Alberta veteran part of class-action lawsuit over benefits

Maj. Mark Campbell is one of six plaintiffs suing the federal government over changes to veterans' benefits
Maj. Mark Campbell lost both his legs in 2008 when he was severely wounded in a roadside explosion in Afghanistan. (CBC)

An Edmonton-area soldier is one of six plaintiffs suing the federal government over changes to veterans’ benefits.

The men say soldiers who were wounded after the Veterans Charter became law in 2006 will receive significantly less over their lifetimes.

"We had no inkling," said Maj. Mark Campbell of Sturgeon County. "It's taken years to come to where I understand in great detail exactly what has been done to our new generation of combat veterans, and it is horrific, it's disgusting."

The statement of claim, filed Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court, alleges the government violated the constitutional rights of the soldiers by discriminating against disabled people financially; that by passing the New Veterans Charter it failed in its fiduciary duty to support veterans; and that it broke the constitutional principle of "Honour of the Crown," by failing to keep the social promises Canada made to soldiers it sends into combat.

In 2008, while on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, Campbell was severely wounded in an explosion during an ambush by Taliban fighters.

Both his legs were blown off. Years later, he uses a wheelchair and carries a large box of medications to help manage his pain and psychological problems.

Campbell feels abandoned by a government that sent him to war and is now more concerned with budget cuts.

"It's an abject betrayal for a friggin' buck. I paid my dues"

Veterans' benefits lower than WCB

Jim Scott, the father of a wounded soldier, called the offer from Veterans Affairs to his son "pathetic".

"The severely disabled soldiers are disadvantaged by about 30 per cent ... and partially disabled soldiers can be disadvantaged up 90 per cent compared to what other workers compensation programs would provide, or the courts would if they were provided a lump sum settlement," he said.

Scott is the director of the Equitas Society which is raising money to support Campbell and the other soldiers in the class-action suit.

Canada failed to keep promise to veterans

Don Sorochan is a partner with Miller Thomson, the firm which agreed to take on the case pro bono.

Sorochan said the New Veterans Charter discriminates against veterans wounded since 2006.

The lawsuit also makes use of an ancient, and higher, legal doctrine called "The Honour of the Crown", which says the court assumes the Crown intends to keep its promises.

The suit alleges the government has broken a promise to look after the soldiers it sends into battle, and that the Honour of the Crown requires it to fulfill its promises notwithstanding any laws it passes to the contrary.

"This case will provide a mechanism for us, as citizens of Canada, to do the right thing for these soldiers ... to be as loyal to them as they are loyal to us." Sorochan said.