered pain.

“Finally, I yelled through the open door: ‘Help! Help!” Solkin says. A more experienced orderly rushed in, assessed the dangerously absurd scene and placed the chair properly.


Wolf William Solkin Next_to_room
Wolf Solkin poses next to his room at the Montreal facility. "I can accommodate myself to the conditions of my health, but I can't accommodate myself to the way those conditions are being neglected."



On Feb. 20, to the cheers of veterans across the country, Quebec’s Superior Court authorized Solkin’s class-action lawsuit against the federal and Quebec governments, and the agency that operates Ste. Anne’s.

Justice Donald Bisson blasted the defendants for allowing care “to degenerate to the point of putting at risk the health, the lives, the integrity and the dignity of the residents.”

Bisson also appointed Solkin the representative of the group suing for at least $30 million in damages. It’s made up of about 340 veterans of the Second World War and Korean War, who were residents of Ste. Anne’s on or after the day of the transfer. The group includes the estates of those who have since died.

“Let’s face it,” Solkin says, “we’re here to die. But while we’re here, let us at least live with proper care, full dignity and our due measure of respect.”

Solkin is an affable, determined man. He speaks in a raspy voice, the remnant of throat cancer, and his words are blunt. He doesn’t have time to waste.

The walls of his sunlit room are covered with pictures of his many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A photocopy of the poem “In Flanders Fields,” in John McCrae’s handwriting, is on a closet door.

He was reluctant to move to Ste. Anne’s, at the western tip of the Island of Montreal, despite its reputation for high-quality care since 1917. Years earlier he had watched his mother die in a nursing home “from neglect and heartbreak.” He was quickly reassured.

“Within the first couple of days of arriving here I told my far-flung family: ‘I’m in the Playboy Club. The bunnies are a little long in the tooth, but this is a fantastic place.

“There was a sign on my door that said, ‘Welcome Mr. Solkin.’ And those words were carried out in action by everybody, from the doctors to the cleaning ladies. Everybody treated you with respect. Everybody gave you the attention and care you required.”

Ste. Anne’s was one of 44 federal hospitals for returning soldiers shortly after the end of the Second World War. By the time a royal commission on the organization of government reported in 1963, 18 of those hospitals remained. It noted health care is a provincial responsibility and recommended the hospitals be transferred. By 1995, all but Ste. Anne’s had been turned over to the provinces.

In 1998, a Senate committee reported on deteriorating services in some transferred facilities. When Ste. Anne’s turn finally came, a transfer agreement between Ottawa and Quebec City committed both to maintaining the level of care and services.

To that end, the federal government agreed to pay Quebec what now stands at $159 per day for each veteran at Ste. Anne’s, according to the lawsuit. A freedom-of-information request filed by Solkin revealed that two years after the transfer, the federal government had remitted more than $27 million to the Quebec government. Yet services and care declined.

“Where did that money go?” says Laurent Kanemy, Solkin’s lawyer. He speculates that Quebec’s health ministry likely distributed the funds among the eight hospitals and clinics that form the West Island health care consortium that includes Ste. Anne’s.

Claims made in Solkin’s lawsuit haven’t been tested in court. (Kanemy says the parties being sued did not contest Solkin’s application to authorize the class action.) In his decision, however, Justice Bisson said the defendants had “failed miserably” in their contractual obligation to maintain services. The federal government, he added, also failed in its fiduciary duty to veterans.


Solkin says he’s fighting for veterans who can’t physically speak for themselves, or are too frightened to do so. All suffer the daily consequences, he adds, of worsened care.

“I have a permanent catheter; I got a pipe in my penis for life, OK? That’s part of my condition and I can live with it — if they let me live!”

Bladder infections are a constant risk. Urologists used to visit Ste. Anne’s once a month to change catheters. After the transfer, Solkin says they do so every three months.

In 2017, Solkin suffered a urinary tract infection and was rushed to an emergency ward. “I was literally at death’s door.”

Less specialized basic services have also been reduced.

“There were several occasions where I soiled my diaper and I’d ring my bell and I’d have to wait anywhere from 45 minutes and more to have someone come in and take me out of my own feces,” Solkin says.

