A veteran’s advocate won a small victory against the legal team for former Veteran Affairs minister Seamus O’Regan, who government lawyers defended at a cost of $213,500, according to documents tabled in the Senate.
On May 11, 2018 Sean Bruyea, a veteran’s advocate, filed a lawsuit against the then-Minister of Veterans Affairs over an op-ed the minister wrote that was published in The Hill Times.
The plaintiff sought damages of $25,000 for defamation.
Government lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the case and won. Bruyea appealed that decision and the two sides argued for five hours on August 24, 2018, about whether the Deputy Judge should accept the government’s motion to dismiss.
The government argued that having the suit proceed would limit the Minister’s freedom of expression.
Bruyea argued that the case had merit and won.
The suit originated from an op-ed Bruyea wrote in early 2018 and had published in The Hill Times, a parliament-focused newspaper.
Bruyea’s article compared the old veteran’s pension plan under the Conservative government with the one put in place by the Liberals, calling it “grossly unfair.”
The minister’s rebuttal was published two weeks later claiming people like Bruyea who were stating “mistruths about Pension for Life and are leaving out parts of our programs, are doing so to suit their own agenda.”
On July 12 , 2019, the Court of Appeals ordered the case to go back to the small claims court for trial.
The government ended up settling the lawsuit with Bruyea. The $213,500 price tag on a $25,000 suit has raised new criticisms, though experts acknowledge the government has other considerations than cost when facing legal challenges.
“What? Really?” Bruyea said, according to CBC News upon hearing the government’s legal costs. Bruyea said he was astonished at “the lengths the government will go to, with other Canadians’ money, to avoid saying ‘I’m sorry, I was wrong.”
The amount of the final settlement paid to Bruyea last week, which is not a part of the $213,500 figure, hasn’t been released.