Canadian veterans forced to fight for equality in benefits

Vancouver’s Victory Square Cenotaph is adorned with wreaths for Remembrance Day. Photo: Dennis Page

Canada has a proud military heritage and Remembrance Day is a chance for Canadians to honour the sacrifice and service of our military, but for some recent veterans it is a reminder of an ongoing conflict – this time against the Canadian government.

Kevin Berry, member of the 3rd battalion Royal Canadian Regiment served in Afghanistan for six months. He now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

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The Canadian government released the New Veterans Charter in 2006, which effectively removed life-long support for injured veterans, in exchange for one-time lump sum payments, which critics feel is a drastic reduction in benefits.

“One veteran, one standard. No more, no less,” says Kevin Berry, a 29-year-old veteran, who spent six months in Afghanistan serving with the 3rd battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment.

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Berry now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, which includes night terrors, agoraphobia or fear of crowds,  panic attacks and thoughts that he will die a violent death. He was awarded compensation equal to 10 years worth of disability benefits. Had his claim been registered before 2006, under the older model, he would have qualified for lifetime support.

Berry expressed frustration about his situation and got involved with the Equitas Society, who, along with other affected veterans, has launched a class-action lawsuit against the federal government, challenging the New Veterans Charter.

“I don’t want anyone to go through what I’ve been through, with the government turning its back on me or for anyone else to feel betrayed or abandoned,” he said.

For Berry, he is proud of serving Canada and being a soldier is something that is part of his family’s heritage, but in regards to the federal government’s attitude towards veterans, he has nothing but disdain.

“[The government] absolutely dropped the ball. When we’ve tried to bring it to their attention, through all avenues over the last six years, we’ve been rebuffed and ignored,” said Berry. “Our last resort is the courts. This isn’t something we are happy to be doing. I certainly don’t want to have to sue my own government.”

Berry is hopeful that the federal government will realize it has made a mistake and will correct it, and is determined to fight for as long as it takes.

More information on the Equitas Society can be found on their official website.

Video interview with Kevin Berry who speaks about how he is taking his government to court for the right to life-long injury support. Filmed by Dennis Page, composed by Michelle Gamage.

Reported by Dennis Page & Michelle Gamage

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