“What’s wrong with me lying in my feces for 45 minutes or more? It’s not just that it’s undignified and a terrible feeling, it potentially causes infection. And when you have a catheter and bedsores, as I do, it can be dangerous.

“I can accommodate myself to the conditions of my health, but I can’t accommodate myself to the way those conditions are being neglected.”

The lawsuit claims a doctor was present on the veterans’ floors four-and-a-half days a week before the transfer; now it’s once a week. The number of radiologists and nurses has also declined.

Services in cardiology, pulmonology, hematology, psychiatry and blood-test analysis are no longer available on site. Dentistry and laryngoscopy services disappeared for many months before being restored. Even the cleaning of wheelchairs, once done regularly, now occurs once a year, the lawsuit says.

Recently, Solkin was rushed to hospital after his heart slowed to 22 beats a minute. A pacemaker was installed. He says 17 days went by before a doctor came to examine him at Ste. Anne’s after the surgery.

The transfer agreement also guarantees that veterans continue to be served in the official language of their choice. Solkin says he has repeatedly been told by administrators that bilingual help can’t be found.

“They say, ‘Look, your choice is having a non-bilingual person or nobody.’ Well, in some cases, having a non-bilingual person is almost equivalent to nobody.”


Wolf William Solkin Ste_anne_s_hospital
Ste. Anne's Hospital in Saine-Anne-de-Bellevue on the western tip of the Island of Montreal. On April 1, 2016, it became the last veterans' health-care facility still operated by the federal government to be transferred to provincial control.



Largely to blame for the service troubles is a deterioration in working conditions, according to the union representing most workers at Ste. Anne’s.

The transfer resulted in a new employer and, therefore, a new collective agreement. Salaries were slashed by an average of 30 per cent. Pay for personal care workers, who help patients with most of their daily needs, fell from $30 an hour to $20.

When lower benefits were calculated, the financial hit for workers was 50 per cent, says Jonathan Deschamps, president of the local Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Long-serving employees rushed to the exit. Of Ste. Anne’s 1,000 workers, fully 40 per cent left around the day of the transfer. Another 20 per cent, Deschamps says, quit by the end of the first year under provincial control.

Ste. Anne’s administrators, who had planned for only a quarter of staff leaving, have been scrambling to fill the vacancies ever since, he adds.

“It was a crisis,” says Deschamps, who has worked at the hospital for 14 years. “Employees had twice as many patients to care for and they couldn’t take their time with them. They had to move fast, like working on an assembly line.”

Quebec’s minister of health and social services, Danielle McCann, declined to comment, noting the lawsuit is before the courts. The same goes for the administrative agency representing the West Island health grouping, the Centre Intégré Universitaire de Santé et des Services Sociaux de L’Ouest de L’Ile de Montréal.

The federal government also won’t comment on the court case but is somewhat more talkative.

At a December 2018 hearing of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, assistant deputy minister Michel Doiron noted “the transfer agreement stipulated that the level of services was to be maintained.” He then added: “For sure, after the transfer, there was a decrease in services.”

In a statement to the Star, Veterans Affairs Canada says Ottawa’s “ongoing financial support for each eligible war Veteran is intended to ensure they continue to receive the care and services they are entitled to, in the official language of their choice.”

The department said it works closely with Quebec, including on a committee overseeing application of the transfer agreement. A ministry liaison officer is at the hospital full time. The ministry urged and supported provincial staffing efforts, resulting in “the hiring of approximately 50 new staff, which includes nurses and orderlies.”

In a separate statement, Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay said the federal government financially supports 5,000 veterans in 1,300 health-care facilities across Canada.


Wolf William Solkin Lawrence_macaulay
Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay says Ottawa financially supports 5,000 veterans in 1,300 health-care facilities. "We remain committed to ensuring they receive the proper care and support they deserve."



“We remain committed to ensuring they receive the proper care and support they deserve after serving our country,” MacAulay said.

Wolf William Solkin was born of Jewish parents on Feb. 12, 1923 in Bessarabia, an eastern European territory that at the time had been annexed by Romania but now forms part of Ukraine and Moldova.

