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Between 1956-1984, the Canadian military sprayed 1,328,767 litres of chemical defoliants on 181,038 acres (an acre is slightly smaller than a football field) of Base Gagetown, including Agent Orange, Agent White and Agent Purple, according to a 1985 declassified briefing to the New Brunswick provincial government obtained by The Dominion through Canada's Access to Information Act.
Years ago, in an act of compassionate politics, American legislators wisely concluded that ailing Vietnam vets could never conclusively prove a causal link between Agent Orange and an illnesses appearing decades later.
Instead, compensation was paid to more than 10,000 U.S. vets on the assumption that anyone who served in Vietnam was exposed to Agent Orange, and anyone suffering from diseases associated with the chemical had indeed been poisoned by it.
The Agent Orange class action lawsuit settlement only allowed payment to the members able to demonstrate “total disability” for each year between 1971-1995. By 1994, just 50,000 members of the 2.4 million exposed received money from the $180 million fund. Funds depleted, the Vietnam veterans unaware of the Agent Orange class action lawsuit settlement, as well as those people that had not yet developed Agent Orange related illnesses received nothing.
Even though the Vietnam War ended decades ago, the illnesses associated to Agent Orange can take 20-30 years to develop.
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced in 2003 that the link to chronic lymphocytic leukemia to Agent Orange exposed Vietnam veterans is so strong that benefits would automatically be given to any new diagnoses of it. There are as many as 1,000 new patients for chronic lymphocytic leukemia alone expected amongst Vietnam veterans. Recently, the April 2003 study performed by Columbia University that sought to re-examine military records of the Vietnam War found that about 21 million gallons of herbicides were sprayed from 1961-1971, adding up to 1.84 million gallons.
The latest report on the use of Agent Orange and other herbicides at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick says there is almost no risk to human health from the contentious spray programs.
Cantox Environmental of Ontario, the company hired by the federal government to look into the Agent Orange controversy, said Thursday the vast majority of people who live and work near the sprawling base don't have to worry about long-term health effects from active ingredients in the herbicide sprays.
The company said potential, long-term health risks were identified only for individuals directly involved with applying some of the defoliants, or clearing treated brush soon after applications.
"The science right now is basically telling us there is a negligible risk, somewhat augmented for those who handled it, managed it and manipulated it in a direct way - but still minimal, if not immeasurable," said Dr. Dennis Furlong, head of Ottawa's fact-finding mission on the Gagetown spray programs.
We protect client interests while helping our clients achieve milestones and bring products to market. Our clients benefit from successful outcomes, reduced time to market, and decreased costs. That is why so many clients return to Cantox when they have new challenges to overcome.
The Manitoba Court of Appeal has ruled the case can proceed in Manitoba, even though the defoliants were sprayed at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick.
The court rejected an appeal by the federal government, saying many of those affected now live in different provinces, including Manitoba.
Veterans and civilians who lived on or near Gagetown are suing the government, claiming they were wrongly exposed to toxic spraying in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
The government has offered to compensate only people who were exposed to Agent Orange in 1966 and 1967.
Veterans Affairs met its goal of getting the first payments out by mid-October, a month after Thompson and Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced the compensation package at a news conference in Fredericton.
Thompson said he emphasized that Veterans Affairs will help people apply for the money "even if it means we have to drive to their home.
"We want them to know we're accessible."
My gut tells me that $20,000 is a modest figure," said Maj.-Gen. Lewis Mackenzie.
Edmontonian Anthony Ferguson spent six months as a peacekeeper in Vietnam and was exposed to high levels of Agent Orange.
The Canadian government recently compensated him with $38,000 for diabetes and 5% of his pension - or about $140 per month - for prostate cancer, conditions he developed as a result of his exposure to the toxic defoliant.
When surveyed by the Department, mental health services in places such as CFB Petawawa and CFB Gagetown—bases with large numbers of members returning from deployment in Afghanistan—said they were unable to extend member care to include family support because of resource shortages.
National Defence cannot assure that its military medical practitioners are all licensed, certified, or trained
The new Canadian Forces Health Information System is still under development
While we recognize that military members are satisfied with their health care, National Defence was unable to demonstrate how it assured itself that it was providing its members with quality medical care. Because of a lack of information from which to monitor the delivery of health care, the Department was unable to provide assurance that it was meeting standards and expectations of practice that are indicators of quality health care.