Kent Hehr, Liberals Not Living Up To Promises To Veterans: Lawyer

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CALGARY — The lawyer for Canadian veterans involved in a legal battle with the federal government says the Department of Veterans Affairs is playing politics with his clients.

Don Sorochan said Thursday that Minister Kent Hehr is not standing by his party's promise in the last election to re-establish lifelong pensions for veterans.

Hehr, who was in Calgary Thursday, said his government is moving forward as quickly as it can to do that.

kent hehr
Veterans Affairs Minsiter Kent Hehr speaks with veterans at a stakeholder summit at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa on Dec. 2, 2015. (Photo: Justin Tang/CP)

The legal action was launched in B.C. Supreme Court in 2012 by six severely disabled veterans over changes made to their compensation six years earlier.

The federal government replaced lifelong pensions with lump-sum payments, upsetting veterans, who argued they deserved disability payments on par with workers' compensation.

Efforts by the federal government to have the case thrown out were dismissed, which led to an appeal.

The lawsuit was put on hold in 2015 while the parties agreed to wait and see whether new legislation and a federal election would allow for an out-of-court resolution.

Feds argue they don't owe 'extraordinary obligation'

The deadline for a decision passed in June, and the Liberal government filed documents in court in July saying the government does not owe an "extraordinary obligation'' to modern-day veterans.

The Trudeau government's position in court was initially held by the former Conservative government before the Tories changed their stance in December 2014 after a public backlash.

Justice Harvey Groberman of British Columbia Appeal Court said the court will consider whether to take into account contradictions between the government's current legal position and the stand the Liberals took during the election.

A decision is expected this fall.

"Get real and get on with it rather than issuing carefully crafted statements that avoid saying that there's a legal obligation to them."

"We have to run government by good policy and yet I understand that those members who are engaged in that lawsuit have served this country bravely and boldly,'' Hehr said when asked about the state of the lawsuit.

"To a large extent, we have drafted much of our policy in the last election based on some of their concerns, so we're moving forward as quickly as we can.''

Sorochan dismissed Hehr's response.

"Get real and get on with it rather than issuing carefully crafted statements that avoid saying that there's a legal obligation to them,'' he said.

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