Civilian defence employee not on par with those in uniform, court rules

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A Federal Court judge has dismissed a discrimination claim brought forward by a former civilian defence employee.

Bob Thomson survived a tragic military transport crash in 1991. He was a civilian employee aboard the C-130 Hercules aircraft that struck a rocky outcrop in the Northwest Territories. The crash — and the following 30 hours of cold conditions before he was rescued — rendered Thomson paralyzed and resulted in several amputations due to frostbite.

Thomson received compensation through the flying accidents compensation regulations and received a pension from Veterans Affairs after the crash. However, he was denied access to a special stipend, an exceptional incapacity allowance, because he was not a military member. Thomson appealed the decision of the veterans review board to the Federal Court. He claimed he faced discrimination by not being treated the same as the military personnel involved in the same incident.

The judge dismissed Thomson’s claim but noted his concerns were valid. “Once again, I acknowledge that Mr. Thomson raises numerous valid concerns regarding the treatment of his claim for compensation when compared to the treatment received by members of the Canadian Forces in a similar situation. . . . However, this is something that should be raised with Parliament and the legislature, as only them, and not this Court, can ultimately address those.”

Generally speaking, discrimination is an action or decision that treats people negatively based on their race, sex or disability. The federal government and private companies that are regulated by it cannot discriminate based on the grounds that the Canadian Human Rights Act protects.

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