Since staff at Harmony Court home weren't working on Remembrance Day, 90-year-old Betty Griffin decided to organize a ceremony on her own.
Armistice Day, as she calls it, came on a Sunday, and staff at the Burnaby seniors' home hadn't organized anything.
"I just went (and) planned myself," Griffin said, matter-of-factly.
She gathered the residents to watch a Remembrance Day ceremony on TV, found three vets in the building and introduced them to the audience.
"And I thanked them and gave them a big hug, and God bless them, they cried," she said. "There were people in the audience that wept."
But the ceremony wasn't enough. Upset by news reports of veterans' concerns over pensions and burials, Griffin also drafted a petition to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in support of a veterans' class action suit that was filed with the B.C. Supreme Court on Oct. 30. The suit's main allegation is that the New Veterans Charter, enacted in 2006, has reduced benefits by 40 to 90 per cent for injured soldiers, depending of the severity of the injury.
All of the Harmony Court residents signed Griffin's petition, except for one - a blind man who has vowed to never sign anything. Griffin faxed her petition off to Burnaby-New Westminster MP Peter Julian, and his staff forwarded it to Ottawa.
Kevin Berry, a former Burnaby resident and one of the representative members in the suit, was moved by Griffin's gestures.
"It's amazing. . What can I say? That's exemplary conduct," he said. "How do you have words for something like that? It blows me away. That's just wonderful. That represents absolutely the best parts of our society."
Berry returned from Afghanistan in 2004 with posttraumatic stress disorder.
Meanwhile, Griffin is keeping busy helping with other causes. Her name may be familiar to NOW readers, as she was recently featured in a photo of women at Confederation Seniors Centre who had knitted scarves, toques and mitts for various charitable causes, and she's still needling away, creating more pieces.
"Old people don't need wool," she said. "I can't sit still, dammit. If there's an injustice, it's like a little time bomb going off inside."
She has also collected canned goods she for children at Edmonds Community School, one of the poorest in the city.
Griffin is no stranger to activism. The retired local teacher was president of the Burnaby Teachers' Association and pushed for the district staff to get maternity leave benefits in the late '50s. Griffin, who was pregnant before the benefits were in place, had to quit her job and reapply when she had her baby, and she was only off work for four months.
Griffin was also active with the B.C. Teachers' Federation and worked for a decade to make sure teachers' pensions were indexed for inflation.
"We got it. We won it. God, I was happy. I think I got my money's worth," she says.
Now, Griffin is planning to keep on the petition issue.
"We will keep pestering. I will, anyway. I'm known as the little terrier. When I take a bite, I hold on for dear life," she said.
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