Veterans board chairman billed taxpayers to attend U.K. lectures

OTTAWA — The chairman of an embattled veterans review board billed taxpayers on two occasions to attend high-brow lectures in Britain where his wife was a participant.

OTTAWA — The chairman of an embattled veterans review board billed taxpayers on two occasions to attend high-brow lectures in Britain where his wife was a participant.

John Larlee has regularly attended the Cambridge Lecture series, but went on the federal government’s dime in 2009 and 2011.

The prominent events at Queen’s College at Cambridge University north of London, attract movers and shakers in the British and Canadian political and legal communities.

Set amid the neatly manicured lawns, waterways and stone ramparts of the centuries-old university, the lectures have featured the likes of former prime minister Paul Martin and Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Larlee’s bills for both trips, listed as professional development in the expense records of the Veterans Review and Appeal board, totalled $7,285.97, including flights, accommodations and meals.

His wife, Justice Margaret Larlee of the New Brunswick Court of Appeal, has been a fixture at the events. She was moderator of a panel on ending rape in both war and politics at the 2009 conference and led a discussion in 2011 on the role of Israel’s supreme court in the fight against terrorism.

Justice Larlee was also featured at the 2007 lectures, discussing commissions of inquiry and whether they are worth the money. Her husband accompanied her that year as well, but paid for the trip out of his pocket, said a veterans board spokeswoman.

The chairman refused an interview request, but Danielle Gauthier, who speaks for the independent agency, says the trips were justified.

“His daily work involves providing leadership to a board of independent adjudicators who make decisions based on evidence and according to the legislation that governs disability benefits for veterans,” Gauthier said in an email statement to The Canadian Press.

“The lectures provide valuable insight into the global and common challenges of adjudicating from the perspective of leading lawyers, academics and judges from Canada and around the world.”

Some topics discussed during Larlee’s taxpayer-funded trips included nation-building in Afghanistan, Asia after the (financial) crash, Canada’s response to terrorism, lectures on the rule of law, sovereignty and the responsibility to protect, the justice system in Tanzania and the unwritten principles of the constitution and minorities.

Board records show Larlee has attended five other conferences in Canada — at a total cost of 6,757.67 — since he was appointed in 2009. These included a Canadian Bar Association meeting in 2009.

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