Agent Orange compensation push in Maine could help Canadian victims

A group advocating for Canadian victims of Agent Orange is hoping a move by the government of Maine will help to make a difference in this country.

State government seeking federal benefits for troops trained at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick

A group advocating for Canadian victims of Agent Orange is hoping a move by the Maine government will help to make a difference in this country.

The state government is seeking federal recognition for the hazards thousands of its National Guard troops faced while training at New Brunswick's Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, where Agent Orange and other chemical defoliants were used.

These barrels in New Brunswick are thought to have once contained the chemical defoliant Agent Orange. (CBC)
If the U.S. federal government agrees, the veterans will receive benefits they are currently not eligible for.

Although the Canadian government set aside almost $100 million in 2007 for Canadians harmed by defoliants at the base, now known as the 5th Canadian Division Support Base, the head of Agent Orange Canada says it needs to do more.

Carol Brown-Parker wants a public inquiry.

"They poisoned us, everybody," said Brown-Parker, who remembers airplanes and trucks spraying chemical defoliants everywhere while she was growing up at CFBGagetown in Oromocto during the 1950s and '60s.

"I can remember walking to school one day. The day before the grass was green, the next day I walked to school it was crunchy. It was dead."

Brown-Parker, who now lives in Grand Bay-Westfield, also wants doctors across the country to be made aware that hundreds of thousands of veterans or family members could have been exposed to cancer-causing chemicals while living at the base.

Meanwhile, NDP MP Jack Harris, the opposition critic for national defence, is seeking further compensation for people exposed to Agent Orange at Base Gagetown.

Harris put the question to Defence Minister Rob Nicholson on Wednesday during question period in the House of Commons.

"The governor of Maine is working with the U.S. Department of Defence and Veterans Affairs to help Maine National Guard members exposed to Agent Orange at Gagetown get ongoing compensation and health care," he said.

"When will all Agent Orange victims in Canada see this kind of help and full compensation from their government?"

Nicholson told Parliament the government has compensated victims of Agent Orange at Gagetown, adding that the best interests of veterans remain a priority for the government.