THE BLOG

Parliament Broke its Promise to Thalidomide Victims Like Me

03/09/2015 12:59 EDT | Updated 05/09/2015 05:59 EDT
Radio-Canada.ca

On December 1, I arrived at Parliament Hill after receiving an invitation from then NDP Health Critic Libby Davies. Ms. Davies had tabled the motion for the government to give the 95 Canadian thalidomide victims full support.

We arrived along with nine other victims. We represented a group of strong survivors, strong, but beaten down. Pain was etched on our faces as we waited for hours before being led into the House of Commons.

Some of us in wheelchairs, arms and legs missing, a leg and a kidney and lung missing on another, some, like myself, have deformed hands coming out of our shoulders, others are deaf or partially blind, on top of the missing limbs.

We had been informed the motion was going to be voted unanimously. Only the third time in Canadian history!

As we were seated, the MPs were called into the House. We watched as they rushed to their seats. The motion was read. And with lightning speed, the speaker said every MPs name, all of them nodding 'yea'. Not one 'nay'. We were crying by now. Some of us were clinging to siblings and spouses, sobbing, watching Canadian history being made before our eyes.

The motion was adopted and passed. 256-0! Unanimous!

Then, the moment I will never forget as long as I live. Every MP stood, raised their eyes to the balcony where we were standing, and gave us a three minute ovation. We shouted, "Thank you! Thank you!" It felt like all of Canada was standing and acknowledging our existence. Finally!

We were so elated. So much hope.

Three months later, Friday, March 6, 2015, Hon. Rona Ambrose read a press release. The government would be giving us half of what we had asked for, and then $168 million would be used for health needs, controlled by a third party.

What?

The government announced this on a Friday afternoon without giving our task force time to even react. Friday afternoon announcements are typically given out when the news isn't good, so it could be buried and forgotten by the time Monday rolls around and other news takes precedent.

They had given us so much hope last December. MPs shook my hand, told me in all their years in government they'd never seen or felt anything like it before.

MP Eve Adams shook my hand, looked me in the eye and told me they'd keep their promise. But, like in years past, when it comes to Canadian government and thalidomide victims, all we are left holding are broken promises. We can't live on those.

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