The war veteran and the pension plan that set off Minister Seamus O’Regan’s counterattack

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The war veteran and the pension plan that set off Minister Seamus O’Regan’s counterattack Empty The war veteran and the pension plan that set off Minister Seamus O’Regan’s counterattack

Post by Guest on Thu 27 Sep 2018, 6:59 am

The war veteran and the pension plan that set off Minister Seamus O’Regan’s counterattack

GLORIA GALLOWAY PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER
OTTAWA
PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 27, 2018


Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan has taken on one of his most persistent critics, fighting the Gulf War vet in print and in court over the new lifetime pensions that the Liberal government will introduce for retired military personnel with permanent injuries.

Mr. O’Regan went on the offensive after Sean Bruyea, one of Canada’s best-known veterans' advocates, disparaged the federal government’s new Pensions for Life program in an Ottawa newspaper in February. Mr. Bruyea argued that the new pensions, which apply to veterans who retired in 2016 or later, will fall short of what is given to veterans, such as him, who retired before 2016 and fall under the old Pension Act.

The lifetime pensions took Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) more than two years to devise and are the centrepiece of the Liberal plan for assuaging disgruntled veterans. So, two weeks after Mr. Bruyea criticized the program in print, Mr. O’Regan fired back with a column of his own in the same paper. Even though VAC bureaucrats told Mr. O’Regan’s office that his critic’s numbers were largely correct, the minister accused Mr. Bruyea of “stating mistruths,” making “numerous other errors” and writing to suit his “own agenda.”

Mr. Bruyea said Mr. O’Regan "took a debate that should have been based on opinions and facts to a highly personal attack. … On the personal level of a disabled veteran, it was really difficult, it was humiliating.”

The war veteran and the pension plan that set off Minister Seamus O’Regan’s counterattack M3JPLLYQN5CHZLGXTQI3QUQE6Q
Mr. Bruyea says is angry that Mr. O’Regan suggested he got his facts wrong when the department said the numbers were mostly correct, and says the remaining matters of disagreement simply reflect different points of view.

DAVE CHAN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL


He took the matter to Small Claims Court in May claiming $25,000 for the damages he said the minister’s rebuttal did to his reputation. But government lawyers convinced a judge to throw out the case on the basis of Ontario’s Protection of Public Participation Act, an anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) law created to discourage the use of litigation to stifle debate in the public interest.

Anti-SLAPP laws are meant to safeguard individuals with limited resources from far more powerful parties with deep pockets from mounting lawsuits designed to silence their critics. However, Mr. O’Regan seemingly used this law to argue that a lone man threatened the freedom of speech of the federal government.

Mr. Bruyea, a 54-year-old former military intelligence officer who was left permanently disabled with PTSD as a result of his service in the Gulf War, plans to appeal.

He is angry that Mr. O’Regan suggested he got his facts wrong when the department said the numbers were mostly correct, and says the remaining matters of disagreement simply reflect different points of view.

He takes particular offence at the minister’s suggestion he was acting to further his own agenda because, as an older veteran who falls under the former Pension Act, he already has a lifetime pension. His said his criticisms of the Pensions for Life program, which will take effect in March of next year, are aimed at improving the lot of newer veterans who don’t get the same level of benefits that he does.

When asked why his response to Mr. Bruyea was so personal, Mr. O’Regan said in a telephone interview on Sunday that he has spent the past year trying to explain the Pensions for Life at town halls across the country to veterans who are “stressed out” by the fact that changes are coming.

“So I don’t take misinformation lightly. When I read a misleading article like I did with [Mr. Bruyea’s] that says we are deceiving veterans, that we are trying to make people swallow our programs, that the $10-billion [that the government has added to spending on veterans] is flim flam, I have a reaction," Mr. O’Regan said. "I have a responsibility to call it out when I see it and I have a responsibility to correct it when I see it.”

The war veteran and the pension plan that set off Minister Seamus O’Regan’s counterattack LZ2POLPCQJHYRC3TTN2UWQZ7SI
Minister of Veterans Affairs Seamus O'Regan rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sept. 24, 2018.

JUSTIN TANG/THE CANADIAN PRESS


Mr. O’Regan and department officials insist that no veterans will lose money under the new Pensions for Life, and most will receive more. In the column that he used to rebut Mr. Bruyea, the minister said it is clear the Pensions for Life will leave disabled veterans better off.

The minister said he had no say in the decision to use the anti-SLAPP law to defeat Mr. Bruyea’s lawsuit; that was up to Justice Department officials.

The minister’s staff said in telephone discussions last week with The Globe and Mail that it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether the Pension Act veterans will be paid more or less, in general, than the veterans who will receive the Pensions for Life because so many different scenarios and calculations come into play.

Documents obtained by Mr. Bruyea under the federal access-to-information law show that, after his column appeared in print, Mr. O’Regan’s staff asked VAC department officials to scour it for errors.

The responses from the bureaucrats, which are also contained in the access documents, show that, while they found some mistakes in his piece (some calculations were off by a percentage point or two and he incorrectly deduced that some female vets would get less per month than their male counterparts), they agreed Mr. Bruyea’s assertions were mostly factual.

