Disabled vets taking pension lawsuit to Supreme Court
A group of disabled Canadian veterans will take their lawsuit over lifetime pensions to the Supreme Court of Canada, members of the Equitas veterans society announced Wednesday.
The application for Leave to Appeal was made to the Supreme Court of Canada today by a group of six appellants injured in Afghanistan and seeks to gain parity with the previous Pension Act struck down in 2006 and replaced with lump sum payments via the New Veterans Charter, which Equitas says leaves vets “considerably worse off.”
“Our armed forces members deserve better than this. The B.C. Appeals Court ruling says there is nothing embedded in the law to protect them,” Marc Burchell, Equitas president said in a statement. “This case is about making sure the Government of Canada supports our fighting men and women as they must. The government must either reinstate the old Pension Act, or must make sure compensation for injuries under the New Veterans Charter is as good as – or better – than what they received before.”
The lawsuit was halted by the B.C. Court of Appeal in December when judges ruled there was no obligation or “social covenant” in Canada to those who have served in the military.
“Why would members of our Armed Forces continue to put their lives on the line for a country which promises them no reciprocal care if they’re ill or injured in the line of duty?” asked retired Maj. Mark Campbell at a press conference Wednesday in Ottawa. “I would never allow my children to join such an organization, nor given the choice again would I join.” Campbell lost his legs in Afghanistan and is one of the appellants in the case.
He went on to criticize Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “veterans platform” during his election campaign where he promised the reinstatement of lifelong disability pensions. “For the government to turn around and spend millions in tax dollars fighting us in the courts to avoid their basic responsibility of care is nothing short of a national disgrace,” he said.
The New Veterans Charter replaced disability pensions given to Canadian soldiers since 1919, a major shift that Equitas says is detrimental to veteran wellness.
“They say they’ll receive less financial support in the long run and there is no longer a dependable, month-to-month income supplement to help them live with injuries that will stay with them for the rest of their lives,” the statement read.
Also speaking at the press conference, another appellant, retired Cpl. Aaron Bedard stressed the group’s issues with the New Veterans Charter, saying a lack of support impacts vets and their loved ones. “It could break up families, it can disillusion you about moving forward, you can feel totally betrayed and people’s lives can fall apart,” he said.
Disabled veterans face mental health issues and a “significantly higher risk” of death by suicide, according to a recent federal study, not to mention their “great personal risk and sacrifice” in voluntarily signing up for Canada’s military, noted Vancouver lawyer Don Sorochan QC in the statement.
“In exchange for that sacrifice there is an obligation on the Government and people of Canada to ensure those who are injured or fall receive adequate recognition and compensation for their injuries or losses,” Sorochan said.
The Equitas Society will hold a “Canadian Walk for Veterans” on June 3. Funds raised will be used to create a new veterans organization that will capitalize on new technologies for community outreach.
With files from CTV News' Mercedes Stephenson.