Thalidomide Victims Seek More Details on Government's Proposal

Victims group will meet with Minister Ambrose to ask questions, seek clarification, and ensure any final agreement is adequate to support the lifelong needs of Canada's 95 survivors of thalidomide

MONTREAL, March 9, 2015 The Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada (TVAC) will respond directly to the federal Health Minister, Rona Ambrose, and officials at Health Canada concerning the Government of Canada's proposal to Canada's victims of the drug Thalidomide. The drug was prescribed as a morning sickness drug for pregnant women in the early 1960s. Despite warnings from other jurisdictions such as the United States, Canada approved the drug for use. After receiving evidence that thalidomide was causing miscarriages and severe birth defects in Germany and the United Kingdom, Health Canada's predecessor agency waited three months before withdrawing its approval of the drug. As a result, many children were born with flipper-like hands, stunted legs, deafness and internal-organ damage. Of those, 95 remain and live with the daily challenges of severe joint and muscle pain. Many are unable to work and live under the care of elderly parents.

"The government has responded to the victims of Thalidomide with a proposal of its own making," said Mercedes Benegbi, head of the task force representing the victims. "Unfortunately, that proposal is very short on detail. Without these details, it is impossible for us to determine whether or not its proposal will be adequate in meeting the often overwhelming needs of Canada's 95 remaining victims." 

The first priority of the victim's group is to gain a better understanding of the government's proposal. Therefore, they have requested an immediate meeting with the Minister and Health Canada officials.

Benegbi said, "We want that meeting to happen as soon as possible. There, we will ask questions and seek clarification, so that we can compare the government's proposal to the one that we submitted in September of last year."

Members of the task force supporting the victims are prepared to sit down with government officials in Ottawa for as long as it takes to reach an agreement. 

Benegbi said, "Many of our members have concerns about the government's proposal. We will be addressing these concerns during our meetings with the Minister. Our goal is to finalize an agreement with the government that reflects the disability-based solution of our original proposal and the standards of care set by other jurisdictions worldwide."

That original proposal was similar to those agreed upon by other governments such as the United Kingdom and Germany. It was the basis of the unanimous vote of support from the members of Parliament on December 1st of last year.

Benegbi said. "We are pleased that the government has responded to us. We wish to thank Minister Ambrose and her officials for their attention to the critically important issue of addressing the wrongs imposed on the victims of thalidomide in Canada. After 25 years of silence from the Government of Canada, we now have the beginning of a positive dialogue."

"The Canadian public has been quick to voice their opinions on the government's proposal," said Benegbi, "We are grateful for their fervent support."

Canadians can voice their support for the victims of thalidomide by visiting www.rightthewrong.ca, or on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

SOURCE Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada

For further information: Erick Bauer, The Bauer Group, erick@thebauergroup.ca, 416-587-4185

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Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada

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