His parents came to Canada with their only child a year later and settled in Hamilton. Solkin’s father, who westernized his Yiddish name to Maurice, worked in a sheet metal factory that made pails. Later, he pushed a cart as a door-to-door fruit peddler before moving to Toronto when Solkin was 4.

Maurice was fluent in Russian, Ukrainian, Polish and Latvian — skills that landed him a job at a steamship ticket agency, where layaway plans let new Canadians deposit funds until they had enough for tickets to bring over their families.

On the side, Maurice worked as a court translator, and at night, as a fire damage adjuster rushing to land clients by being first on the scene. He set his alarm clock to wake him every two hours. He’d call the local fire department and his greeting still rings in his son’s ears: “Solkin speaking. Anything doing?”

During the Great Depression, when Solkin was 10, he sold the Toronto Daily Star at the corner of Spadina Ave. and College St.

He recites the family’s Toronto addresses without hesitation: 4 Major St., 24 Robert St., 62 Sussex Ave. and 189 Robert St. With each move the family inched further north but never made it across Bloor St., where Solkin says the “upper strata” lived. In those neighbourhoods, Solkin shovelled snow from driveways for a few extra bucks.

Solkin was 15 when his father became executive director of the Jewish Immigrant Aid Society of Canada and moved the family to Montreal, where the agency was based. After his parents divorced, his mother, Adele, became a licensed practical nurse.

When war broke out, Solkin volunteered. He completed his degree in sociology from McGill University while in training and attended the graduating ceremony in military uniform.

He shipped to England for military training as a 20-year-old artillery officer. At Ste. Anne’s, a photo of Solkin as a tall, dashing young officer is taped to the side of a dresser next to his bed. He has a pipe at his lips and a thick moustache, which he grew to signal gravitas and fuel confidence in the older men he commanded.


Wolf William Solkin Young_wolf_solkin
Solkin as a tall, dashing young officer in the Second World War. He grew the moustache to fuel confidence in the older men he commanded.



“I cut quite a figure in those days,” he says. “I was proud to be in the Canadian army. I was proud as a peacock, and looked like one, too.”

But a D-Day training exercise put Solkin out of action.

He rode a motorcycle on a pitch-black night at the head of a truck convoy. “English country roads are narrow and very windy,” he recalls. “And I’m not sure what happened but I went around a bend too fast, or I couldn’t see it, and I rammed into a steel pole with my head first.”

He flew with his bike through a high row of hedges and blacked out. No one knew he was missing until morning. When he regained consciousness, his mouth was filled with shattered teeth.

He heard a search party nearby but couldn’t move. So he threw his leather helmet over the hedge and it was spotted. He spent months recovering in hospital from a fractured skull and jaw, and a serious concussion.

His superiors were understandably cautious about sending him into action when he finally got out. They appointed him morale officer, organizing dances and bingos. Solkin raised an almighty fuss until he was transferred to the Algonquin Regiment and, as a lieutenant, sent to fight in Holland in early 1945.

He hesitates to talk about the war. “I’m not interested in self-aggrandizement,” he says. “I don’t want to sound like a boastful old man.” Prodded gently over several hours, he describes an experience that has nothing to do with ego: the day he led his rifle platoon to a railroad embankment near the German border.

“Suddenly we were plastered with heavy bombardment of artillery,” he says. “And I realized very quickly it was coming from behind us — it was our own artillery, it was friendly fire!

“I’m in charge of these guys and couldn’t do a damn thing about it. And I put them there. All we could do was press our faces against the embankment.

“Artillery is fragmentation — you don’t know who it’s going to hit and who it’s going to miss. They couldn’t move, I couldn’t move, and we were just decimated. I felt, not so much fear, but so helpless.”

He returned from the war with a final mission.

In the Algonquin Regiment, he grew close to Bill O’Donnell, a fellow Montrealer. “He was the older brother I never had.”

Before heading into battle, the two men signed each other’s wills and made a pact: if one was killed the other would personally deliver a message to his family back home.

