NDP veterans affairs critic Peter Stoffer is encouraging all military personnel and civilians affected by defoliant spraying at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown to file a claim with Veterans Affairs Canada in light of veteran Basil McAllister's recent court victory.
Last week, the federal Veterans Review and Appeal Board awarded McAllister disability compensation in relation to his exposure to Agent Orange and other chemical defoliants used at the base in Oromocto, N.B., in the 1960s. The decision came after a Federal Court of Canada order in October that the board rehear McAllister's case.
McAllister, 83, of Burton, says he has prostate cancer, which has spread to his bones. He has also had skin cancer and kidney failure and has Type 2 diabetes.
“The biggest fight that I’ve had is with my own government," McAllister said Tuesday.
“I’m very disappointed that we as veterans who have volunteered to give our life for our country have to do this to get proper compensation.”
"Basil fought for almost 10 years to obtain compensation and assistance from Veterans Affairs Canada," Stoffer said during a news conference at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 6 in Moncton on Tuesday.
"He was repeatedly denied assistance but did not give up. I am proud of Basil's win on this issue," he said.
Stoffer noted the federal Conservatives failed to follow through on a 2006 campaign promise to call for a full inquiry into Agent Orange and defoliant spraying at Base Gagetown, now known as the 5th Canadian Division Support Base (5 CDSB) Gagetown.
Based on McAllister's win, all affected Canadians should file claims, he said.
"There is no excuse for this federal government to deny them their rightful compensation."
Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide, was sprayed at CFB Gagetown in 1966 and 1967 by the U.S.-military, with permission from Canada.
It's now known that exposure can lead to skin disorders, liver problems and certain types of cancers.
The Canadian government set aside almost $100 million in 2007 for Canadians harmed by defoliants at the base.
In 2011, the federal government also reversed a decision to reject compensation for dozens of soldiers and their families exposed to the defoliant who later became ill. The move came after a number of the families went public with their bureaucratic battles and the Veterans Ombudsman publicly rebuked the government for its handling of the file.
An earlier version of this story stated the Federal Court order Veterans Affairs Canada to grant Mr. McAllister a pension. The decision to grant him benefits was made last week by the Veterans Review and Appeal Board following a Federal Court order in October 2014 to rehear McAllister's case.Dec 17, 2014 12:04 PM AT