The federal government has agreed to offer a one-time ex gratia payment of $20,000 to those who suffered as a result of testing with Agent Orange and other chemicals at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in the 1960s.
The announcement was made Sept. 12 in Fredericton by newly appointed Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Veterans Affairs Minister Gregory Thompson.
The tax-free payment is available for only those individuals who have been diagnosed with a condition associated with Agent Orange based on findings of the United States National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine. Those eligible must have worked or trained at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick or lived in a community any part of which was within five kilometres of the base when Agent Orange was tested in 1966 and 1967.
The government has also set a deadline of April 1, 2009, for applications.
“Canada’s new government regrets that so many years passed with this issue not being addressed, and that so many Canadians waited and worried while their questions went unanswered,” said Thompson. He called the plan fair and compassionate to the thousands of Canadians affected, “We believe this plan is responsible, transparent, and will help to bring closure to this long-standing issue.”
To qualify an individual must have been in the process of being diagnosed with an associated disease between June 1, 1966, and Feb. 6, 2006. The associated conditions are chronic lymphocytic leukemia, soft-tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, chloracne, respiratory cancer, prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, early onset transient peripheral neuropathy, porphyria cutanea tard, type-2 diabetes or spina bifida.
The individual must be diagnosed with anyone or more of those medical conditions no later than April 1, 2009.
The individual, or in some cases, a biological parent of the individual, must have at any time between June and September 1966 or 1967 worked or lived at CFB Gagetown, been posted to or trained at CFB Gagetown or resided in a community within five kilometres of the perimeter of the base.
The package is worth $96 million. Approximately 4,500 people are expected to be eligible for the package.
The announcement follows reports that rated the dangers from spraying on the base as minimal (Compensation Still Sought Over Herbicide Use, September/ October). More than a million litres of Agents Orange, Purple and White, as well as two million pounds of the dry Agent White were used as defoliants on the base between 1956 and 1984.
More than 1,700 people are part of a class action lawsuit against the government on the use of chemicals on the base. In August the Newfoundland Supreme Court certified the suit to proceed.