The head of the War Amps is blasting a multibillion-dollar court award involving bungled pensions for disabled veterans, insisting the ruling will actually hurt living veterans. ""I usually fight for veterans,"" Cliff Chadderton, CEO of the War Amps and chairman of the National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada, said from his Ottawa home on Friday. ""But as far as I'm concerned, the headlines are very misleading because they say that this award is going to disabled veterans. Well, it's not.""
An Ontario Superior Court judge has ordered the federal government to put $4.6 billion into a specially designated trust account for the veterans and their descendants.
The award comes after nearly seven years of legal wrangling over Ottawa's failure to prudently invest the soldiers' pensions, administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The case involves some 30,000 veterans from the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War and peacekeeping missions dating back to 1919.
However, Chadderton said 99 per cent of those veterans are dead and that the money is mostly for distant relatives who ""got a little hungry.""
In fact, Chadderton said most veterans have been against the lawsuit.
""If they know the story, most veterans are against it because they say, 'Wait a minute, that's veterans money, that's for veterans problems,' "" he said.
""It's not for 52nd-degree cousins or something like that.""
Chadderton also said there was ""no question"" is his mind that the ruling released Thursday could end up hurting living veterans.
""We need the money for veterans. We need long-term care beds, for example,"" he said.
""If the money. . .is going out of the (Department of Veterans Affairs) budget, the possibility of getting any new claims through or any new provisions under DVA for veterans is pretty remote.""
Lawyers for the veterans say the government's mishandling of the funds should be an election issue.
""I hope that Canadians will scream bloody murder over the mismanagement on the part of the Canadian government in the way they handled this,"" Raymond Colautti, one of three lawyers acting on behalf of veterans, said Friday in Toronto.
""They effectively took the veterans' money, put it in their sock and hid it under the mattress.""
He noted that the veterans were those who were injured in the service of their country and deemed, by the government, incapable of managing their money as a result of their disability.
In determining the massive award, Justice John Brockenshire considered the possible interest earnings had the federal government properly invested the veterans' pensions over 85 years rather than held the funds in trust.
However, the vets could be forced to wait years to collect the award.
A Justice Department lawyer says the government will likely appeal the ruling.