Politics

Bill Blair says he never saw plea for help from amputee now running against him

Border Services Minister Bill Blair says he never saw an appeal for help from a disabled soon-to-be-former air force officer who is now challenging him in the upcoming federal election.

Capt. Kimberly Fawcett is running against Blair as a Conservative candidate in the fall

Federal Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair says his office lost track of an email from a constituent asking him for help with a disability benefits case - a constituent now running against him as a Conservative candidate. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

Border Security Minister Bill Blair says he never saw an appeal for help from a disabled soon-to-be-former air force officer who is now challenging him in the upcoming federal election.

An email sent by Capt. Kimberly Fawcett went to a spam folder, was deleted and was only retrieved by his staff on Thursday, Blair said.

"It was just brought to my attention today that was there was an email apparently sent to a general account ... (in) which tens of thousands of emails are received each week," Blair told CBC News.

"It was not seen by myself. It was not seen by any of my staff. And at no time were the concerns, the dispute Ms. Fawcett has with her employer, whether her injury is a compensable injury ... it was never brought to my attention."

Fawcett — who lost a court challenge of the military's refusal to pay her disability benefits for a 2006 traffic accident that claimed both the life of her infant son and her leg — is the nominated federal Conservative candidate in the Toronto-area riding of Scarborough Southwest.

Capt. Kimberly Fawcett, an air force officer, trains in Ottawa near Parliament Hill. (Studio G. R. Martin Photography)

In an interview with CBC News earlier this week, Fawcett said she decided to run after getting no help from Blair, her local MP, in her fight with National Defence over her injury.

"I went to Bill Blair three years ago to ask for his help and he turned me away," she said Monday. "If he is not prepared to fight for someone like me or anyone else in our riding, then I am prepared to fight him for the job."

The Federal Court last week rejected Fawcett's challenge of the military's refusal to pay her disability benefits for the accident that claimed the life of her nine-month-old son, Keiran, and left her an amputee.

She wrote to Blair at his constituency email address on June 19, 2018, while her case was still grinding through the court system. She received no response. She also claims she raised the matter a year before, prior to taking the federal government to court.

Blair noted that June 19 was the day the Liberal government's cannabis legislation passed through the Senate. "It was a rather busy day on the Hill."

'It's important that the truth be known'

On Thursday, the minister's staff at first denied having received any notes whatsoever pertaining to Fawcett's case. They reversed themselves later in the day after CBC News produced a copy of her email.

Blair said he's never had a conversation with Fawcett about her case and vehemently denied ignoring her concerns.

The two did exchange emails early in 2017, when — according to Blair — Fawcett sought his support in applying for a Senate seat, two of which were vacant at the time.

They've met on only one occasion, Blair said.

The process of selecting senators is conducted by an independent advisory board and Blair said his staff helped direct her to the board's website.

"I think the truth is important and to say that this has been the total of my dealings with Ms. Fawcett ... I think it's important that the truth be known," he said.

When his office was asked initially for comment on Fawcett's case Monday, it released a statement saying Blair does "not comment on individual cases" and always "strives to make himself available to constituents to assist them with their concerns.

Fawcett was not immediately available Thursday to respond to Blair's remarks.

She will retire from the military in June.

Fawcett has been fighting both National Defence and Veterans Affairs for disability benefits for over a decade.

The military said the tragic accident — which happened just outside of Kingston, Ont. in February 2006 — did not occur while she was on duty, even though the trip was sanctioned by her commanding officer and part of an approved military-mandated family care plan.


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About the Author

Murray Brewster

Defence and security

Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.

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