Thalidomide survivors sue federal authorities for discrimination

The lawsuit asks for an explanation that the defendant Attorney General of Canada has “violated the rights of individual plaintiffs under the SS. 7 and / or 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms … relating to the provision of services to individual plaintiffs as survivors of thalidomide, the mismanagement of the effects of thalidomide on individual plaintiffs, and its establishment, funding, operation and management , Administration, supervision and control of the Canadian Thalidomide Survivors Support Program (“CTSSP”) and the Extraordinary Medical Assistance Fund (“EMAF”) under the CTSSP.

The lawsuit also concerns, among other things, compensation for physical and mental injuries suffered by the plaintiff, as well as future medical treatment, rehabilitation, counseling and other care and support.

The Canadian government approved thalidomide for use by pregnant women in April 1961 and only withdrew it from the market in May 1962, a few months after other developed countries had done so. In 1991, the Department of National Health and Welfare (now Health Canada) granted flat-rate payments to Canadian-born survivors of between $ 65,000 and $ 90,000, depending on the survivor’s degree of disability, under the extraordinary relief plan.

In 2014, Parliament unanimously approved full annual support of $ 75,000 to $ 150,000 per year. However, those numbers were downgraded significantly the following year. In 2019, the Minister of Health announced Canada’s Thalidomide Survivor Support Program, provided by an independent third-party provider, that intends to provide thalidomide survivors with lifelong support, including continued access to the Thalidomide Fund for extraordinary medical assistance.

The funds made available, however, are “unfair and insufficient … for the necessary services,” says the statement of entitlement. Also, says Anand, “the way in which the entitlement is determined is deteriorating and contrary to the government’s obligations under sections 7 and 15 of the Charter.” Section 15 includes physical disability as a prohibited ground for discrimination.

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