One-Cent Pension for 22-Year-Old Canadian Veteran of Afghanistan War Who Committed Suicide
By Vittorio Hernandez | March 6, 2014 10:16 AM EST
Australian military commanders at Multi National Base – Tarin Kot lay wreaths at the memorial during the ceremony for the fallen (L–R): Lieutenant Colonel Mick Bye, Commanding Officer (CO) 2nd Cavalry Regiment Task Force; Colonel Wade Stothart, Commander Combined Team – Uruzgan; Lieutenant Colonel 'M', CO Special Operations Task Group; and Wing Commander Jonathan McMullan, CO Heron Detachment. (Credit: Australian Defence Image Library)
It was a double stab on the back for the family of deceased Canadian soldier Corporal Justin Stark, an Afghanistan War veteran who committed suicide in October 2011 at the age of 22.
His seven-month bout in the Middle East was "rewarded" by the federal government with a one-cent pension which his family received a cheque a few days ago.
Mr Stark's mother was shocked when she read the contents of the letter and by the amount of the release pay.
Keven Ellis, a family friend of Mr Stark, who killed himself inside the John W. Foote VC Armouries in Hamilton, called the miniscule payment an insult. Mr Stark's colleagues, The Argyl and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada held a parade in Hamilton, Ontario, for Justin one day before Remembrance Day.
Upon learning of the gaffe, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson apologised to the family of Mr Stark, saying the cheque was absolutely ridiculous as he blamed the boo-boo to an insensitive bureaucratic screw up.
The soldier's grieving mother went through hours of tribunal hearings for the military to determine if her son's death was work-related, said Hamilton Easy-Stoney Creek MP Wayne Marston.
The defence minister assured that he would take steps to ensure the mistake would never be repeated again.
A similar embarrassing incident involved Corporal Leona MacEachern who died on Christmas Day 2013 after she deliberately drove her car into an oncoming transport truck near Calgary. She suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her 20-year stint with the Forces.
But in January 2014, Veteran Affairs Canada sent her widower a letter even requesting for repayment of $581.67 from a portion of the corporal's monthly disability cheque.
An embarrassed Veterans Affair Minister Julian Fantino later said the decision to collect the money was reversed, and he issued a personal apology to the female soldier's family.
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