Afghan veteran weary with legal battle over compensation in housing losses

A Canadian soldier says he's frustrated by Ottawa's persistent efforts to block him and other military personnel from being compensated for home sale losses suffered during transfers around the country.

HALIFAX — A Canadian soldier says he’s frustrated by Ottawa’s persistent efforts to block him and other military personnel from being compensated for home sale losses suffered during transfers around the country.

“We’ve followed the rules, we’ve identified the problems, we’ve committed to work to come up with a resolution … but every time they’re more than willing to spend taxpayers’ dollars to take us back to court and fight,” said Maj. Marcus Brauer in Halifax Wednesday.

Attorneys for the government were in Federal Court in Halifax to argue for a stay of a proposed class action attempted by the forces members.

Brauer, an Afghan war veteran and father of five, says he’s still coping with the loss of $73,000 when he had to sell a home in Bon Accord, Alta., during a downturn in the community’s economy.

He said he still hasn’t been compensated, despite a Federal Court judicial review decision last year that the Treasury Board refusal was “unreasonable” and “not justified,” and should be reconsidered.

The board has since reviewed its decision and confirmed it won’t provide more than $15,000 of the original $88,000 loss.

Brauer is joining a proposed class action launched by master warrant officer Neil Dodsworth, which was the focus of Wednesday’s hearing.

Dodsworth, also an Afghan war veteran, wasn’t in court.

However, his lawyers say he lost more than $72,000 on a home sale after a transfer from Alberta to Kingston, Ont., and has only received $15,000 in compensation.

The existing policy allows for 100 per cent compensation when housing sales occur in “depressed” markets, and there’s a Canadian Forces directive that defines these markets as communities where prices fall more than 20 per cent.

Federal lawyer Angela Green argued Wednesday for a motion to strike the action down, saying the policy is clear and there were no false statements made to personnel.

“There’s no misrepresentation … there’s a policy they (the military personnel) say should be changed or more generous or altered,” she told Federal Court judge Martine St-Louis.

The federal lawyer said that if personnel want to appeal a ruling by Treasury Board, they can go to the court and ask for a review, one by one.

She declined further comment outside of court.

However, lawyers for the military members say there was a clear policy that told personnel they could get full compensation, and Treasury Board ignored it.

Daniel Watt, the co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said his clients relied on the directive describing a “depressed” market, but Treasury Board refused to honour the policy.

“The Canadian Forces command said to its members that this policy is available and will protect you in these devastating circumstances. In fact, that’s not true,” he said.

Brauer, who has been in the military for 26 years, said as the legal battles continue, he and other Canadian Forces personnel are struggling financially.

“(I’m) certainly disillusioned,” he said.

“It needs to be corrected and it should have been corrected without having to come to the Federal Court.”

St. Louis has reserved her decision.