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Tories 'exploring all avenues' to strip killer colonel of his pension

Colonel Russell Williams, shown in July of 2009 as commander of CFB Trenton, faces two concurrent life sentences for first-degree murder.

MCpl Trainor/Master Corporal Tom Trainor/DND

Former colonel Russell Williams, sentenced Thursday to two concurrent life terms for the first-degree murders of two young women, may yet be stripped of his $60,000-a year-military pension.

A senior government official told The Globe and Mail Thursday that "we are exploring all avenues of removing taxpayer-funded compensation."

This, after Prime Minister Stephen Harper told journalists at an earlier event in St. John's that Defence Minister Peter MacKay "has made clear the Forces will undertake all necessary actions to ensure that all sanctions possible and all benefits possible that can be withdrawn will be withdrawn from the former commander."

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The military has said repeatedly it can kick Mr. Williams out of the forces, strip away his medals and claw back his salary since his arrest in February - but by law it cannot revoke his pension.

So far the government has been reluctant to say what it could do regarding the former officer's legislated benefits.

Last week during a visit to Woodbridge, Ont., the Prime Minister said the government must "distinguish payments from contractual obligations" it may have, according to a CBC report. When contacted by the CBC after Mr. Harper spoke, the Prime Minister's Office clarified that military pensions are among the government's contractual obligations.

The senior Harper official said Thursday - after Mr. Williams was sentenced - that "pensions are legislated so there is limited ability to deny benefits." But the official noted they are examining ways of "diverting" his pension to the victims' families and his wife. In fact, if Mr. Williams and his wife divorce, she is entitled to receive a least half of his pension.

In St. John's, the Prime Minister gave his condolences to the families of the murdered women, Jessica Lloyd and Corporal Marie-France Comeau. He also characterized the Canadian Forces as being another victim of the tragedy.

"First of all, our thoughts, our prayers, our hearts obviously go out to the victims and to their families," Mr. Harper said. "This is just a horrific series of events. Also our thoughts go out to all members of the Canadian Forces who knew the commander and who have been very badly wounded and betrayed by all of this. Obviously this in no way reflects upon the forces."

"... This is a terrible and unique case, obviously, before the courts and I'm not sure that I would suggest anything that draws any further lessons or that in any way damages the reputation of the Canadian Forces."

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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