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Old guard update: heritage at risk (possible exposure of Canadian troops to chemicals in Croatia).

Once again, the spectre of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is raising its ugly head. At the time of writing, four separate investigations are underway to examine the possible effects of PCB contamination to Canadian troops who served in the Balkans, and the possibility of a Somalia-type cover-up including the now-familiar DND tactics of "missing" documents and leaking reports to discredit key witnesses. As this is currently under (supposedly) independent investigation and this magazine has writers far more capable than myself of describing the possible machinations of DND's upper echelons, I will say no more.

However, studies while wearing my other (Korea veterans') hat indicate that Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is a very real problem, affecting veterans of all wars and peacekeeping operations. Thanks to the studies conducted in the United Kingdom, Australia and, more recently, the United States, we are becoming more aware of the dangers to which we were unwittingly exposed. Credit is also due to Korea veteran Jim Cotter and his son, who have persistently compiled a hefty record of the effects of DDT and other toxic chemicals over a battle of almost half a century to obtain recognition and treatment. (Esprit de Corps Volume 5 Number 6). Meanwhile, I would like to pass on some of the symptoms of MCS, courtesy of the Environmental Illness Society of Canada (EICS).


First, Chemical Sensitivity can affect any bodily organ. In the ears, otitis, tinnitus (ringing), itching, vertigo and other effects may occur. Nasal discharge, chronic sinusitis and increased smelling sensitivity may also result. Korea veterans already report a high incidence of respiratory ailments such as congestion, coughs, recurrent infection, shortage of breath, asthma and more. Skin problems, nervous disorders and sensitivity to ordinary household commodities such as sprays, detergents and medication may also result.

To quote Judith Spence, RN, of EICS, "Pesticides ... are implicated in a large percentage of EI cases. Chlorophenols used in pesticides harm the protective sheathing around nerves (causing) pain along nerve pathways and in the organs served. Phenols can cause neuropathies similar to those which alcoholics experience...Kidneys are often damaged when they have to excrete (harmful) chemicals."


Many chemicals (including DDT) bond with fats in our systems, and may lay dormant for several years before their effects materialize. I am not suggesting that ALL veterans' ailments are due to chemical exposure during their service; there are many other factors such as place of residence, lifestyle and nature of employment after release from the Forces. Nevertheless, I would suggest that in cases of "mysterious" ailments, this may be worth checking out. We are not all "joiners" and many veterans wish to put their past behind them, or perhaps avoid the internal politics which sometimes beset veterans' organizations.

Nevertheless, veterans associations continue to achieve a great deal for members and non-members alike, and for this reason I would encourage you to support your own "special interest group" and/or a national "across-the-board" group such as the Army, Navy and Airforce Veterans in Canada or the Royal Canadian Legion. These groups work for you and deserve your participation-whether or not you wish to take advantage of the comradeship and social life that they offer.

I have recently received a publication from the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association (PO Box 48197, Victoria, BC, V8Z 7H6) and, although I don't believe that I qualify for membership, I was most impressed with their efforts in the interests of the "Blue Berets."

We say "goodbye" to three familiar figures. As we stated earlier, Senator Orville Phillips has hit the "magic" age of 75 and although covered by "grandfather" clauses, he has elected to do the honourable thing and retire. Senator Phillips has been in politics since his election as an MP in 1957 and his elevation to the Senate six years later. A former WWII Bomber Command navigator, he has chaired the Senate Sub-Committee on Veterans Affairs, and was instrumental in obtaining more autonomy for the Canadian War Museum. He is also a strong advocate of veterans' independence in specialized housing arrangements. He assures me that his retirement will in no way remove him from from his work on behalf of veterans, and we can expect to continue to hear from him in the future. His successor as the Sub-Committee chair, Senator Archie Johnstone, another PEI Bomber Command aircrew veteran, will also reach the magic "75" and retire soon.


Veterans Affairs Deputy Minister Dave Nicholson is also retiring. He will be missed-certainly he has been most approachable and has done a lot for Canada's veterans. In his place we welcome retired Vice-Admiral Larry Murray. Although the new Deputy came under a great deal of flak during his tenure at NDHQ, veterans who have served with him-not all in the commissioned ranks-speak highly of his ability and concerns. We wish him well in his new job.

Finally, of course, the not-unexpected replacement of Fred Mifflin as Minister of Veterans Affairs. While he had his critics, it is only fair to remember that when it came to funding he was a comparatively low man on the Cabinet totem pole, and that during his "tour of duty" our Hong-Kong veterans did receive some long-awaited compensation (albeit, in my opinion, from the wrong government). He is replaced by another Newfoundlander, George Baker, who, according to my sources, tends to toe the party line, which does not bode well for veterans when we consider the government's priorities. However, we can but hope-maybe we will be pleasantly surprised.

For those of you who missed the inserts in our last issue, note that our CF Ombudsman serves former, as well as current members, of the Forces. His phone number is 1-888-8BUDMAN. Keep those letters coming.
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Author:Peate, Les
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Date:Aug 1, 1999
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