- Feb 8, 2007
- Land of Swine and Maple Syrup
It is sad that these Vets have to go to these extremes to get the compensation they deserve. I hope they receive what they need and deserve.
Atomic-testing veterans launch lawsuit against Ottawa
Last Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2008 | 5:48 PM ET
Canadian soldiers who took part in nuclear weapons testing on foreign soil during the Cold War have launched a class-action lawsuit against the federal government, their lawyer said Tuesday.
The veterans want compensation for illnesses they say they suffered as a result of radiation exposure during tests at secret locations in the U.S., Australia and Pacific Ocean between 1946 and 1963.
"They just used them as guinea pigs to determine about how much radiation troops could be expected to receive … when nuclear weapons are used," lawyer Tony Merchant, who is representing the Canadian Atomic Veterans Association, told CBC News.
The suit, filed in the Federal Court in Ottawa, alleges the government knew about the health risks, but never told soldiers.
Merchant says the only warning the soldiers received was about strong winds when the bombs detonated.
"It's just atrocious to think that at any time, not even in war time, we would have been so cavalier about safety," he said.
In 1988, the U.S. government awarded a lump-sum payment of $75,000 to their own 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.
Merchant says the Canadian veterans deserve at least as much compensation as U.S. troops received, which, with inflation, comes out to $150,000.
Payment considered: reports
Last November, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the government intended to compensate the veterans "soon" but gave no timeline. Earlier reports said the amount on offer would be a one-time payment of $24,000, which veterans decried as insufficient.
In a statement to CBC News on Tuesday, the defence minister's office would only say the government is working on a "fair and speedy" resolution.
The government is committed to the care and well-being of Canadian veterans, the statement said.
"We recognize that this is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with the utmost care and patience to ensure that it is handled properly. Our goal is to find an acceptable resolution that honours those who have given so much for this country."
A report commissioned by MacKay's predecessor, Gordon O'Connor, and publicized by the Ottawa Citizen last year, stated that 689 Canadian military personnel were exposed to radiation while taking part in the U.S. and British weapons tests.
The report, written by nuclear expert John Clearwater, did not look at how many veterans became ill after the tests, but questioned the level of protection given to the men, with some living on the testing grounds for months at a time.
The federal government has 30 days to file its statement of defence.