My Story: From the department of veterans’ complaints
When Aaron Bedard went to war in Afghanistan, it was because he loved his country. Never did he imagine he would be a lead plaintiff in a multi-year legal battle fighting for proper care, now on the cusp of taking the Crown to the Supreme Court of Canada.
It was 2002 when I signed on the dotted line. I had just travelled to Israel and it was an intense, lively environment. And coming back here you had everyone complaining about all these small things. There was always a tear in everyone’s beer. So I wanted something exciting. I wanted to be a combat engineer because of my construction background. I joined to have a weapon in my hand and be up at the front.
Afghanistan was my first and only deployment. I arrived in January 2006. On April 19, we went over an anti-tank mine. Everyone got evacuated by helicopter, but I wouldn’t go. In fact, there was no way I was leaving. I had trained four years to be there.
Then there was a mortar barrage, then our vehicle got hit by rocket-propelled grenades in Helmand province and then a roadside bomb at close proximity rang my head again.
Illustration by Janice Kun/i2iart.com
But I made it right to the end of the tour.
By November of that year things weren’t going well and I was ordered to go get myself checked out. They established it was a traumatic brain injury, a slipped disc in my back and severe whiplash to my neck. So basically my whole spine was a mess.
By August, I got pushed out of my regiment. I was self-medicating. That, combined with my injuries, gave them all the reason to get rid of me.
Right away, I wanted a little bit of redemption for the way I was treated through the release process, so I ended up getting involved with the Legion and I started advocating.
I went to a Veterans Ombudsman’s town hall meeting in 2012 and that’s where I met the Equitas group and got involved with the lawsuit.
Equitas is simply trying to have the New Veterans Charter reflect the sacred obligation that the government owes to veterans. We thought the new government was going
to settle, but it seems they want to take us back to court.
My wife and I were getting ready to move on with our lives, so I could pay more attention to home. But no. The level of stress I experience doing this is extreme. And it triggers my PTSD. I’ve been getting stronger and stronger; I had some treatment in December that brought the headaches down enough that I could exercise for the first time in 10 years. I was trying to get to a point that my brain will work well enough that I can get some training and go to school.
So having this court case suddenly come back, the level of betrayal is extreme.
We need to have this sorted out by the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 2017. The foundations of our case are from the speech Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden made to soldiers before the Vimy battle.
There is an illusion that we all have access to justice. But getting lawyers to go after government isn’t easy. This is an incredibly rare opportunity for veterans, and it’s easy to criticise us and challenge us, but this is a one in a million. This is a bit of history happening. It doesn’t matter who wins or loses this next appeal, if the government doesn’t settle it’s going to end up at the Supreme Court.
Anyway, that’s how I came to be fighting the government of the country I love.