Canada's Dirty Dark Vietnam War Secret
It was shocking to many Canadian Veterans to find out that the Canadian Department of National Defense (DND) under the orders of the Canadian Government began testing Agent Orange, Agent Purple and later Agent White at CFB Gagetown starting in 1956, long before it was ever used by the US Military in Vietnam.
Now to be fair, the Canadian Government (Ottawa) claims that it wasn't actually testing these chemicals and that they were in fact conducting a defoliation program and even went so far as to claim that it was being done for our own good; so a branch wouldn't fall on our heads while training.
Ottawa went on to claim that the chemicals which they used weren't Agents Orange, Purple and White but let's face it the US hadn't coined the names of the Rainbow Chemicals yet and technically there never has been any chemical product registered under these names, and besides it was a Military designated name because of the paint strip around the barrels for easy identification in a time of war, which just happened to stick.
Now I have indicated that I believe Ottawa was testing these products on their own troops and that of the US and British military at Canadian Force Base (CFB) Gagetown in New Brunswick, Canada due to Ottawa's own words. Government Officials have stated that they neither knew that the chemical products contained (TCDD) Dioxin or (HCB) Hexachlorobenzene (both known carcinogens and without much doubts two of the most deadly man-made chemicals known to mankind), nor even if they had that they didn't know that these two chemicals were harmful. This clearly indicates that if these chemicals were in fact registered (not yet established) that little or no testing was done on behalf of the Canadian people by Health Canada and that the testing was actually being done at CFB Gagetown for both the Canadian and US Military, on our own Military personnel and with no regards to the collateral damage it might wreck on the surrounding civilian population.
Ottawa kept this 29 year defoliation program, or at least what chemicals they were using, secret for over 50 years and to this writer it was a far better kept secret then the nuclear weapons testing being done world wide. This Government secrecy had the effect of compounding the problem which as many as 350,000 possible victims were facing as they began to become sick with all sorts of exotic and rare medical conditions, which most if not all Canadian doctors had neither experience nor knowledge of. Soldiers ,if they became too sick, were just discharged to the public sector and to civilian doctors ill-prepared to recognize or treat chemical contamination, and soldiers couldn't even give the doctors the heads up on the possibility of toxic chemical exposure being a factor.
The US military is not innocent in this fiasco either as they accepted a Canadian invitation to test their sprays in 1966 and again in 1967 where they chose to spray chemicals on their allies which they had already stopped spraying on their enemies in Vietnam because of health concerns and chemicals which were illegal to spray in the US.
Ottawa has so far done very little for the victims which they created at CFB Gagetown even though over 3.3 million liters and/or pounds of toxic chemicals were sprayed there by Canada. This would most likely make Gagetown the second most sprayed area in the world and, because of it size or lack thereof, may actually contain more liters/pounds per acre then most places in Vietnam and where concentrations of as much as 14,300 % above (CCME) Canadian Council for Ministers of the Environment acceptable guidelines for dioxin was found only last year, forty years after the last chemicals claimed to contain dioxin were in fact sprayed.
What Ottawa (Canadian Government) has done for Gagetown victims is to offer a $20,000 one time Ex-grata (meaning they accept no guilt or responsibility) payment for soldiers and civilians who lived within a 5 klm radius of the Base in the summers of 66 and 67, while excluding any claims for compensation to anyone who had the bad form to have died before November 6th 2006--and then only if they can prove a limited number of medical conditions for Dioxin contamination--placing the blame squarely on the shoulders US Militaries' 2 and ½ barrels of chemicals while totally ignoring the over 5,500 barrels and over 2 million pounds of Canadian sprayed chemicals of identical composition.
At this time there are as many as 4 Class Action Law Suits relating to CFB Gagetown and the chemicals used there, Ottawa refuses to call for a full public and judicial inquiry, soldiers continue to train in a dioxin soaked training area and Veterans of the cold war Chemical weapons testing continue to die.Cpl. Kenneth H. Young CD (Ret'd).Nanaimo, BC Canada