Montreal

Bloc wants former residents alerted to tainted-water risks

The Bloc Quebecois will table a private member's bill calling on the federal government to track down all those who may have been exposed to contaminated water from the Valcartier military base in Quebec.

The Bloc Quebecois will table a private member's bill calling on the federal government to track down all those who may have been exposed to contaminated water from the Valcartier military base in Quebec.

Researchers in February found a link between cancer rates in the town of Shannon, Que., and exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE), a chemical that was dumped into the community's lagoons decades ago.

TCE is a powerful chemical degreaser once used in abundance at the neighbouring Valcartier military base.

Bloc MP Christiane Gagnon told CBC News on Monday she plans to introduce a private members bill in the next few weeks aimed at warning anyone who may have lived or worked on and around the base between 1940 and 2002. She did not provide more specifics.

Gagnon says only the federal government has the means and the expertise to carry out such a massive project.

"When you are military [personnel], then you move all the time, and then many people could be involved in that contamination, so I think they should do that," she said.

Lawsuit in the works

The federal government has not made the link between the chemical and the cases of cancer. However, in 2000, government officials told people to stop drinking from their taps. Last month, the federal government announced it would spend $13.3 million to build a new sewer system in Shannon.

More than 700 citizens who used to or currently reside in Shannon have filed a class action lawsuit against the government. They allege that the government knew about TCE contamination at Valcartier for years before 2000.

An investigation by the Radio-Canada program Enquête revealed documents showing the federal government knew of the problem with TCE for more than 30 years.

The suit is expected to go before the courts by the fall.

Gagnon tabled a motion similar to her proposed bill in the House of Commons last week. It was not carried, but she hopes the private member's bill will draw more attention to the case.

She acknowledged it may be hard to drum up support for the bill, but is hopeful the opposition Liberals will get behind it.

"They have changed, they have a new leader," she said.  "I think since we saw the report on CBC and Radio-Canada about that case, I think people are more concerned about what's happening in Shannon."