It was a Liberal campaign promise that has been broken repeatedly: to not fight veterans in court. Yet that is exactly what the Trudeau government has done.
During the last election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marketed what would be the cornerstone of the Liberal platform in a paper called Real Change: The Future We Owe Our Veterans. It read: “We will demonstrate the respect and appreciation for our veterans that Canadians rightly expect, and ensure that no veteran has to fight the government for the support and compensation they have earned.”
Contrast this with CBC’s reporting last year that the federal government has spent more than $38-million “on legal proceedings involving Canada’s veterans over the past two years.”
Last year, in an Edmonton town hall, a disabled veteran confronted the prime minister as to why the Liberals keep fighting veterans in court. The prime minister’s response will echo well after the upcoming election campaign. “Why are we still fighting against certain veterans’ groups in court? Because they are asking for more than we are able to give right now.”
They both were referring to one specific case wherein a group of veterans were suing the government to honour a covenant with veterans that has been in place for almost a century: the payment of lifelong pensions for pain and suffering to veterans and their families.
In fact, this was another of Trudeau’s campaign promises: “to reinstate lifelong pensions.”
The government argued that government has no special covenant with veterans. The courts agreed and dismissed the case.
Veterans and serving members have since seethed with a sense of betrayal.
Liberals symbolically twisted the knife further in the eyes of many. In settling with Omar Khadr for a reported $10.5-million, the government claimed that it wished to avoid paying up to $40-million to continue the legal fight.
Such cost-benefit analyses ring hollow with veterans and serving members, whether it is the misguided attempts to prosecute Vice-Admiral Mark Norman or the lesser-known legal case involving well-known advocate for disabled veterans and their families, Sean Bruyea.
Ottawa has racked up a pretty taxpayer legal bill using crafty legal manoeuvres against Bruyea. In response to an article he wrote for The Hill Times, which critiqued the justifiably maligned Liberal Pension for Life program, former veterans affairs minister Seamus O’Regan accused Bruyea of “stating mistruths” and making “numerous other errors” in his writing to suit his “own agenda.”
Bruyea sued O’Regan in small claims court for the modest sum of $25,000. Meanwhile, the lead researcher for the House Committee on Veterans Affairs as well as the parliamentary budget officer came to the same conclusions as Bruyea that the pension for life will save the government billions of dollars compared to previous lifelong pensions.
Even experts in Veterans Affairs Canada told the minister and/or his staff that Bruyea’s article was largely accurate.
Nevertheless, the feds then successfully had Bruyea’s case dismissed by employing a law meant to protect little guys like Bruyea from bullying by big guys like the federal government.
SEAN AND HIS TEAM ARE TAKING ON GOVERNMENT AGAIN IN COURT ON BEHALF OF ALL VETERANS. THIS TIME TO STAND UP TO POLITICIANS BULLYING VETERANS, WHILE HELPING PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND FREEDOM OF THE MEDIA
OR CONTACT LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE PAUL CHAMP DIRECTLY TO E-TRANSFER OR MAIL YOUR DONATION TO HIS LEGAL OFFICE
“The minister’s response to [Mr. Bruyea’s] article about [veterans’] benefits was to be expected and was both measured and reasonable,” reads the decision by Deputy Judge David Dwoskin, dated Aug. 28, 2018.
The feds had the audacity to claim that Bruyea’s lawsuit was putting a chill on public officials to speak out. Government lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the case under provincial legislation meant to protect freedom of speech in public-interest matters against lawsuits intended to silence critics, the so-called anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) law.
The “chill” must have been downright tropical because O’Regan was simultaneously bragging repeatedly about his almost 50 public town halls he held across Canada to sell the Pension for Life to veterans.
As former Conservative veterans affairs minister Erin O’Toole stated in the House of Commons last fall, “Now Sean Bruyea is in court to clear his name.” (Bruyea was once again in court on June 13 in an attempt to overturn the dismissal).
And what did it cost Ottawa to defend against a $25,000 lawsuit so far? We don’t know because the Department of Justice refuses to divulge the numbers. Bruyea speculates that the ultimate cost to defend Seamus O’Regan’s attacks will be more than $250,000. In comparison, Bruyea’s GoFundMe campaign (Justice for Veterans Legal Fund) has raised $6,525. David is fighting Goliath.
Remember, Trudeau is the prime minister who refused to respond to personal attacks from Jason Kenney. He also defended the media and press freedom. Meanwhile, he claims he is fiscally responsible.
Could someone please explain to me, other veterans, and the rest of Canada why he allows his close personal friend, Seamus O’Regan to spend taxpayers’ money to defend the minister’s personal attacks and allegations against a well-respected veteran like Bruyea who happens also to be a widely-published columnist for the media?
It is clear to veterans, and to most Canadians, that the federal government will always fight veterans in the courts regardless of whether or not the government wins or loses. Is this how the government repays the sacrifices of veterans and their families?
Perry Gray is a retired Army intelligence officer and chief editor of the website VeteranVoice.info.
The Hill Times