They sat quietly in the corner of a room that overflowed with more than 250 supporters of Equitas Society and considered the levels of justice, fairness and equity that injured soldiers like them experience.
Formed just three weeks ago, the Equitas Society was holding its first fundraiser Friday at Hazelmere Golf Club, MC’d by Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg.
While the evening was considered a financial success, it was a rude awakening for some just learning about financial compensation for wounded members of Canada’s military.
Lawyer Don Sorochan was quick to put a fine point on the disparity between settlements in civil cases and the level of financial support afforded soldiers.
Sorochan said he first learned of the compensation when his neighbour, a soldier with shattered legs, brought him a letter from the Canadian Military that congratulated the young man for what amounted to “winning a lottery.” The letter advised the injured soldier to take the enclosed $14,000 cheque and seek financial advice on how best to invest or spend it.
“There are so-called slip-and-sue cases that are settled for $256,000 and that involves a grape on the floor of a supermarket,” Sorochan told the crowd, which included injured veterans.
Sorochan’s firm, Miller Thompson in Surrey, plans to mount a Charter challenge – pro bono – on behalf of affected soldiers. He explained fundraising will be needed to cover an estimated $200,000 in disbursements. Equitas has raised $18,000 to date.
“Mustn’t it be questioned what part of the cost of the injuries are being borne by the soldier?” Sorochan asked. “It must be borne by all of us.”
John Allen Fraser, Speaker of the House of Parliament from 1986-1993, told the gathering that he doesn’t know what’s going on in the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding the treatment of wounded soldiers: “It’s as if they didn’t give a damn – it’s disgraceful.”
Fraser said that, even as a Tory, then Liberal Defense Minister Art Eggleton appointed him to chair the Minister’s Monitoring Committee on Change in the Department of National Defence (1997–2003).
“This is not partisan,” Fraser said, of compensation for wounded Canadian soldiers. “They risked their lives for ideals that we hold dear… that Canadians have fought for and won.”
Sian Jones LeSeur, mother of Pts. Garrett Chidley, 21, of Cambridge, Ontario, spoke passionately about the loss of her son on Dec. 30, 2009. Serving with the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Chidley was one of four soldiers killed when a roadside bomb exploded south of Kandahar. Embedded Calgary Herald journalist Michelle Lang was also killed, and five other soldiers were wounded.