NEWS

Justin Stark's mom accepts defence minister's apology over 1-cent cheque

03/06/2014 03:26 EST | Updated 05/06/2014 05:59 EDT
The mother of a dead Hamilton, Ont., soldier who received a cheque for one cent from the federal government has accepted the apology of Defence Minister Rob Nicholson but said the incident has reopened wounds.

Denise Stark, speaking from MP Wayne Marston’s office in Hamilton, said Nicholson called Thursday morning to personally apologize.

She said she thanked him for the formal apology but explained, "how our wounds have been reopened since receiving the cheque."

Stark said she told Nicholson she didn't believe the act was intentional but that she would like to know something positive comes from it and that another family doesn't have to go through the same experience of receiving a similar cheque.

The issue was first raised in question period Tuesday in the House of Commons. Cpl. Justin Stark, a 22-year-old infantry soldier with the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, killed himself in the John W. FooteVC Armouries in Hamilton in October 2011.

Stark’s mother received a cheque in the mail for a penny — presumably for owed military pay — from the federal government a few days ago. National Defence Minister Rob Nicholson told Parliament Wednesday that his staff had arranged a call for Thursday so that he could “personally apologize” for an “unacceptable incident.”

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.

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