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Agent Orange compensation: victim claims payout 'not human'

Compensation has started flowing to some Ontario government workers who were exposed to the chemical 2,4,5-T, an ingredient in Agent Orange, but the compensation packages being offered for exposure are not what some had hoped.

Provincial workers exposed to the chemical along highways, railways and hydro lines

One of the chemicals used to make up the infamous Agent Orange (2,4,5-T) was used decades ago to clear brush along highways, railways and hydro lines in Ontario . (Archives of Ontario)
Daniel Crawford sprayed and mixed 2,4,5-T, an ingredient in Agent Orange, as a part of his job with Ontario Hydro. He qualified for compensation through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. He spoke with the CBC's Kate Rutherford about his settlement. 6:58

Compensation has started flowing to some Ontario government workers who were exposed to the chemical 2,4,5-T, an ingredient in Agent Orange, but the compensation packages being offered for exposure are not what some had hoped.

The chemical was used decades ago to clear brush along provincial highways, railways and hydro lines.

In 2013, the province apologized and directed people to make claims with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

Ronald Deshane of Renfrew handled the chemical while working for the Ministry of Transportation.

He has had a number of health problems since retiring, including prostate and skin cancer.

Deshane said WSIB did not dispute that he was exposed to the chemical, but it didn't offer much by way of compensation.

"After 50 years of neglect, my entitlement would be somewhere around $1,500," he said.

Deshane said he has refused the settlement, and is considering appeal options.

"To go to the extent that they have to make this a very small problem is something that is not human," he said.

Ron Deshane has been treated for skin cancer which he believes is linked to his exposure to 2,4,5-T during his time as a Ministry of Transportation employee. (Supplied)

Daniel Crawford of Sudbury has also received his settlement from WSIB. Crawford spent 40 years working for Ontario Hydro and part of his job was to mix and spray 2,4,5-T.

"I really hadn't expected anything except for the companies and the chemical people who produced the product to admit that they made a mistake, and no one did that," he said. 

Since retiring, Crawford has been treated for prostate cancer — and that treatment also led to heart problems. He received a settlement of $1,577 from WSIB.

"I really don't understand how you put value on that kind of thing," Crawford said.

'It's a real insult'

The head of the Agent Orange Association of Canada said the settlements are well below what people received in Gagetown, New Brunswick, after Agent Orange was sprayed at the military base in the 1960s.

In 2007, the federal government set aside almost $100 million to compensate victims.

"[It] certainly does not justify what happened to them and for the medical expenses, loss of employment, possible standard of living," Carol Brown Parker said.

"Two-thousand? Pardon me, but it's a joke. It's a real insult to them."

These barrels in New Brunswick are thought to have once contained the chemical defoliant Agent Orange. (CBC)

The WSIB said the adjudication process for 2,4,5-T claims is complex because of the time that has passed. 

It added it is based on expert scientific and medical evidence regarding a worker's illness and its relation to the workplace exposure.

"Each claim has a set of factors and characteristics unique to each worker and is, therefore, adjudicated on a case-by-case basis, using all available information.  Our approach ensures that every case is considered thoroughly and fairly on its own merits," a spokesperson for WSIB said in a statement.

The agency said it has received nearly 500 claims of exposure to the chemical.

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