Justice department lawyers will revive legal arguments advanced by the former Harper government to try to block a lawsuit by six Afghan war veterans intent on restoring pensions for injured and wounded soldiers.
The federal government is taking veterans involved in the Equitas lawsuit back to court to try to block certain benefits for soldiers. The Liberal Party campaigned in the last election that they would do better to support veterans after an era of Conservative cuts.
The government’s lawyers will argue in court that Canada does not have a social contract or covenant with veterans, and that a “scheme providing benefits cannot be said to amount to a deprivation merely because claimant views the benefits as insufficient.”
The plaintiffs have argued in court that the lump-sum payment wounded veterans receive under the New Veterans Charter is inadequate compensation, as they receive less money over a lifetime. Prior to 2006 veterans received a lifetime pension.
In court documents, the government’s top class action lawsuit lawyer, Paul Vickery, said that “the submissions made by [former Conservative attorney-general Rob Nicholson] on hearing of the appeal, as set out in the factum filed by him, accurately reflect the current position of the federal government.”
In the veterans community there is a long-held belief that Canada has a special responsibility to its veterans; a social contract, based on the promise politicians have made for generations to adequately care for those soldiers who are hurt in the line of duty.
The Liberal Party 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. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reaffirmed that commitment in a speech on the campaign trail.
The promise was also included in Minister Hehr’s mandate letter from the prime minister, but was notably absent from the government’s first budget introduced in March.