Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario
"TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER"

         



I'm Sorry + Loonie = Vets' Forgiveness

Sat, February 23, 2008
By
RANDY RICHMOND,
SUN MEDIA

A soldier's son embroiled in a London-based fight over money owed to mentally ill veterans has a novel offer for the federal government:

Instead of handing over $5 billion, how about an apology and at least one loonie?

Roger Langen has launched what he calls The Loonie Vets Campaign, seeking the apology and at least some symbolic compensation over the way mentally disabled veterans were treated upon their return home.

"I have said all along it is an issue of failed respect," said Langen, a Toronto resident who is part of a class action suit led by London and Windsor lawyers.

"If it takes me 10 years to get an apology, I will do it."

The double meaning of the campaign's name is intentional, an attempt to get attention from a Canadian public that seems willing to let the issue of mentally disabled vets slip away, Langen said.

"The government needs to say, 'We are sorry. We are sorry to the veterans, to the families.' "

Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon.

Starting from the First World War, the federal government mishandled the pension funds and allowances of thousands of veterans, auditor general reports in the 1980s ruled.

No interest was paid on the pensions.

Nor were the pension funds invested.

The sons and daughters of those veterans have told The Free Press horror stories of living in abject poverty while their fathers stumbled through mental illness.

In 1990, under the guise of a veterans protection bill, Parliament passed a law preventing anyone from suing for interest before 1990.

"The hypocrisy of that has always really offended me," Langen said.

The relatives of a shell-shocked London veteran, Joe Authorson, launched a class action suit in 1999 for all the interest owed to veterans and their families.

Different levels of court ruled the government had a right to pass the law denying interest before 1990, but still had an obligation to pay the equivalent of investment returns -- about $5 billion.

Government appeals led to a Supreme Court decision in January that seemed to put an end to the roller-coaster legal ride, denying the veterans and families any money.

But lawyers for the veterans' families have applied for what's called a reconsideration before the court, based on new argument.

A panel could rule the case will continue.

Lawyers have not been able to argue before higher courts that the government's actions violate the Charter of Rights by discriminating against the disabled, London lawyer Peter Sengbusch said yesterday.

Langen said his campaign doesn't give up on the legal battle.

"This is not going to go away whether it is a legal or public battle."

Langen is a human rights specialist with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation and is circulating the petition first among the province's civil liberties groups.

Once he has a website going, the public can sign up, he said yesterday.

Critics of the lawsuit have said the money should go only to veterans.

But Langen reiterated yesterday the families suffered as well, and are the only voices left for the veterans.

"We are the leftovers. We are the mental capacity they did not have."

Reproduced from http://lfpress.ca/newsstand/News/Local/2008/02/23/4870353-sun.html

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