Aaron Bedard is one of the plaintiffs in the Equitas Society’s class-action lawsuit. (File photo)

Court strikes injured veterans’ disability pensions claim

Equitas fight ‘far from over’

The BC Court of Appeal has struck “in its entirety” a claim that sought to restore compensation for injured servicemen and women to pre-New Veterans Charter levels.

In rendering the decision – which stemmed from court action launched by White Rock-based Equitas Society in 2012 – appeal-court judges emphasized it was not a determination on “whether the government is providing adequate compensation to members of the armed forces who are injured in the course of their duties.”

Noting “considerable sympathy” for the plaintiffs, the decision – announced Monday morning – is also “not directed to the wisdom of legislation,” the judgment states.

“We have tremendous respect and admiration for the plaintiffs. All right-thinking Canadians would agree that they should be provided with adequate disability benefits. If that is not occurring, it is a national embarrassment. Again, however, that is not the issue the court is deciding. Rather, the question before the court is whether an arguable case can be advanced that the Canadian Parliament lacks authority to enact legislation fixing and limiting compensation.”

Equitas Society brought a class-action lawsuit challenging the New Veterans Charter forward in 2012. Created in 2006, the charter replaced veterans’ lifelong pensions with lump-sum settlements – a change that resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in financial compensation, Mark Campbell, a retired major, told a news conference held at the Vancouver office of Miller Thomson Law Monday afternoon.

In this week’s decision, appeal court judges concluded “Canada has constitutional authority to enact and administer the compensation scheme.”

However, judges disagreed with arguments that the plaintiffs were “an analogous group for the purposes of this lawsuit,” and that Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms serves generally “to impose positive obligations on governments.”

Equitas president Marc Burchell told Peace Arch News following the news conference that he was initially “very surprised” by the decision, but now “I understand where they’re coming from.”

“They made a decision based on what is existing law,” Burchell said. “The court really puts it back into the hands of parliamentarians (to) actually pass law.”

Don Sorocan, lead counsel for Equitas, said no decisions on next steps have been made – including whether to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Such an appeal “is not something that should be decided on a moment’s notice,” he told the news conference.

However, the case does illustrate issues of national importance, he said. Those include a determination on whether the “honour of the Crown” should apply outside of any aboriginal context.

“Crown’s lawyers argued there is no such thing as a social covenant,” Sorocan said. “The court of appeal has accepted that.”

The fight to reinstate the compensation was led by South Surrey father Jim Scott, whose son, Dan, was injured during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, during a training session with claymore mines in February 2010. He lost his spleen, a kidney and suffered a collapsed lung.

According to court documents filed in 2012, the soldier received a lump-sum payment of $41,411.96.

Equitas held a rally in October to raise awareness of the issue, and Burchell said such steps will continue.

“Our role as advocates and lobbyists simply escalates,” he told PAN.

“It’s far from over. It’s actually the beginning of the next chapter.”

Just Posted

Telkwa holds the line on mill rates

Telkwa taxes to remain steady, but water and sewer rates are going up

Houston woman gets two years for aggravated assault

Ewald pleads guilty; trial of co-accused Calvin Dyrland begins in Smithers court

Multi-family housing zoning passed

The way is partly paved for 11 new multi-family strata buildings to go up in Smithers

Residents shocked at Soldiers of Odin posters

Southside man claimed to be part of cell phone drive for Northern Society for Domestic Peace.

Two Smithers bowlers go to nationals

Madison Richter and Peyton Pettigrew are heading to Oshawa after winning gold at B.C. provincials.

Mueller finds no Trump collusion, leaves obstruction open

But while Mueller fully ruled out criminal collusion, he was more circumspect on presidential obstruction of justice

Edmonton judge rules Omar Khadr’s sentence has expired

Eight-year sentence imposed in 2010 would have ended last October had Khadr remained in custody

Woman wants Tofino to get a nude beach

“They may enjoy a surf and then walk around naked and just be free.”

Ice climbers scale Canada’s tallest waterfall on Vancouver Island

Ice climbers Chris Jensen, Will Gadd and Peter Hoang made history

New Coast Guard ship crashes into breakwater in Victoria

‘It is fairly unprecedented that it would happen’

Sparks fly as SUV speeds wrong way down Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Fundraising campaign launched for man caught in SilverStar avalanche

In only two days, the GoFundMe surpassed its $15,000 goal

B.C. doctor fined $5,000 for accessing records of woman pregnant with his child

Doctor admits to accessing records of the woman carrying his child

Video service to compete with Netflix, Amazon expected from Apple on Monday

The iPhone has long been Apple’s marquee product and main money maker, but sales are starting to decline

Most Read