Author Topic: Agent Orange fund must be reopened - NDP  (Read 1461 times)

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Agent Orange fund must be reopened - NDP
« on: March 23, 2012, 08:04:34 PM »
Agent Orange fund must be reopened - NDP

Published Tuesday December 20th, 2011
Compensation | Former Gagetown resident diagnosed with lung cancer two months after compensation deadline

The plight of a former New Brunswicker denied compensation through an Agent Orange illness fund should prompt change, says a member of the federal Opposition.

Debbie Bertrand, 57, believes her lung cancer was caused by Agent Orange spraying at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in the 1960s. She said Ottawa has denied her compensation because she was diagnosed months after a deadline.

Debbie Bertrand is a 57-year-old Winnipeg resident dying from lung cancer. She lived in Oromocto from the time she was five until she graduated from high school. Bertrand believes her illness was caused by Agent Orange spraying at nearby Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in the 1960s. She saids Ottawa has denied her request for compensation because she was diagnosed months after a June 30 deadline for applying for compensation.

An NDP member of Parliament says situations such as Bertrand's illustrate the error of putting a deadline on a program involving people whose health problems have yet to come to light.

"She's not an isolated case and there will be many more down the road," said Peter Stoffer, the MP for Sackville - Eastern Shore.

"(Veterans Affairs) has a 'benefit-of-the-doubt program' and they should apply the benefit of the doubt in these cases."

Bertrand was diagnosed with lung cancer on Aug. 11 of this year, weeks after the June 30 deadline for a $20,000 ex-gratia payment from the federal government. She said she believes the government should have contacted every resident and told them to get medical tests.

"It shouldn't be up to us hunt them down. They should have been hunting us down, making sure we got doctors' (appointments) and get tested for these things."It's kind of sad that they gave a cut-off date. I'm only 57. How many of the other kids who grew up there are sick?"

Bertrand was raised in a military family and is among the thousands who lived in the area when the United States military tested Agent Orange at the base. The base also used a range of powerful defoliants to clear brush in the 1950s until the 1980s, when the most toxic substances were banned.

In 2007, the federal government made the $20,000 ex-gratia payments available to people whose health may have been harmed by spraying Agent Orange at CFB Gagetown.

The $95.6-million package was for veterans and civilians affected by the U.S. military's spraying of the lethal herbicide during the 1960s. Recipients had to have worked on base or lived within five kilometres of the base. They also had to have an illness associated with exposure to Agent Orange, as determined by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine.

Bertrand said she began feeling ill earlier this year, before the deadline. At the time, she chalked it up to work stress.

A Service Canada employee, she said she was especially busy ahead of the Canada Post strike as Employment Insurance payments were being rushed through. She finally decided to seek medical attention in August, when she became too weak to take the garbage out.

She said she was diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer. According to, in stage 4, the cancer has spread into both lungs or more distant parts of the body. About 40 per cent of all patients with non-small-cell lung cancer are diagnosed at this stage.

"It's not so much the money. The money would have been nice to put my affairs in order, but it's more that the government has a responsibility to each individual person and not to put a date on it," Bertrand said.

"We should have all been notified. How many people who lived there really know nothing about it? They lived there, they've been sick or their parents have been sick and they don't know," said Bertrand.

Carol Brown Parker of the Agent Orange Association of Canada said Bertrand's case shows the federal government hasn't done due diligence to properly notify people who lived and qualified in CFB Gagetown and surrounding areas.

No comment was available from the Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday.

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