Canadian Veterans React To Terrible Equitas Ruling

“You don’t start the war if you aren’t prepared to take care of the broken boys on the other end of it.” – Major Mark Campbell

On December 4th, a B.C. Court sided with the federal government and made a disgraceful ruling against injured Canadian Veterans in the Equitas case.

As I said at the time, “This all surrounds a 2006 change to how Veterans were compensated for injuries. The changes were implemented in the New Veterans Charter – which was created by the Paul Martin government and came into force under the Harper Government. Those changes eliminated the lifelong disability pension and imposed a lump-sum payment. Veterans had pointed out that the new system was worse, and launched the Equitas case.”

Despite a B.C. Supreme Court Justice saying the case could go to trial, the federal government appealed.

Then, on December 4th, 2017, the B.C. Court of Appeal struck the claim down entirely.

Reaction to the ruling

After the ruling, I spoke with Aaron Bedard – a former Corporal in the Combat Engineers, and former Major Mark Campbell, who served in the PPCLI based in Edmonton. Corporal Bedard was injured when his vehicle went over an anti-tank mine, while Major Campbell lost his legs in an ambush by the Taliban.

They are among the six injured Canadian Veterans who launched a lawsuit against the government, which brings us to where we are today.

When I asked them how they felt about the ruling, Major Campbell said his reaction was “surprise, and no small amount of dismay.”

He was also surprised that the case was dismissed on all grounds.

Campbell pointed out that Canadian Veterans were promised a “century-old covenant,” where if a soldier is injured in the line of duty, a soldier and their family gets taken care of.

That covenant was set out by Prime Minister Robert Borden who said Canada’s Veterans “need have no fear that the government and the country would fail to show just appreciation of their service. Borden added it was the first duty of the country to support Canadian soldiers and said they must not have just cause to reproach the government for having broken faith, with them.”

Borden also said that the, “maimed, broken, the widow and the orphan would be supported. Duty and decency demanded that those saving democracy should not find democracy a house of privilege, or a school of poverty and hardship.”

Major Campbell also noted that Sections 7 & 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms set a clear case that the government has an obligation to supported injured Canadian Veterans.

Corporal Bedard said he was “shocked and surprised,” but that they “had to regroup quickly like soldiers do,” and are “dedicated to seeing this through.”

The next step – if the choice is made to pursue the case further – would be to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Government to fall short of pension promise?

Corporal Bedard noted that the government was given every opportunity to make things right, and he even “advised directly to the Minister of Veteran Affairs” on the issue.

A big concern is that, while the Trudeau government is promising to announce their “Pension Option” as a response to the problems created by the New Veterans Charter, they may fall short of Trudeau’s 2015 promise to Veterans made in Belleville, where he promised a full return of the pension.

Major Campbell said the concern is that the government will simply rebrand the existing benefits as a pension. However, that would fall far short of a real pension, which Campbell pointed out should be “tax free and should not take away from other income,” and should be “protected by regulations” so politicians can’t take it away or reduce it.

He noted that the New Veterans Charter creates two classes of Veterans, with those who shifted to the NVC receiving 40% less.

He says the “government is trying to save $42 million on the backs of disabled Veterans.”

The reduction of financial support has a serious impact, including on the mental health of Veterans due to the “lack of confidence in having a full suite of benefits,” which “dissuades full recovery,” since “benefits are removed from recovering Veterans.”

Corporal Bedard says the current system is “patches on a bad system,” while Major Campbell points out that the change to the NVC was “never advertised,” and there was “no buy-in, no opt-out, and no grandfathering.”

What Canadians should know about the Equitas ruling

I asked Major Campbell and Corporal Bedard what the Canadian people should know about the Equitas ruling.

Major Campbell said the ruling is “a bad decision, that defies the will of Parliament and the Canadian people,” and that the “decision says government owes no special duty of care to Veterans, and is wrong.”

We also discussed the terrible hypocrisy and injustice of the government being quick to provide massive payouts to terrorists, while fighting Canadian Veterans every step of the way in court.

The point was made that it comes down to the government not wanting to pay the long-term costs of caring for Canada’s Veterans, which led to Major Campbell speaking the following truth:

“You don’t start the war if you aren’t prepared to take care of the broken boys on the other end of it.”

Canada must honour the Veterans Covenant

As things stand today, the government can take away Veterans benefits on a whim.

And whenever money gets saved at Veterans Affairs, they aren’t cutting bureaucrats, they cut money to Veterans.

Of course, Ministers bonuses are never dependent on how well Veterans are being treated either.

The core of all these problems is that the government – under both the Conservatives and Liberals – has refused to formally recognize the Veterans Covenant first set forth by Robert Borden, and have not written it into law.

That must change.

Fin Donnelly – NDP MP for Port Moody-Coquitlam – has called on the government to formally recognize and live up to the Veterans Covenant, which would oblige the government to make sure all Canadian Veterans get the support they have earned through service to our country.

Donnelly deserves credit for bringing forward a concrete idea that would protect the rights of Veterans, and all parties should support it.

Standing up for Canada’s Veterans should not be a partisan issue, and our government is a total disgrace for taking Veterans to court instead of restoring the life-long pension.

Support for Veterans – and living up to the Veterans Covenant – must be written into law, because the government cannot be trusted to do the right thing unless they are forced to do so.

The disrespect and disregard for Canada’s Veterans must come to an end. Contact your MP and tell them to support legislation to officially enshrine the Veterans Covenant in Canadian Law.

Contact your MP here.

Spencer Fernando

Photo – provided