‘I am prepared to fight’: After losing bid for compensation, air force captain takes on Bill Blair

For Capt. Kimberly Fawcett, the personal is now political.

The soon-to-be former air force officer — who last week lost a court challenge of the military’s refusal to pay disability benefits for a 2006 traffic accident that claimed the life of her infant son — is now confirmed as the nominated federal Conservative candidate in the Toronto-area riding of Scarborough Southwest.

She said she’s jumping into the political fray to help protect other Canadian Forces members from going through what she did.

“I went to Bill Blair three years ago to ask for his help and he turned me away,” Fawcett told CBC News. Blair, the Trudeau government’s border security minister, represents Scarborough Southwest.

“If he is not prepared to fight for someone like me or anyone else in our riding, then I am prepared to fight him for the job.”

Fawcett, who sheds her air force uniform in June, is at a personal and professional crossroads.

The Federal Court last week rejected her challenge of the military’s refusal to pay her disability benefits for the accident that claimed the life of her nine-month-old son, Keiran, and left her an amputee.

For more than a decade, Fawcett has fought a pitched battle with the defence and veterans departments. The federal government claims the tragic accident on Highway 401, just outside of Kingston, Ont., did not occur while she was on duty — even though the trip was sanctioned by her commanding officer and part of an approved military-mandated family care plan.

Over a decade ago, Ottawa refused to cover the cost of her prosthetic limb. Fawcett still returned to duty after learning to walk again. She even deployed to Afghanistan for a second time in 2008.

She said she asked Blair to look into her case and to act as an information “conduit” with the federal government while the matter was before the chief of the defence staff.

She said she was subsequently ignored and then told nothing could be done because the matter was before the courts.

CBC News asked Blair for comment but the minister said he would not discuss the specifics of Fawcett’s case.

“Out of respect for the privacy of my constituents, I do not comment on individual cases that are brought forward to me,” he said. “As the Member of Parliament for Scarborough Southwest I always strive to make myself available to constituents to assist them with their concerns.”

Fawcett said her desire to run is rooted more broadly in dissatisfaction with the Liberal government’s treatment of veterans and military programs. Fawcett questions the fiscal sustainability of some of the Trudeau government’s spending decisions and said she suspects those in uniform will be among the first to suffer in the event of budget cuts.

Her candidacy is a little ironic in light of the fact the Liberals rode to power in 2015 partly on the dissatisfaction of veterans who saw themselves being run over by the former Conservative government in its drive to balance the budget.

Fawcett acknowledged the political grievances of the past but said the Conservative Party has learned from them and is moving forward.

“It doesn’t matter who, or what party, is in charge of veterans. I want to see that the department does right by veterans,” she said.

Fawcett took her fight to Federal Court after her internal grievances were denied. Shortly after the accident, she was told that she qualified for disability benefits, but the decision was overturned and upheld all the way up to the chief of the defence staff.

“My grievance started because I asked for an explanation. And to do this day, I still do not have an explanation,” she said.

“We hoped, at the end of the day, our chain of command was supportive. It was a difficult pill to swallow that they didn’t and that [the decision] was very arbitrary.”

It’s that sort of inconsistent treatment that Fawcett said she wants to fight from inside the government.

She’s currently weighing whether to fight the Federal Court decision all the way to the Supreme Court. She’s also considering a further appeal of her denial of benefits to the federal Veterans Review and Appeal Board.

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