June 29, 2023

On June 28, 2023, the Federal Court of Canada certified a federal class proceeding brought against the Government of Canada alleging the improper claw back of disability pension benefits under the Pension Act.

This class action was brought by Murphy Battista LLP on behalf of veterans and members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and their spouses, common law partners, dependents, survivors and orphans. The representative plaintiff, Robert Marcus Hirschfield, served the RCMP as a Constable for nine years before he was seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident while on duty.

The Federal Court’s order certifying this claim as a class proceeding helps to bring disabled veterans and their survivors one step closer to justice for the wrongs they have suffered in relation to the disability benefits administered by Veterans Affairs Canada. As stated by Angela Bespflug, lead counsel for the Class: “Canada, including Veterans Affairs Canada, needs to do better in supporting CAF and RCMP members who become ill and injured as a consequence of their service to this country.”

Murphy Battista LLP filed this claim in September 2021. The motion for certification was heard in May 2023.

The certified claim includes allegations of systemic negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and unjust enrichment on the part of Canada in its administration of disability pension benefits.

The Federal Court judge, in granting certification, stated (among other points) that:

[54]        … it is not plain and obvious that there is no fiduciary duty owed by the Defendant to the proposed Class Members. The Plaintiff has pleaded that the Defendant has undertaken to act in the best interests of the proposed Class Members through the implementation and administration of the Act. Moreover, the Plaintiff has pleaded to the vulnerability of the proposed Class Members – many of whom potentially suffer from debilitating physical and mental disabilities – to the Defendant’s administration of the Act.

Click to read the Judgment and Reasons in Hirschfield v. His Majesty the King, 2023 FC 900.

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