Future of Equitas lawsuit uncertain

April 5, 2018 by Legion Magazine

The veterans behind the Equitas lawsuit vow to continue their fight, despite rejection of their claim by the British Columbia Court of Appeal.

“At this time we are still working with our legal team to work out our merits on an appeal” to the Supreme Court of Canada, said veteran Aaron Bedard.

Bedard is one of six disabled veterans who claim they were discriminated against by the 2006 New Veterans Charter’s lump-sum payments and support programs, which they say provide less financial support over a lifetime than the pensions that were replaced. The veterans argued this violates their equality rights and that the government acted unconstitutionally by creating an inadequate compensation system.

The veterans seek a return to pre-2006 pensions. As well, they seek recognition that a social covenant exists between the people of Canada and veterans, based on a century-old promise by Prime Minister Robert Borden to care for injured and disabled veterans.   

In 2014, a B.C. Supreme Court justice ruled the case could proceed to trial, but the federal government appealed that decision.

In early December 2017, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that the case had no chance of success. The appeal court found veterans’ rights had not been violated and that Parliament has “clear constitutional authority to legislate in this area, without limitations,” other than the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects citizens from deprivation of rights but “does not, generally, serve to impose positive obligations on governments.” 

As well, former leaders’ inspirational statements and vague assurances do not bind the government, it said.

Equitas lawyers have said such setbacks are part of the challenge of establishing rights. The appeal court decision notes the concept of a social covenant has not been explored in law, but lawyers point out that a trial is one way to do that.

Complicating the issue is the federal government announcement in late December that, beginning in 2019, veterans can choose between a lifelong pension and a lump-sum payment, though critics claim that for most veterans the pension option still does not equal pre-2006 financial support (See page 55 of the March/April 2018 issue of Legion Magazine).

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