ARCHIVED - Ombudsman Urges Resolution to Unfair Deductions from SISIP Payments

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June 15, 2007

The Honourable Gordon O’Connor, P.C., M.P.
Minister of National Defence
National Defence Headquarters
Major-General George R. Pearkes Building
101 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K2

Dear Minister O’Connor:

I would like to acknowledge and thank you for your letter of June 3.

Your letter responded to my letter to you of March 6, 2007, in which I set out my position as to why the Department of National Defence should implement the two outstanding recommendations made in our 2003 special report entitled Unfair Deductions From SISIP Payments to Former CF Members.

As you will recall, our report concluded that it was fundamentally unfair to deduct Pension Act disability payments from SISIP Long Term Disability benefits. It urged the Minister of National Defence to take steps to put an end to that deduction as soon as possible, and to provide retroactive compensation.

In your recent letter to me, you indicate that, in light of the sheer magnitude and complexity of the issues surrounding this matter, you were to ask departmental authorities to review my concerns. You also mention that, in view of the class action lawsuit filed with the Federal Court of Canada on March 15, 2007, you felt that you were precluded from making any further comments on the matter at this time, particularly given the lawsuit challenges the very deduction that was at the heart of our report.

I certainly do appreciate that this file raises issues that are complex and that may be expensive to address. I also understand that you would wish to be extremely careful not to make public comments about the issue, which has now been taken to the courts.

As Ombudsman, my first job is to promote the fair and just treatment of current and former members of the Canadian Forces and their families. I have indicated to you, and to others before, my firm view that the former members who are affected by the deduction are the victims of what I consider to be fundamentally unfair treatment.

As a result, I urge you, and through you, your colleagues and your officials, not to allow the court proceedings to be a reason to avoid swift action. The pending lawsuit should not preclude the implementation of the two outstanding recommendations.

At this time, given recent developments and the status of the matter, I am of the view that my office and I have done all that we can do to bring this matter to a fair and satisfactory resolution. The ultimate responsibility for ensuring this issue is resolved equitably, generously and without undue delay rests with others.

I sincerely hope that you, as Minister of National Defence, will do everything you can to ensure that fair treatment is achieved for our veterans – and that it is achieved soon.

Yours truly,

Yves Côté, Q.C.

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