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Mike Duffy taking government to court, seeking close to $8 million

Senator Mike Duffy returns to Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, May 2, 2016.
Senator Mike Duffy returns to Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, May 2, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Sen. Mike Duffy is suing the Senate as well as the Attorney General of Canada for general damages, lost income and benefits, and punitive damages for a total of $7.8 million.

All complaints of damages stem from the expense scandal of which he and two other Conservative-appointed senators were the central figures.

Unlike the other two, however, only Duffy’s expense claims led to charges from the RCMP and a criminal trial.

READ MORE: Duffy to return to Senate after 3-year hiatus

Duffy is suing the government for $6.5 million in general damages, $300,000 in lost income and benefits and $1 million in punitive damages.

The general damages for which Duffy is suing include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of reputation, mental and physical pain and suffering, his lawyer,  Lawrence Greenspon, said Thursday.

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Through a statement of claim filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice today, the senator said he suffered severe anxiety, depression, aggravation of his preexisting heart condition, insomnia, nightmares, exacerbation of his diabetes and headaches.

WATCH: Mike Duffy back in the Senate claiming living expenses

Click to play video: 'Mike Duffy back in the Senate claiming living expenses' Mike Duffy back in the Senate claiming living expenses
Mike Duffy back in the Senate claiming living expenses – Aug 9, 2016

“It was quite something for Mr. Duffy to physically and mentally get through what has been his life for the past four years,” Greenspon told reporters gathered at his Ottawa office Thursday.

The Senate’s interim law clerk Jacqueline Kuehl declined comment on the matter.

“As this is a matter before the courts, we will respect the process and will not be commenting until such a time as is appropriate to do so,” she said in an emailed statement.

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READ MORE: Nigel Wright broke federal rules paying Mike Duffy’s debt, says ethics czar

Duffy is arguing the Senate and some senators acted unconstitutionally when they suspended him without pay in 2013, and that the RCMP mishandled their investigation into the senator’s expense claims.

“Any privilege that the Senate has to discipline is just that – it’s a privilege to discipline,” Greenspon said.

“It is not a privilege to do what they did in this case, which is tantamount to expulsion.”

Duffy was acquitted in April 2016 on all 31 criminal charges the RCMP laid, which related to fraud, breach of trust and bribery.

Duffy’s trial lawyer, Ontario Justice Charles Vaillancourt, instead blasted the conduct of the Prime Minister’s Office under Stephen Harper, calling it “mind-boggling and shocking.”

WATCH: Senator Mike Duffy goes back to work

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Senator Mike Duffy goes back to work – May 2, 2016

Greenspon suggested Duffy was mistreated throughout the Senate hearings on his and his two colleagues’ expenses.

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“What about the presumption of innocence for Mike Duffy?” he asked.

“He was punished, expelled, for what was alleged to be gross negligence, subsequently charged, and those charges weren’t made out.”

Because the trial judge found Duffy not guilty on all charges, Greenspon said, the Senate should have engaged its policy to pay legal fees and repaid the salary, benefits and pension accrual the members of the upper chamber had voted in 2013 to strip away.

READ MORE: In wake of the expense scandal, the Senate is grappling with new scandals

“You have somebody who’s been through the public grinder, and been through the criminal courts, and despite all of that, the Senate refuses to make this man whole,” the lawyer said.

Duffy’s case against the Attorney General of Canada, as liable for the RCMP, is built upon the argument the police force was “negligent in its duty owed to suspects” and they “fell well below the applicable standard of care,” according to the statement of claim.

“The negligent investigation by the RCMP caused Senator Duffy emotional, physical, economic and reputational damage as a direct result of the RCMP’s negligent investigation,” the court filing reads.

WATCH: Duffy’s trial lawyer said in 2016 he was worried about his client’s health

Click to play video: 'Worried about Duffy: Bayne' Worried about Duffy: Bayne
Worried about Duffy: Bayne – Apr 24, 2016

Asked whether he believes the public will side with the senator in all this, Greenspon said he hopes so, considering the courts found he did nothing wrong.

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“I certainly hope that the public has sympathy … for a person who did nothing wrong,” he said. “I would think the public should be sympathetic to somebody who was put through what Mike Duffy was put through at the behest of, for the most part, people who are supposed to be our political representatives.”

As for how the government might react, Greenspon expressed further hope based on the fact the people he sees as being in the wrong were from the former Conservative government.

LISTEN: Lawyer for Mike Duffy, Lawrence Greenspon joins AM640

“The engine behind Mike Duffy’s troubles was another government, another prime minister’s office and a group of senators of another political stripe,” he said.

The public shouldn’t soon expect to learn whether the courts again side with Duffy, Greenspon said, explaining the “very long process” could take anywhere from two to five years.

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“It’s a long haul,” he said.

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