The federal government is taking veterans back to court to try to block certain benefits for injured and wounded soldiers.
Six Afghan war veterans initiated a class-action lawsuit over pensions and other benefits. A peace agreement reached by the previous Harper government and the veterans expired Sunday. The two sides failed to reach an out-of-court settlement, and now government lawyers have informed the B.C. Court of Appeals that they will pick up the lawsuit where it left off.
The veterans have argued in court that the government has a sacred obligation to its injured soldiers and that the lump-sum payment wounded veterans receive under the New Veterans Charter — as opposed to the pension that was previously offered to veterans before 2006 — is inadequate compensation, as they receive less money over the course of a lifetime. They’ve also argued that it violates their rights — the right to life, liberty and security of the person — under Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Government lawyers asserted that the federal government has no extraordinary obligation to those who have fought for the country, and therefore the litigation has no merit.
One of the veterans said “They have turned the Liberal election campaign into a lie. I sat at tables [during the campaign] with some of the people who are now in cabinet. Those ministers have been turned into liars by the Department of Justice,” he said, noting the election platform explicitly promised that no veteran would have to “fight the government” for the support and compensation they have earned.
The plaintiffs agreed to drop their lawsuit if the government provided timetables for implementing Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr’s mandate letter, which included pensions for injured veterans among other key promises.
Hehr has so far been frustratingly noncommittal as to the schedule of some of his top priorities, Donald Sorochan, lawyer for the veterans said.
The Liberal platform in the last election explicitly promised to restore the pension benefit. “We will re-establish lifelong pensions as an option for our injured veterans, and increase the value of the disability award,” the platform reads.
The 2016 budget did allocate more than $4.6 billion over three years to boost support for veterans, namely reopening service offices, increasing the disability award and boosting the earnings loss benefit for injured veterans and expanding access to the permanent impairment allowance — but it was silent on pensions, the biggest sticking point.