Court extends deadline to apply for compensation over tainted water at CFB Valcartier

Current and former soldiers and their families who drank contaminated water from CFB Valcartier are getting more time to apply for compensation as part of a class-action lawsuit.

Temporary extension granted while court make final decision on whether to give claimants even more time

Canadian Forces Cpl. Gaetan Martin, right, says goodbye to his wife, soldier Chantal Roy (in beige) of the Royal 22nd Regiment before she leaves for a mission to Afghanistan Thursday, December 9, 2010 at CFB Valcartier. One of their two daughters joins them
A Canadian Forces member says goodbye to his wife before she leaves for a mission to Afghanistan on Dec. 9, 2010 at CFB Valcartier. Those who drank contaminated water at the military base have received more time to apply for compensation after a judge issued a temporary extension Thursday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot)

Current and former soldiers and their families who drank contaminated water from CFB Valcartier have received more time to apply for compensation.

On Thursday evening, a judge issued a temporary extension while he made his final decision on whether to give claimants even more time.

Before Justice Bernard Godbout made the decision, he said on Wednesday he is prepared to grant a brief extension to Sunday's looming deadline for claimants taking part in a class-action lawsuit. They may receive even more time if the judge sides with the class-action lawyers, who are asking for a deadline extension of six months.

Godbout is deliberating their request.

For decades, a cancer-causing industrial degreasing agent called trichloroethylene, or TCE, was used at Valcartier's research facility and a nearby ammunition factory. It leached into the water table. The Quebec Court of Appeal concluded the chemical was used over an "indeterminate period" from the 1950s to the 1990s.

In 2020, the Quebec Court of Appeal awarded millions of dollars in compensation to some residents of Shannon, Que., a town close to CFB Valcartier. Only military members and their families living in married quarters in the community during that time are eligible.

Those eligible had until Sunday to submit a compensation claim through an online portal. 

Former military member Ed Sweeney and federal Conservative, NDP and Green MPs have been calling on the federal government to agree to a six-month deadline extension.

WATCH | Veteran says his family was exposed to tainted water on a military base: 

Veteran calls on Ottawa to contact people who drank tainted military base water

3 months ago
Duration 2:16
A Canadian veteran is calling on the Department of National Defence to make more of an effort to contact people entitled to compensation after drinking tainted water on a Quebec military base.

During Wednesday's hearing, the lawyer for the Government of Canada, Michelle Kellam, opposed the extension, arguing there has been sufficient publicity of the case and claimants have had enough time to apply.

But class-action lawyer Simon Pelletier argued that thousands of potential claimants are only now learning they're eligible for thousands of dollars in compensation. Pelletier also said he and his team are willing to bear any extra administrative costs to ensure those affected receive justice.

In December 2000, tests by a local public health authority found TCE in many wells in Shannon. Residents were told to stop drinking the water. An environmental group has mapped several locations where the chemical was found.

The appeal court concluded the Canadian government violated area residents' right to security under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"The accumulation of red flags … the knowing pursuit of an unacceptable polluting practice over a long period and the indifference of the responsible authorities to the consequences of such a practice on the population concerned leads to the conclusion that there was an unlawful and intentional interference with the right to security of the person," reads an English summary of the Quebec Court of Appeal decision.


David Thurton

Senior reporter, Parliamentary Correspondent

David Thurton is a senior reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He covers daily politics in the nation’s capital and specializes in environment and energy policy. Born in Canada but raised in Trinidad and Tobago, he’s moved around more times than he can count. He’s worked for CBC in several provinces and territories, including Alberta and the Northwest Territories.


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