Soldier's family receives cheque for one cent years after his suicide
Published Tuesday, March 4, 2014 5:52PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 10:08PM EST
Defence Minister Rob Nicholson is apologizing to the family of a Canadian soldier who recently received a cheque for one cent from the Canadian government, three years after the 22-year-old died of suicide.
Cpl. Justin Stark died of suicide inside Hamilton's John W. Foote VC Armouries in October 2011, months after completing a seven-month tour of Afghanistan.
Stark’s family received a cheque from the federal government – labelled as “release pay” – just days ago.
Kevin Ellis, a family friend, said Stark’s mother was in shock when she opened the letter.
“It’s such an insult,” he told CTV News.
Meanwhile, Nicholson called the cheque "absolutely ridiculous" and blamed it on an "insensitive bureaucratic screw up."
Speaking during daily question period in the House of Commons Tuesday, Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MP Wayne Marston said Stark's mother sat through "endless tribunals while the military decided whether or not his death was work-related."
He added: "After all his mother has gone through this is inexcusable."
Nicholson immediately apologized to Stark's family for the cheque and thanked the late soldier for his service.
"This is an insensitive bureaucratic screw up," he said. "I've just learned of it now and I will take steps immediately to ensure that something like this should never happen again."
Nicholson confirmed to CTV News on Tuesday night that he’ll make a personal phone call to the family to apologize again on behalf of the military.
The federal government has come under fire from veterans and veterans’ advocates for their response to a rash of recent soldier and veteran suicides.
The Starks’ story is not dissimilar to that of another deceased solider.
In January, the widower of a veteran who died of suicide received a government letter requesting repayment of $581.67 for a portion of the soldier's monthly disability cheque.
Cpl. Leona MacEachern, a 20-year veteran of the Forces, died on Dec. 25, 2013 when she intentionally drove her car into an oncoming transport truck near Calgary. The 51-year-old mother had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Her husband received the letter from Veterans Affairs Canada about two weeks after her death.
The office of Veterans Affair Minister Julian Fantino later announced that the decision to collect the money had been reversed, and Fantino himself called with a personal apology.