Equitas Society – Our Mission
The Core Issue:
Canada had a long history of supporting our disabled soldiers by various long term pension and support programs provided by Veteran Affairs Canada. However, with the introduction of the New Veterans Charter in 2006, all Canadian soldiers who now make an application for disability benefits are awarded primarily a one-time payment with some disabled soldiers receiving various income guarantee funding. The total of all their benefits under the New Veterans Charter is significantly less than those benefits provided by the previous Veteran Affairs Canada Pension Act, or other compensation programs throughout Canada or by the Courts for one-time lump sum disability payments (eg: car accident). Right now we are not treating our disabled soldiers equally to other workers “disabled on the job,” or soldiers who have been disabled prior to 2006 with benefits under the Pension Act. In fact, disabled soldiers with settlements under the New Veterans Charter are being targeted and are being discriminated against.
As this new group of disabled soldiers, mainly from the Afghan War, work themselves through the New Veterans Charter compensation processes, they are quickly realizing they are receiving far less than what was previously provided and less than what other Canadian workers would receive for the same disability. In fact, a 2011 Queen’s University study confirmed severely disabled Canadian soldiers will only receive two thirds of the disability compensation under the New Veterans Charter compared to the previous Pension Act, given a maximum disability package. It further appears that partially and moderately disabled soldiers will receive even less, sometimes only 10% of what other compensation programs would provide.
Although Canadians were told that the New Veterans Charter was brought in to improve benefits for disabled soldiers, it has become clear that this Act is a financial hardship for many disabled soldiers. This is a situation that needs to be fixed. As the result of the New Veterans Charter, many disabled soldiers are in dire circumstances and their stories are heart wrenching. Therefore, either the government must address this issue immediately, or the soldiers themselves must ask the Courts to provide a remedy to this situation.
The Way Forward: The law firm Miller Thomson has agreed to represent, pro bono, disabled soldiers with settlements under the New Veterans Charter. On October 30, 2012 Miller Thomson filed in the BC Supreme Court an application to certify a Class Action Law Suit for disabled soldiers who have received low settlements under the New Veterans Charter. Equitas has signed an agreement with Miller Thomson requiring Equitas to provide all the legal action disbursement costs (eg: doctor’s medical report fees, court fees, etc) - estimated initially at $100,000.00
After the soldiers’ claim was filed, and without making a substantive response, the Government filed a preliminary motion to strike the claim. Broadly speaking, the Government argued that there was no reasonable basis for the claim against it and that the claim was “certain to fail”.
The BC Supreme Court largely rejected that argument and, with three narrow exceptions, dismissed the Government’s application to strike the soldiers’ claim and ordered the Government to proceed with filing its response. On October 2nd, 2013, the Government filed a notice of appeal with the British Columbia Court of Appeal, declaring its intention to appeal the BC Supreme Court decision.
No date has yet been set for the hearing of the Government’s appeal. More detailed and up-to-date information can be found in the “News” section.
Equitas Society Assistance: In 2011, a group of concerned Canadians formed the Equitas Disabled Soldiers Funding Society (Equitas Society – meaning ”Equality”), incorporated pursuant to the Laws of British Columbia, in order to provide these services to our disabled soldiers.
a) To raise the awareness of this very important issue so the public and the government will fix the problem of reduced disability benefits provided to our disabled Canadian soldiers as result of the 2006 New Veterans Charter,
b) To raise the funds necessary to pay for the legal disbursement costs of the disabled soldiers who have retained the law firm, Miller Thomson, to address their reduced disability benefits in the courts.