Peter Stoffer is a passionate and outspoken supporter of veterans’ rights in Canada.
After nearly two decades in Parliament, Stoffer is now set to support the cause in a different way.
It was announced Jan. 15 that Stoffer has been appointed as a board member for the Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation, a charity created to help veterans with disabilities pursue cases against the federal government in court.
The charity stems from a 2007 lawsuit against the federal government led by veteran Dennis Manuge alongside thousands of others. The lawsuit contested Ottawa’s move to reduce disabled veterans’ pensions by the amount they received from disability payments, meaning they received no extra money from the federal government.
Stoffer followed the Manuge case and became closely associated with it. He says he “even held several press conferences asking the government to stop legal proceedings” while the case was underway.
Law firms McInnes Cooper and Branch MacMaster represented the veterans pro bono. After seven years, they won the case – and the settlement totalled nearly $900 million.
Funds donated by law firms
The law firms were awarded $35 million, and together donated $1 million to the Veterans Legal Assistance Foundation so veterans could access adequate representation.
Stoffer says the fund is designed to help veterans who have exhausted their resources and have no other options. The board reviews applicants to decide where to allocate funds.
Stoffer says he and the board believe strongly in what they are doing to “provide these services to Canada’s heroes.”
The fund may face challenges in the future. Stoffer says the foundation, which is a registered charity, is eligible to receive funding every year, but that the board is hoping for more funding so it can increase the number of people it helps.
Finding money might be difficult because the fund won’t gather much interest in the bank. “There is only so much in the fund itself. The return on investments is not as great as it once was.”
Without extra funding, the charity will be limited on the number of veterans it will be able to assist.
“We won’t be able to help as many as we’d like, but we will do what we can and decide as a board,” Stoffer said.
Support for the foundation
Stoffer says the response to the new fund has been overwhelmingly positive thus far.
“The vast majority of people, especially from the veteran and legal communities, are very impressed with it,” he says.
Janice Summerby, a media advisor for Veterans Affairs, says she has not read reports regarding the new charity, but is eager to contact Stoffer to discuss the matter.
She says she’s looking forward to “seeing what they’re doing because of Peter – there’s no doubt there’s been no stronger advocate on Parliament Hill for the last 20 years than Mr. Stoffer.”
Roman Husiuk also supports the charity. He is Nova Scotia’s Team Leader for VETS Canada, a charity that works to reintegrate homeless and troubled veterans into society. He said the charity is important because veterans often have little money themselves.
“For folks that are battling with Veterans Affairs in Canada, the assistance fund is fantastic because they don’t have the funds to do it alone. Why wouldn’t I support it 100 per cent?”