When Mr. Bruyea’s defamation suit went to Small Claims Court, two Justice Department lawyers and an intern showed up to represent Mr. O’Regan.

Mr. Bruyea acted as his own legal counsel. He wanted, he said, "to send a message to encourage veterans and other Canadians who had been bullied or attacked by government or other big institutions that there is a way you can fight this without having to do that full-court litigation.”

Deputy Judge David Dwoskin agreed with the Justice Department lawyers that the case was nothing more than an attempt to silence Mr. O’Regan’s right to free speech. He dismissed Mr. Bruyea’s suit saying “the minister’s response to the plaintiff’s article about veterans’ benefits was to be expected and was both measured and reasonable. The protection of free expression outweighs the harm alleged to be suffered by the plaintiff.”

In appealing that ruling, Mr. Bruyea has enlisted the services of prominent human-rights lawyer Paul Champ.

“It is our view that he has strong grounds for appeal because the Small Claims judge did not properly apply the test for defamation and, more significantly, the Small Claims judge misinterpreted the new SLAPP provisions,” Mr. Champ said in an e-mail. “The court ignored the context of the far more powerful party defaming the individual citizen who is trying to express himself on a matter of public concern.”

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-veterans-advocate-will-appeal-ruling-in-defamation-case-against/

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The war veteran and the pension plan that set off Minister Seamus O’Regan’s counterattack Empty Re: The war veteran and the pension plan that set off Minister Seamus O’Regan’s counterattack

Post by Trooper on Thu 27 Sep 2018, 7:58 am

There's a miss-print: "Mr. O’Regan went on the offensive after Sean Bruyea, one of Canada’s best-known veterans' advocates, disparaged the federal government’s new Pensions for Life program in an Ottawa newspaper in February. Mr. Bruyea argued that the new pensions, which apply to veterans who retired in 2016 or later, will fall short of what is given to veterans, such as him, who retired before 2016 and fall under the old Pension Act."

2016 should read 2006

Again this is all an attempt to sell a system that just does not meet the standard of the pension act. It is an insurance based system we have today, and moving forward with the new changes. Only a small percentage of disabled Veterans will see the full PFL lifelong pension. Even at that, the full value of the disability portion of the lifelong pension is about half of the pension act. What is missing in all of this is the fact that the pension act did not have an insurance base system. The pension act was based on sacrifice. All benefits were tax free, and spouses, and dependents were also a factor in the funds issued. But it doesn't stop there, the pension act had other benefits built in that were also tax free. With the pension act you did not have to worry about being penalized for working. Rehab was not a Prerequisite in qualifying for benefits. With mental issues we have psychiatrists that are paid for by the government from coast to coast which are available to all in this Country. There was a lot of reduced stress on disabled Veterans with the pension act because it secured the Veterans which allowed the Veteran to deal with their condition or conditions. Not like today where the system adds stress to the disable Veteran.

To try and compare the system of today, from the system of the pension act is not complicated, and anyone who states the system of today is equal to, or better then the pension act is just not living in reality. It's really as simple as that. We don't have those from the pension act wanting to switch to today's system. We see the RCMP stick with the pension act not wanting to switch to today's system.

Don't listen to Seamus O’Regan because this guy does not have a clue what his talking about. It is a political situation where he is talking on behalf of the bureaucrats, and of course towing the party line. He is wrong in what he states, and what he believes. Nobody is going to change his mindset, so the only way to approach him is by the way of the courts.
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Post by Lincoln on Thu 27 Sep 2018, 9:17 am

I'm behind the Veteran 100%.

One thing I would say is that one should never go before a court, any court without representation from a lawyer. JMO
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Post by Guest on Thu 27 Sep 2018, 10:00 am

It is such a shame that past and present governments of Canada treat veterans the way they do.

Look at this example:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/remembrance-day-too-little-too-late-for-canada-s-korean-war-veterans-1.2419640

""Some Korea War veterans are financially busted and they can't get anything," he says. "I got out of the army in 1957. It was 2007 before I got a pension. That's how long it took me to argue my case with them." - Romeo Daley, November 11, 2013

And there is tens of thousands more examples like this out there. And no politicians seem to have the will or the inclination to do the right thing.

I have always said that having only one day a year to officially recognize the sacrifice of soldiers and their families is the government's way of keeping things to a dull roar, for lack of a better phrase.

The United States has Memorial Day Weekend, an entire weekend devoted to remembrance, as well as Armistice Day (November 11th). And the military is paid homage often throughout the year, during football games, hockey games and other public gatherings.

My mom, may she rest in peace, was a U.S. citizen. I spent a lot of time in the U.S. when I was growing up and I attended an American Military Academy as teenager under the JROTC program.

Let me tell you this, the military in the U.S. is omnipresent. When those folks pay homage to their fallen and still serving members they don't screw around.

It's not like that here. Few members of Joe Civie show reverence outside of November 11th.

And that is just how the government wants it. Out of sight, out of mind.

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