The Supreme Court of Canada has rejected the White Rock-based Equitas Society’s bid to pursue an appeal for its class-action lawsuit on behalf of disabled Canadian Armed Forces veterans.
In a judgment issued early Thursday morning, the court said it would not hear the appeal of six veterans suing the Government of Canada – on behalf of thousands of others – for a reinstatement of full lifetime disability pensions.
“It’s not much to read, it simply says dismissed,” Equitas president Marc Burchell told Peace Arch News shortly after the judgment’s release.
The decision effectively quashes Equitas’s argument that Canada owes a “duty of care” to all veterans disabled in the service of the country.
Burchell, however, said it hasn’t quashed Equitas’s efforts.
“It’s the end of the road for the court case, but of course, we’ve had a Plan A and a Plan B and a Plan C,” he said.
Burchell described the federal Conservatives’ recent passing of a policy resolution “recognizing a military covenant between the people of Canada and its military” as “a very big step.”
He also pointed to the society’s creation of a Canadian Walk for Veterans as a positive.
It “was intended to unite the entire veteran community in Canada and bring them together to speak with one voice, and bring regular Canadian citizens in on the conversation,” Burchell said.
“So even though the court case is over, our advocacy doesn’t end. Matter of fact, it simply intensifies now.”
The organization has been battling Ottawa since the Harper government replaced the Pension Act – which had given veterans disability pensions since 1919, just after the First World War – with its New Veteran’s Charter in 2006.
This instituted lump-sum payments that many disabled veterans have since claimed have left them considerably worse off – and minus a dependable month-to-month income supplement.
While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a campaign promise to reinstate the pensions in 2015, and the House of Commons the same year unanimously passed a motion calling for a moral “covenant” to provide compensation and support services to disabled veterans, no legislation was introduced.
Lawyers for the federal Justice Department continued to argue that Canada owed “no duty of care” to the veterans and, in December 2017, the BC Court of Appeal dismissed the veterans’ class-action on the basis that it could only enforce actual legislation.