Atomic-testing veterans to receive $24,000 each in compensation: feds
Canadian soldiers who took part in nuclear weapons testing will be compensated, Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced Tuesday in Calgary.
MacKay said the soldiers will each be paid $24,000, and the money will also be available to estates and families of dead veterans.
MacKay said about 900 people were involved in the tests.
"The participants have received no recognition for their dangerous assignments in the service of Canada," MacKay said.
Alberta resident Jim Huntley, a spokesman for the Canadian Atomic Veterans Association, said the group wasn't notified about the announcement. The compensation package is insufficient, he said.
"It's not enough. I'm not saying not enough for me. It's not enough for these widows. We've had people that have died 30 years ago from cancer."
Atomic veterans have been fighting for decades for compensation and recognition of their duty.
Lawsuit alleges government knew about risks
Earlier this year, the soldiers launched a class-action lawsuit against the federal government seeking compensation for illnesses they say they suffered as a result of radiation exposure during the tests.
The suit alleged the government knew about the health risks, but never told soldiers.
In 1988, the U.S. government awarded a lump-sum payment of $75,000 to soldiers who came down with one or more ailments on a list, mostly cancers. Some 62,000 veterans and widows were eligible for the money.
A lawyer for the Canadian veterans had said they deserved at least as much compensation as U.S. troops received, which, with inflation, comes to $150,000.
Meanwhile, MacKay said the timing of the announcement had nothing to do with an election call, which is expected later this week.
"We simply felt that now was the time to deliver on this [financial] commitment … but more importantly, a public acknowledgement of the tremendous contribution that atomic veterans made to the security of our country, made with really little choice," MacKay said. "They were given an order which they obeyed valiantly."