After death of Cpl. Cirillo, feds to extend benefits to injured reservists
Published Thursday, March 12, 2015 10:00PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 12, 2015 10:24PM EDT
The Harper government is poised to resolve a decades-long dispute with veterans groups by announcing significant changes to benefits for injured reservists in Canada, CTV News has learned.
Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O'Toole will make the announcement in Halifax on Friday, while Defence Minister Jason Kenney will echo the plan in Calgary.
Ottawa will increase the average annual assistance provided to injured reservists from $24,300 to a minimum of $42,426 -- more if the reservists qualify.
The benefits are expected to be provided for the duration of a soldier's life, and passed on to spouses or next of kin upon their death.
"The perception was that reservist serving alongside the Canadian Forces member was treated differently, like they were second class in the Canadian Forces," said Bruce Poulin, a spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Legion.
Sources say it was the shooting death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was killed while standing guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa last fall, that led Prime Minister Stephen Harper to demand an overhaul of the system.
Cirillo's reservist status meant that his family and his five-year-old son would receive nearly $2 million less in lifetime benefits than a full-time soldier who would suffer the same fate.
Reservists are trained soldiers who are called to action on home soil during floods, major storms, search and rescue operations and other emergencies.
But unlike regular Canadian Forces members, when a reservist is hurt or killed in Canada, military benefits are in short supply.
These changes are the latest in a series of rollouts by the Harper Conservatives to repair their strained relationship with veterans groups ahead of an election. Earlier this week, the government promised to boost pensions for injured soldiers.
To advocacy groups, it’s a marked departure from the tone and style of previous Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino.
"It is a refreshing change," said Phil Ralph, a spokesman for the Wouded Warriors veterans service organization.
The improved benefits are expected to kick in after next month’s budget. Veterans Affairs says right now, almost 300 injured reservists will qualify.