Manitoulin vets react to ‘devastating’ court ruling

MANITOULIN—A representative of the Manitoulin-Espanola War Pensioners of Canada (WPC) is very upset with a court decision in British Columbia in regards to injured veterans and all those injured in the line of duty.

“It’s devastating,” stated Manitoulin Espanola WPC spokesperson Colin Pick.“I am stunned beyond belief with this court decision (referencing a ruling against injured veterans in their fight for disability pensions made in a BC court earlier this month). “The government, as I understand it, always has the ability to amend federal law to put in legislation in areas that they see fit to do so. I can’t believe the court decision that has been made and how devastating this decision is to the already suffering disabled veterans and their families.”

As reported by CBC News on December 4, the BC Court of Appeal dealt a devastating blow to a group of injured veterans engaged in a landmark legal struggle with the federal government.

The six veterans involved in the so-called Equitas lawsuit had alleged they were unfairly treated because of a major 2006 overhaul of how the federal government compensates those injured in the line of service. One of the major changes was the replacement of lifelong disability pensions with a lump-sum payment, combined with career training and targeted income support. The veterans challenging the change argue the new regime is worth less than the previous pension system.

The court case was first launched in 2012 under the previous Conservative government but continued under the Liberals and was viewed as having major implications for all recently-injured veterans.

The Equitas veterans scored a victory in 2014 when a BC Supreme Court justice ruled that there was enough merit to the case to proceed to trial. The group of veterans heading up the challenge had planned to turn the case into a class-action lawsuit.

However, the federal government appealed the decision, and the BC Court of Appeal dismissed the veterans’ claim in its entirety. A three judge panel concluded that the case had no chance of success.

Mr. Pick  noted that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had campaigned with Equitas members during the last federal election campaign and the Liberal party was the only party to promise to reinstate lifelong pensions. However, the government has continued to fight the court case and has not yet reinstated disability pensions for injured veterans.

Mr. Pick explained, “the 2006 decision by the Government of Canada to replace the lifelong pension of veterans with a measly lump sum award was a disgrace then and more so now.”

“The Canadian men and women are all humans and have served this country. The government needs to better provide for and make sure the veterans and their families are properly taken care of,” stated Mr. Pick. “I will be writing to the prime minister of Canada and Minister of Veterans Affairs on this issue as it is callous and wrong. The court decision, and the government not doing what it promised, puts veterans back to where we started from. The prime minister and the federal government have gone back on their word.”

In essence the court decision blocks any chance of the veterans filing a class action lawsuit, said Mr. Pick.

“It’s just sad what is being done to veterans,” he concluded. “I guess it’s going to have to be public opinion that gets anything done; if members of the public kick up enough of a protest maybe then the government will do something to support veterans.”