Thalidomide survivors celebrate federal announcement

Thalidomide survivors, including Calgarian Marie Olney, are happy with the latest federal announcement promising yearly support payments.

Association had given a Monday deadline for details on yearly payments

Thalidomide victim Marie Olney says preparing meals is difficult and other tasks, such as shovelling the walk, are impossible. (CBC)

After decades of waiting, Canadian victims of thalidomide are celebrating a recent announcement by the federal government. 

On Friday, the health minister announced yearly payments for those suffering from the effects of the drug — prescribed to pregnant mothers in the  '60s —  in amounts of $25,000, $75,000 and $100,000. The drug caused serious birth defects.

For Calgarian Marie Olney, who was born with extremely short arms, it means she can breath a little bit easier. 

"I'm very pleased," she said. "I think I can do some planning now. I can manage a lot safer than I have been managing and take care of some needs that I've been putting off."

Delays

The federal government announced one-time lump sum payments in March but withheld information about annual pensions. The Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada — frustrated by a lack of details — gave Ottawa until Monday to come up with a plan.

Association president Mercedes Benegbi is thrilled with the last-minute announcement, saying more than 70 per cent of survivors will receive at least $75,000 per year.

"We believe that this funding will make a profound difference in the lives of survivors and provide them with meaningful support for the rest of their lives," she said.

The federal government says there will be a mandatory review every five years to ensure the needs of more than 90 Canadian survivors continue to be met.

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