People harmed by Agent Orange at Gagetown offered $20K
The federal government announced on Wednesday a $96-million compensation packagefor people exposed to chemical defoliants such as Agent Orange on a military base in New Brunswick.
ACBC investigative report two years ago first revealed the extent of the spraying at CFB Gagetown that started in the 1950s to clear dense brush.
Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson said aone-time, lump sum payment of $20,000 each willbepaidto those who qualify for compensation from health problems they say arecausedby the defoliants.
The U.S. military tested Agent Orange, Agent Purple and several other powerful defoliants on a small section of the base over seven days in 1966 and 1967.
The government's offer includes tight restrictions, with payments onlyavailable toveterans and civilians who worked on or lived within five kilometres of the base between 1966 and 1967, and only those who have illnesses associated with Agent Orange exposure.
The illnessesinclude Hodgkin's disease, lymphoma, respiratory cancers, prostate cancer and type 2 diabetes, as determined by the U.S. Institute of Medicine.
It is anticipated roughly 4,500 people will be eligible for the payment.
Government package'totally inadequate'
The announcement comes as a blow to those pushing for a wider settlement to reflect the time frame in which various herbicides weresprayedover the area.
Ken Dobbie, president of the Agent Orange Association of Canada,whichhas been leading calls forveterans and residents to be compensated,called the package "totally inadequate," and saidthe government is wrong topay only those who were exposed to Agent Orange over the two-year period.
"We have people in our association … who spend more than that in a year for prescription medications," Dobbie told CBC News in an interview Wednesday from his Kingston, Ont., home.
Wayne Cardinal, who served at the base for many years while herbicide spraying took place, told CBC News onWednesday that he was glad to see more than 4,000 veterans eligible for compensation, even though he's not one of them.
Cardinal suffers from a number ofhealth problemsrequiring him to take numerous medications, butdoes not have any of theillnesseslisted by the U.S.institute.
"I didn't get in this for me," he said."I got in this for so many of my comrades that I've seen dying off."
More than 1,700 people are part of a class-action lawsuit against the government and the chemical manufacturers.
With files from the Canadian Press