Rob Nicholson to apologize for dead soldier's 1-cent cheque
Call arranged with Cpl. Justin Stark's mother for Thursday, minister tells Commons
National Defence Minister Rob Nicholson will apologize to the mother of a dead Hamilton soldier who went public with her story this week that the government had sent her dead son a cheque for one cent.
Nicholson told the House of Commons Wednesday that his staff had arranged a call for Thursday.
The issue was first raised in question period Tuesday in the Commons. Cpl. Justin Stark, a 22-year-old infantry soldier with the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, killed himself in the John W. Foote VC Armouries in Hamilton in October 2011.
Stark’s mother, Denise, received a cheque in the mail for a penny — presumably for owed military pay — from the federal government a few days ago.
“I can tell you … that we've contacted this woman and a telephone call has been arranged tomorrow and I will personally convey our apologies for this unacceptable incident,” Nicholson said.
The Defence Department has assured Nicholson there will be “better communication” so nothing similar happens again. “This is what this woman is owed,” he said.
But this isn't the only one-cent cheque sent out to a Canadian Forces member in recent months.
Kelly Carter, a Canadian Forces member from Alberta, sent CBC News a copy of a nearly identical cheque for a penny he received in January. It's also marked "CF Release Pay," just like the cheque sent to Stark.
"I don’t believe anything the Canadian Forces say, they lie through their teeth," Carter said in an email. "Staff tell Ministers lip service to make them happy, but the same problems resurface again. What a waste of time, money, resources and paper."
Nicholson did not specify why the payment to Stark was issued, nor did he explain exactly what measures were being taken to make sure this doesn’t happen again. CBC News received no response to requests for further clarification on the matter.
Stark began a seven-month tour in Afghanistan in May 2010 after being a part of the armouries in Hamilton for four years. His duties included patrols of Nakhonay, a village southwest of Kandahar City.
His mother has been dealing with military tribunals for years due to her belief that his death was work related. All that stress has crippled her emotionally, said Keven Ellis, family friend and president of the North Wall Riders Association, a motorcycle club that supports soldiers and their families with fundraising and events. Stark’s mother still visits his grave every single day.
“Every day is a major struggle for her. To lose her son like that is devastating,” he said.