The former army corporal who spearheaded a fight for injured soldiers’ benefits says a recent settlement has laid the groundwork for future veteran activism.
The Federal Court of Canada approved an $887-million settlement of a class-action lawsuit involving thousands of disabled veterans on Thursday.
The case involved a three-decade-long federal government practice of clawing back the military pensions of injured soldiers by the amount of disability payments they received.
Dennis Manuge said the final step on his legal journey came on an auspicious day.
"The policy originated in 1969, which is the year I was born and to have it finally terminated on my 44th birthday, karma is right," he said.
In 2007, the Musquodoboit Harbour man sued the government on behalf of thousands of disabled veterans nation-wide.
"The life-altering piece for me is just restoring that dignity and respect to the class members and to all the disabled veterans. We're just not going to take bad treatments and poor service anymore," Manuge said.
The settlement affects more than 7,000 veterans, with some receiving money dating back to 1976.
Manuge said a more significant legacy is a new tradition of activism for veterans' rights.
"Many veterans have taken the torch and are bringing light to the different issues facing disabled veterans of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP," said Manuge.
Manuge was injured in an accident at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa in Ontario just before being deployed to Bosnia in 2001.
He left the military two years later, suffering from a lower back injury and bouts of depression.
Manuge will receive about $15,000 dollars in benefits and interest. He'll also receive a $50,000 honorarium for his role as lead plaintiff in the case.
Manuge said he hopes to write a book about his experience.
"Maybe tell a little bit of the stories that happened behind the scenes and what it's like to actually carry a load for that many people."
The federal court has also cut the fees due to Halifax law firm McInnes Cooper. Those have dropped from $66 million to $35 million.