Excerpt from comments by Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health) in Parliament on Thursday afternoon, responding to a question from Manon Perreault, Independent MP for Montcalm, on why the government will offer only a $125,000 lump sum compensation to thalidomide victims instead of $250,000.
IN THE HOUSE — Mr. Speaker, the tragic use of thalidomide in the early 1960s had a terrible impact on the mothers, children, and families involved. These Canadians had to endure hardships that no one should have to go through. Indeed, in the House there are many of us who were born in Canada in the 1960s, and it could easily have been any one of us.
I can only admire the courage and determination of the survivors, who have had to overcome such serious injuries to enjoy the basics of life that the rest of us take for granted. That is why I want to start by acknowledging the real changes governments have made to the drug safety system to prevent similar tragedies from occurring again. These events sparked major changes
in Canada’s approach to drug approval and surveillance and triggered a complete overhaul of Canada’s regulatory system for drugs.
I am very proud that our government has continued efforts to strengthen the
regulatory oversight of drug products in Canada. Although many steps had been taken previously to enhance our drug safety system as a result of the
thalidomide events, we all recognized that Health Canada needed better tools to protect patients from drugs that were found to be unsafe once they were on the market. Over the years, we have acted decisively to improve our drug safety system in Canada.
Most recently, Vanessa’s Law received all-party support and royal assent on Nov. 6, 2014. This new legislation provides Health Canada with new tools to identify potential safety risks and with stronger powers to act quickly and effectively when drug problems are identified. The oversight of Canada’s drug regulatory system is continuously evolving, and this is a significant step in helping to prevent such tragedies from ever happening again.
We will continue to strengthen and improve our drug safety system so that a tragedy like this never happens again. In addition to preventing these tragedies going forward, Canadians should know that we remain committed to supporting the survivors of thalidomide and to ensuring that they can live with dignity throughout their lives. This is really the heart of what I know the members opposite would like to hear today.
The Minister of Health is meeting, as we speak, with the Thalidomide Victims Association, as she has done previously, when needed, to discuss their issues. In fact, today’s meeting builds on a call the minister made just last Friday to thank the executive director of the association for her tireless efforts and to inform her of the new financial assistance to be provided by the government.
The financial assistance package includes up to $180 million for the fewer
than 100 survivors, and it will include three elements. There will be an immediate tax-free lump sum payment of $125,000 to each survivor to help
cover urgent needs. There will also be a commitment of up to $168 million
for ongoing assistance for survivors. This financial support will be delivered by a third party throughout their lifetime. Included in this financial commitment will be a medical assistance fund for extraordinary costs.
This significant new financial assistance will be administered as efficiently as possible to ensure that we provide for the needs of every last survivor. However, we have to acknowledge that no regret or sympathy and no amount of financial support can ever undo what happened. The impact on the survivors’ lives has been profound, and that is why I think the most
important thing today is that our government has recognized their needs and is taking real action to address them.
We have been working hard with the survivors association throughout this
process, and we will continue to ensure that they can live their lives with