Appeal of "Largest Assessment of Damages Awarded in Canada" Begins Today
in the Ontario Court of Appeal
TORONTO, April 16 /CNW/ - Lawyers representing thousands of disabled
veterans are in the Ontario Court of Appeal today in response to an appeal,
launched by the federal government, of a $5.2 B judgment rendered in favor of
the veterans by Ontario Superior Court Justice John H. Brockenshire.
That 2005 decision - currently at issue in the Court of Appeal -
quantified the damages owing by the federal government to thousands of
disabled veterans who, since their class action lawsuit was certified in 1999,
have been seeking redress from the federal government for years of failure to
properly administer their funds. 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.
Justice Brockenshire described the government's actions as more than a
"mere technical breach". Instead, he called it a "serious breach of a
fundamental obligation; it went on for many, many years, and for a good part
of that time it was well known to the senior bureaucracy that the breach was
continuing. It resulted in a financial loss to thousands of veterans who were
rendered incompetent while serving their country. When (legal) action was
commenced against the Crown, the response was not to immediately admit the
wrongs of the past and attempt to make up for them, but rather to defend with
great vigor each step in the action taken against it."
Awarding the veterans $5.2 B he said: "I have been told this is the
largest assessment of damages ever awarded in Canada". Interest on that amount
is growing at $600 M a year.
"We intend to deliver a vigorous response to this appeal," said David
Greenaway, a Partner at the Windsor Ontario firm of Raphael Partners LLP. The
other members of the veterans' legal team are Raymond Colautti (Partner,
Raphael Partners) and London, Ontario lawyer Peter Sengbusch.
"It has always been our position that the Government of Canada, over a
period of nearly 90 years, failed to exercise its fiduciary responsibility. In
return for their tremendous acts of sacrifice, their federal government put
the veterans' monies in the consolidated revenue fund - the government's bank
account. This money lowered the cost of the government's borrowing and it had
full access to the veterans' funds," Mr. Greenaway noted.
"This lawsuit seeks to return to the veterans what was taken from them,
as a means of compensating them for their losses," he added.
While hearing the appeal, the Court of Appeal will also hear arguments
put forward by the disabled veterans' lawyers which will set out how, when it
passed a law limiting its own liability in 1990, the government contravened
the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the basis that the government
discriminated against these disabled Canadians.
"These war heroes are some of our country's most vulnerable citizens.
When they went to war in defense of our freedom, their government's response
was to fail to properly invest their monies. When it was made aware of that
failure by the Auditor General, the government passed legislation taking away
the veterans' right to sue," said Mr. Sengbusch.
"Our position is that in denying these disabled Canadians their right to
seek redress against the government - to return to them what is rightfully
theirs - the Government of Canada discriminated against them on the basis of
their disability. Able-bodied Canadians, able-bodied veterans have the right
to pursue legal action against the federal government should they decide to do
so. Why were these veterans' rights denied? Why should their rights be taken
away because they were disabled as a result of their war time service?" added
About the Lawsuit
In 2003 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal government can
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 is appealing that decision by
Justice Brockenshire, and thus the damages awarded.
For further information:
For further information: Eleanor McMahon, Public Relations, Raphael
Partners LLP, (519) 966-1300 Ext. 560, Cell: (647) 201-2820; David G.
Greenaway, Partner, Raphael Partners LLP, (519) 966-1300