The men were in different platoons, so Solkin did not witness a sniper putting a bullet through O’Donnell’s head. Germany surrendered unconditionally less than a month later, on May 8, 1945.

O’Donnell left a daughter, and an ex-wife who had divorced him while he was overseas. Solkin called the ex-wife and said O’Donnell asked him to deliver a message to his daughter. The woman would not let him speak with her and told him not to call back.


Wolf William Solkin Fallen_friend
Wolf Solkin holds a picture of a friend, Bill O'Donnell, of the Algonquin Regiment. They'd made a pact, and when O'Donnell was killed by a German sniper, it was Solkin's duty to inform his friend's family. But things didn't go as planned.



A framed picture of O’Donnell has been displayed in Solkin’s office or home ever since.

Life went on. Solkin obtained a master’s in social work at the University of Toronto, got a job at St. Christopher House, and realized social work didn’t pay the bills for a young family.

He went into real estate and ended up overseeing a housing and golf course project in Florida.

That landed him a job with Harry Helmsley, the late billionaire developer whose possessions included Manhattan’s Empire State Building and the Flatiron building. Solkin ran Helmsley’s chain of motels in Florida before moving to New York to manage hotels, including what became the Ritz-Carlton.

He says he stayed with Helmsley until the billionaire’s “quite obnoxious” wife, Leona, began interfering with his running of the hotels. He left well before 1988, when both Harry and Leona were indicted on numerous counts of tax fraud. Solkin then spent years building factories and warehouses in Florida before retiring to Montreal.

Bill O’Donnell’s last wish continued to gnaw at him.

He knew the first name of O’Donnell’s daughter — Marcia — and contacted National Defence, Veterans Affairs and Archives Canada for any information that might track her down. Archives Canada eventually found Marcia in Edmonton, told her of Solkin’s search and she got in touch.

Forty years after the war, Solkin finally delivered O’Donnell’s message: “Your dad wanted me to tell you that he loves you.”

Solkin and Marcia have stayed in contact ever since.


Wolf William Solkin Wolf_wife
Wolf Solkin with his wife, Louise.



Solkin’s day at Ste. Anne’s begins with staff emptying his catheter. He has breakfast and then tackles the New York Times crossword puzzle, which by design increases in difficulty each day. Solkin never gets past Wednesday.

He gets himself spruced up on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, when his wife Louise visits. He keeps his time in his wheelchair to a minimum, but made an exception during the hours he spoke with the Star, joking that talking about his class action “is worth the pain in the ass.”

Part of his day is spent on his iPad, communicating with younger veterans across the country and receiving thousands of messages of support. He types with his index finger: “I can send and receive and forward. Don’t ask me to cut and paste or any of those fancy phrases.”

Younger veterans, Solkin says, are so exasperated by efforts to get services and benefits from Veterans Affairs they’ve labelled the exercise “Delay, deny until we die.”

Of the 340 war veterans at Ste. Anne’s when the transfer occurred, 133 were left at last count, according to Solkin’s lawyer, Laurent Kanemy.

“They’re just waiting for them to die,” Kanemy says of the defendants in the lawsuit. “They’re not going to change the level of service, I can tell you that.”

Jonathan Deschamps, the union president, says staffing levels have pretty much returned to what they were before the transfer. But the number of residents jumped to 408 once the facility began accepting non-veterans.

“It’s getting better,” Deschamps says. “We’re still short of workers, but we’re about at the same level as anywhere else in the Quebec health sector. And that’s far from the level when Ste. Anne’s was federal.”

Solkin of course knows he may not live to see the outcome of what he calls “my final act of desperation.” His big extended family has gathered to celebrate his birthday every decade, at 75, 85 and 95. “Now, I’m only promising them a reunion at 100, not 105.”

Yet it’s the lawsuit that gets him up in the morning.

“The war was a noble battle. We fought for freedom, we fought for liberty, we fought against conquest by the Nazis and the fascists.

“This battle is not a noble one, it’s a tragic one,” Solkin says of his lawsuit. “We’re fighting the government we once fought to preserve. Or, you can look at it another way: the government we once fought for is now fighting us. They are our foe, and that’s the tragedy.”





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