Federal costs to fight lawsuit from moms denied benefits tops $2.5 million

OTTAWA — Federal lawyers have racked up a legal bill of more than $2.36 million fighting a group of women who allegedly were wrongly denied sickness benefits while they were on maternity leave.

The costs, revealed in an access to information request filed by The Canadian Press, show the Justice Department added about $300,000 to its bill between early 2016 and last June to fight a case the Liberals once vowed to drop.

That brings the total federal bill on the case to more than $2.5 million when factoring in previously released costs from a second department involved in the litigation.

Jennifer McCrea, the woman at the centre of the case, and her lawyer wonder why the government can’t end their case when it settled with former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr for $10.5 million and offered up to $750 million to victims of the 60s Scoop, where Indigenous children were taken from their homes and placed with non-native families.

“It’s the only right thing to do and I believe in the strength of our case,” said lawyer Stephen Moreau.

“I have yet to see a reason why they wouldn’t come through on this promise, other than the fact that they’re taking a long time. That’s the only thing that gives me some pause.”

McCrea said she hasn’t given up hope the Liberals will settle, as the party promised at the end of the 2015 election, but admits it may finally mean getting their day in court.

“I’m upset that this is taking so long,” she said.

“I’m in too deep and too long to give up on it, so absolutely we intend to continue the fight. It’s just very slow and painful.”

It was two years ago this weekend, just over a week before voting day, that the NDP and Liberals vowed to immediately drop opposition to the case if either became government.

Instead, Moreau said the Liberals continue to fight every element of the case.

McCrea has been brushed off by ministers and local MPs, with all saying they couldn’t comment because the matter was before courts.

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