Thalidomide Victims Gravely Concerned by Health Canada’s Silence

Despite unanimous vote of Parliament in December, Health Canada officials refuse to provide any details of their proposed support for the living victims of Canada’s worst-ever drug tragedy.

OTTAWA /CNW/ – The group representing the living victims of Canada’s worst-ever drug tragedy left a two-hour meeting with Health Canada officials in a state of shock and concern. On March 6th, Health Canada announced a $180 million support package for Thalidomide victims. Yet by April 27, more than six weeks after the Health Canada announcement and five months after the unanimous vote of Parliament to fully support the victims, the group representing Canada’s ninety-four Thalidomide survivors feel they are no further ahead than when they began their campaign.

“On Monday, we spent two hours with Health Canada officials,” said Ms. Mercedes Benegbi, head of the task force representing the victims. “They made it clear to us that they cannot answer some of the most fundamental and important questions for survivors. We left the meeting in shock.”

The questions that Health Canada is not prepared to answer include: will the Government implement the 4-level disability plan that Parliament endorsed unanimously on December 1, and, will it meet the annual sums as identified in the victims’ proposal, based on level of disability?

Benegbi said, “The government refuses to answer the most basic questions that will put survivors at ease, despite us providing them with all the information about successfully administered programs in the U.K. and Germany. Something is stonewalling the desperate sense of urgency that our survivors are living with every day.”

Benegbi said, “For example, the government’s March 6th announcement included a lump sum that was half the amount we had asked for, without any explanation.  Based on that experience and the government’s continued refusal to answer our questions, we are very concerned that future amounts will also be cut. The program was not even included in the government’s budget announced last week.”

Benegbi said, “We have been crystal clear: Canada’s Thalidomide survivors desperately need this funding support to live the rest of their lives with a level of dignity.  Parliament was unanimous that it should be “full support,” which is what Thalidomide survivors deserve.  We will not accept a discount.”

Without immediate intervention, the group representing the survivors are worried that the details of the annual program will be deferred until after the federal election on October 19, 2015.

“Some people in the government just cannot seem to understand the urgency of this,” said Benegbi. “We began our campaign twelve months ago with ninety-seven survivors. Today, ninety-four remain.”

SOURCE Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada