Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence

November 22, 2006 16:35 ET

Canada's New Government Announces Changes to the Chemical Warfare Agent Testing Recognition Program

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 22, 2006) - The Honourable Gordon O'Connor, Minister of National Defence, today announced that Canada's New Government is expanding the Chemical Warfare Agent Testing Recognition Program to include Canadian military veterans who volunteered to participate in chemical-warfare experiments while serving abroad.

These changes mean that approximately 200 Canadian veterans, including soldiers from Newfoundland serving with the British Army during the Second World War, will now be eligible for a $24,000 ex-gratia payment. The total cost of this expansion is estimated at $5 million.

"Canada's New Government is committed to ensuring that no deserving veterans are denied the recognition due to them," said Minister O'Connor. "I am pleased that we are extending this program to include veterans who participated in chemical testing outside of Canada."

The Chemical Warfare Agent Testing Recognition Program, previously mandated to award ex-gratia payments to veterans who volunteered to take part in chemical warfare agent testing in Suffield, Alberta and Ottawa, will now accept applications from veterans who participated in tests at Allied Forces' test establishments like the Chemical Defence Experimental Station in England.

The Chemical Warfare Agent Testing Recognition Program recognizes the exceptional service of veterans who took part in chemical warfare agent testing during and after the Second World War. Veterans who feel they are eligible for this package are encouraged to contact National Defence toll-free at 1-800-883-6094 by February 28, 2007.

Note to Editors: For more information on the Chemical Warfare Agent Testing Recognition Program visit: http://www.forces.gc.ca/hr/cwatrp-pregc.

BACKGROUNDER

CHEMICAL WARFARE AGENT TESTING RECOGNITION PROGRAM

THE PROGRAM

Setting things right

In February 2004, the Ministers of National Defence and Veterans Affairs announced a recognition program to offer payments to Canadian veterans who volunteered to participate in chemical-warfare experiments, mainly in the Second World War era, in Suffield, Alberta, and Ottawa. Each eligible veteran was offered a one-time, tax-free payment of $24,000 in recognition of his or her service to Canada. The amount is comparable to previous payments to Canadian veterans. This payment is in addition to pension benefits to which these veterans may be eligible.

In November, the Minister of National Defence announced that the Chemical Warfare Agent Testing Recognition Program would be expanded to include Canadian military veterans who volunteered to participate in chemical-warfare agent experiments at Allied Forces' test establishments such as those that took place during the Second World War at the Chemical Defence Experimental Station at Porton, Wiltshire, United Kingdom.

Recognition

At least as important as the monetary aspect, however, is that these veterans are being recognized for their sacrifice and service. A certificate of appreciation is given to all veterans who served as test subjects at Suffield and Ottawa and they will also be presented to Canadian veterans who served as chemical warfare agent test subjects at Allied Forces' test facilities.

Eligibility

Payment under this program is available to any veteran who:

- was a member of the Canadian military;

- volunteered and participated as a human test subject in chemical warfare agent experiments at:

o Suffield, Alberta, from 1941 to the mid-1970s (although most of the testing took place in the Second World War era);

o Chemical Warfare Laboratories, Ottawa, 1941-45; or

o Allied Forces' test establishments such as the Chemical Defence Experimental Station, Porton, Wiltshire, United Kingdom.

In cases where the eligible veteran is deceased, the executor of an estate that is still open - or the primary beneficiary of the veteran's will where the estate is fully dispersed - may submit an application. In those cases where an eligible veteran died without a valid will, the last unremunerated adult person(s) ordinarily residing with the veteran at the time of the veteran's death may also apply.

Administration & application

A program office was established at DND to expedite payments for the chemical warfare test volunteers, and to refer those eligible to Veterans Affairs Canada for pension follow-up. The office received over 3000 applications before closing to applications on March 31, 2006. However, in light of the recent expansion of the program, the office will receive new applications from, or on behalf of, eligible veterans until February 28, 2007. The application process is straightforward, open, and veteran-centred. Eligible veterans are encouraged to begin the application process by calling toll-free 1-800-883-6094 (Monday to Friday 8 am to 4 pm EST) or e-mailing recognition-2006@forces.gc.ca. From there, the veteran will be sent an application form, which, once returned, will allow DND to check the applicant's information against his or her personnel file and research data to determine eligibility.

Pension benefits continue

Until this program was announced in 2004, chemical warfare-experiment participants who were injured-like any Canadian veteran injured in service-were eligible for disability pension benefits through Veterans Affairs Canada. That is still true, and veterans may apply for, or continue to receive, disability pension benefits in addition to any payment under this recognition program.

Program cost

The recognition program to date has cost approximately $28 million in total, for both payments and administration. This is a significant sum, but fiscal concerns must be weighed against the need to acknowledge exceptional service rendered by Canada's veterans.


THE HISTORY

Canada's Role

It is estimated that approximately 3700 members of the Canadian military volunteered to participate as human subjects in secret chemical warfare agent experiments, held in Suffield, Alberta (from 1941 to the mid-1970s, but mainly in the Second World War era) and at Ottawa (1941-45).

In 2005, the United Kingdom, at the request of the Department of National Defence, reviewed their historical records and provided a list of some 200 Canadians and Newfoundlanders who had participated in their volunteer chemical-agent testing program between 1940 and 1945.

The experimentation was driven by wartime urgency and the need to build defensive capability to weapons that had been used with terrible results in the First World War, which was at that time still a recent and painful memory.

Getting it out in the open

Knowledge of the experiments was no longer secret after the early 1970s, and the use of human volunteers as test subjects in Canada has been known since the late 1980s. In addition to Government disclosure on the subject, the story of the chemical test veterans has been the subject of at least one book, a documentary film, and numerous items in newspapers and on television and radio over the past many years.

Some veterans who participated in chemical warfare experiments have commented that they felt constrained in coming forward to seek benefits due to secrecy conditions at the time of the tests. Veterans who may have been involved in chemical warfare experiments should feel reassured: secrecy conditions no longer apply for purposes of talking to government representatives for seeking benefits.

Research efforts

The Department of National Defence has already begun to research the new list of names provided by the United Kingdom to confirm that they in fact served at Porton as test subjects. This information has been shared with Veterans Affairs Canada and they will be contacting their eligible clients (or their survivors if they are deceased) to advise them of the expansion of the Chemical Warfare Agent Testing Recognition Program.

Contact Information