A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier’s shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg photo)

A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier’s shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg photo)

South Surrey-based veterans’ group continues quest for covenant, bill of rights

Equitas Society seeking ‘political solution’ to long-sought legislation

A week ahead of the federal election, the White Rock-based Equitas Society is calling on party leaders to follow up on commitments made six years ago to support veterans’ benefits and rights.

In a news release issued Monday (Sept. 13), Equitas president Jim Scott said the Canadian Military Covenant and the Military Bill of Rights “are important pieces of legislation that will help address the shameful conditions faced by permanently disabled veterans and their families, as well as the families of the men and women that sacrificed their lives in the service of their country.”

To date, only two party leaders – Erin O’Toole (Conservative) and Maxime Bernier (People’s Party of Canada) – have pledged to enact the covenant and bill of rights in the next parliament, the release states.

The call for the legislation stemmed from Equitas’ unsuccessful legal battle with the federal government to secure disability benefits for returning soldiers of the Afghan War.

Canadian soldiers had received disability pensions from 1919, until the New Veterans Charter took effect in 2006, under the Harper government. 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.

A class-action lawsuit was filed in 2012, with South Surrey’s Dan Scott – the son of Jim Scott – who was injured in 2010 during a training session in Afghanistan, among six plaintiffs named.

READ MORE: Lawsuit to be filed for wounded veterans

READ MORE: Veterans lawsuit filed

READ MORE: Equitas lawsuit appeal denied by Supreme Court

In December 2017, B.C. Court of Appeal ruled against Equitas’ efforts to continue the lawsuit. Eight months later, in August 2018, the Supreme Court of Canada also rejected the society’s bid to pursue an appeal, ruling it would not hear from the six veterans.

The decision effectively quashed Equitas’ argument that Canada owes a “duty of care” to all veterans disabled in the service of their country, but society officials pledged to continue the fight.

While in 2015, then-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a campaign promise to reinstate the pensions, 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, legislation has yet to be introduced.

Equitas is now “seeking this action via a political solution.”

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