Disabled Veterans' Lawyers Respond to Supreme Court of Canada Decision



    "Thousands of Disabled Veterans - and their dependents -- Denied Justice"

    WINDSOR, ON, Jan. 17 /CNW/ - The Supreme Court of Canada has denied leave
to appeal in a class action lawsuit involving thousands of disabled veterans
and their dependants.
    The disabled veterans, whose class action was certified in 1999, have
been seeking redress from the federal government for years of failure to
properly administer their money - in some cases, hundreds of thousands of
dollars. These were veterans who were injured in the service of their country
and were deemed, by the government, incapable of managing their money as a
result of their disability. Veterans in the class include those from the First
World War onwards.
    The leave to appeal application, submitted on behalf of the veterans,
followed a July 2007 Decision rendered by the Ontario Court of Appeal. The
Ontario Court of Appeal decision ruled in favor of the federal government on
an appeal following a 2005 decision by Ontario Superior Court Justice John H.
Brockenshire. An earlier decision quantified the damages owing by the federal
government to be $5.2 B.
    "We are disappointed with the Court's decision," the lawyers said. "In
2003, the Supreme Court said: "The prohibition, "Thou shalt not steal," has no
legal force upon the sovereign body", and the Crown's right to take property
from Canadians was upheld. The Government, for decades, failed to invest these
veterans' funds or pay interest on them - and the veterans had no recourse but
to sue them for this failure. Regrettably, the Supreme Court, in agreeing with
the Ontario Court of Appeal, has denied justice for these veterans and their
families. This is a sad day for them, and for all Canadians who would seek to
question the actions of their federal government."
    "In terms of next steps we will seek direction from our clients. In the
meantime however, we will be considering our options. Certainly, there is
always the option to try and pursue a political resolution to this lawsuit,
but this would require the assistance of Canadians to impress upon the
government the need to provide restitution to these veterans. While successive
governments have failed them, perhaps this government might see fit to right
this historical wrong," the lawyers noted.
    The members of the legal team are David Greenaway and Ray Colautti,
Partners at the Windsor Ontario firm of Raphael Partners LLP and London,
Ontario lawyer Peter Sengbusch.
    "This lawsuit sought to address a number of issues fundamental to our
society: fiduciary responsibility; discrimination on the basis of disability;
the application and interpretation of Federal statutes and important
principles of the law of equity," the lawyers said.
    "Over a period of nearly 90 years, successive governments failed to
exercise their fiduciary responsibility to these veterans and their families.
By 1986, the Auditor General of Canada recognized that the $53 M of
accumulated funds represented a liability because the government was not
investing the funds as is legally required. The government's failure mounted
to a breach of fiduciary duty and the government does not dispute this fact,"
said the legal team.
    In 2003 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal government had
the power to pass a law limiting its own liability, and ruled against the
veterans who argued that passage of the 1990 legislation removed their right
to property and thus contravened the Canadian Bill of Rights.
    Despite the government's victory, the lawsuit continued on the basis that
Justice Brockenshire ruled the veterans could pursue damages in the case based
on the government's failure to act as a proper trustee. While it does not
contest that it failed to act as a trustee, the federal government appealed
that decision by Justice Brockenshire, and thus the damages awarded.
    Addressing another central aspect of the case the lawyers said: "On the
basis of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Government of Canada
passed legislation in 1990 that discriminated against these veterans on the
basis of their disabilities. The Ontario Court of Appeal ruling (July 2007)
dismissed the Charter argument, depriving these disabled veterans of
protection by the fundamental law of this country. They fought for our rights
and freedoms, and have been denied an opportunity to challenge a law that
fundamentally discriminated against them."





For further information:

For further information: Eleanor McMahon, Public Relations Raphael
Partners LLP, (519) 966-1300 Ext. 560 or Cell: (647) 201-2820,
www.veteransinterest.org

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