David Pugliese More from David Pugliese
Published on: October 31, 2014Last Updated: October 31, 2014 6:09 PM EDT
Some veterans and serving soldiers are worried that Cpl. Nathan Cirillo may not receive the same medals and his family may not get the same death benefits as regular force military personnel or those who die fighting overseas.
They say that Cirillo died in the defence of his country, but unlike a regular force soldier, his status as a reservist on duty in Canada could mean fewer benefits for his family.
Cirillo, from Hamilton, was gunned down at the National War Memorial in Ottawa while serving as an honour guard. The attacker then rushed to Parliament Hill, where he was killed by security.
Days before that attack, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, 53, a regular force soldier, died after being deliberately struck by a vehicle in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. The driver, a known supporter of extreme Islamist causes, was shot to death by police.
"We've had concerns a long time now about the second-class treatment of reservists," said Mike Blais, a retired army member who helps run Canadian Veterans Advocacy. "(Cirillo) and his family should be accorded the full rights and entitlements, as if he were killed in a war zone."
Serving soldiers, who asked that their names not be published, have sent emails to the Citizen raising concerns that Cirillo and his family may be treated differently in terms of benefits because he is a reserve soldier.
Ottawa lawyer Michel Drapeau said he doesn't know about Cirillo's specific case but noted that part-time soldiers in positions such as honour guards at the war memorial are usually considered "Class A" reservists. Because of that, they and their survivors receive significantly fewer benefits than a regular force soldier, he added.
The family of regular force personnel who die are eligible for a supplementary death benefit, whether in Canada or overseas, said Drapeau, a retired colonel.
Reservists operating in what is known as a Class C position, such as those who went to Afghanistan, also qualify for that benefit, which is equal to twice the military member's salary.
Reservists who are not Class C can be eligible for a "death gratuity," according to Canadian Forces regulations. "In the case of a member who dies or is presumed dead, a one time payment shall be made based on a period of 20 months at the basic rate for a member of the Regular Force of the same rank and classification or trade group," the regulations note.
Johanna Quinney, spokeswoman for Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, said the thoughts and prayers of the government are with the family and friends of Vincent and Cirillo.
"The Departments of National Defence and Veterans Affairs have been directed to make the entire suite of benefits and programs available to ensure the Veteran and the Veterans dependent family are supported during this difficult time and in the years to come," Quinney stated in an email. "Due to privacy we cannot speak about specific benefits or services that will be provided."
In her email, she also included website links to the overall benefits available to veterans and soldiers. It is unclear from those websites what, exactly, Cirillo would qualify for.
Blais said it is bizarre that the government is claiming it can't release details of compensation or benefits.
"We have Prime Minister Harper at the (Cirillo) funeral saying he is going to recognize the sacrifice. Well, let's see it," said Blais. "Cirillo should be accorded full benefits."
Some veterans have also raised concerns that neither Cirillo or Vincent would qualify for a Sacrifice Medal.
The Sacrifice Medal was created because of increased casualties in overseas operations and is meant to recognize those who die as a result of military service or are wounded by hostile action. The medal may be awarded to members of the Canadian Forces and civilian government employees "on the condition that they were deployed as part of a military mission" and have "died or been wounded under honourable circumstances as a direct result of hostile action," the military has noted in its criteria for the medal.
The medal may also be awarded to regular and reserve force members who died "as a result of an injury or disease related to military service."
Drapeau said the military could easily make the decision to award Sacrifice Medals to Cirillo and Vincent. In the past, such medals have been awarded to families of Afghan veterans, suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome, but who committed suicide in Canada.
"It is a policy written by some bureaucrat somewhere," he explained. "It can be changed at a moment's notice."
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The Canadian Veterans Advocacy Team.