A group of disabled veterans have decided to approach the Supreme Court of Canada for better pensions.
According to the six veterans filing the challenge, Canada’s federal government has a “sacred obligation” towards the country’s wounded soldiers, and the government’s duty to care for them was breached by the 2006 overhaul of the compensation structure for those injured in the line of duty.
Known as the Equitas case , the veterans have been fighting the case since 2012 but it was dismissed by the B.C. Court of Appeals last year.
New Pension Compensation System Worth Less
Mark Campbell, a retired major, and former combat engineer Aaron Bedard, both part of the case said that it was a “national disgrace” that the government is using tax dollars to pursue a legal fight against injured veterans, and called the changes to the pensions regime “untolerable” .
Under the overhaul, lifelong disability pensions was replaced with a lump-sum payment, along with career training and targeted income support. The veterans claim that the changes make it worth less than the previous pension system.
Representing the veterans, Don Sorochan, said that the hope was that the Supreme Court will hear the appeal, and “definitively” rule on whether the government has a “social covenant” or sacred obligation, and whether it is enforceable.
He also pointed out that the current stance of the government “was completely contrary“ to what they had said previously in Parliament and on the election campaign.
The Liberals had promised lifelong pension to the veterans in their 2015 federal election campaign.
Govt. Asserts It Has Fulfilled Promise
The change announced to the compensation system would result in about $3.6 billion being spent for veterans’ benefits. However Campbell has called the new proposal a “sham,” and that the current system was “nothing more than a shell game.”
In response, Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan has said that the government has delivered on its pledge for life-long pension, pointing out that the government has spent $10 billion in order to expand several areas such as pain and suffering compensation, career transition and income replacement and education for the veterans.
Implications For Canada’s Military Service
According to the case filing , the B.C. Court of Appeal’s decision may impact future military service in Canada and the operation of Veterans Affairs Canada.
The veterans claim that those enlisting in military service do so “at great personal risk and sacrifice”, and that there is an implicit “social covenant”, that if they fall or are injured the nation and people of Canada will make sure that they are looked offer.
The filing further states that the Court of Appeal’s decision implies that “this solemn obligation does not exist.”
According to Sorochan said the B.C. appeal court ruling means that effectively a promise can be undone by a government “on a whim.”
Opposition party Conservative’s veterans’ affairs critic Phil McColeman called upon the Liberals to fulfil their campaign promise.
Marc Burchell, president of the Equitas Society, observed in a statement that the B.C. Court of Appeal ruling suggests that there is nothing laid down in the law for protecting injured veterans.