Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight, as I have risen a number of times in the House, to seek an answer from the government about when it will do the right thing and compensate all of the victims and survivors of thalidomide. As I recently stated in this place, for close to 60 years, these Canadians have suffered from the ravages of this horrible drug which was approved by the government of the day. As they grow older, their conditions worsen, and they require more assistance that they cannot afford.
This past spring, the health committee made a series of recommendations to the minister after hearing from thalidomide compensation evaluation experts from around the world. These were experts from different countries where compensation has been awarded to all the sufferers. Based upon witness evidence, the committee recommended that the Canadian criteria for compensation be re-evaluated, that survivors who had been rejected receive a physical exam, and that the compensation requirements err in favour of probabilities.
These folks have suffered all of their lives because of their exposure to thalidomide, and now they are being denied even the decency of an in-person interview or the benefit of the doubt to see if they are truly suffering from the effects of thalidomide. The forgotten thalidomide survivors cannot produce paperwork or witnesses to prove that their mothers took thalidomide, as the current compensation package demands. These folks need to be given a personal interview by a qualified professional, and then given whatever tests are required to prove that their physical disabilities are not caused by a genetic anomaly. I am aware that there is no test that can prove thalidomide use by their mothers, but the physical evidence that they all display, and genetic testing to prove it is not something else, can go a long way to drawing a conclusion that thalidomide is the cause of their disabilities.
These survivors have all had extreme health and medical issues that continue to this day. These issues have required hospital stays, and many have had operations. Many have suffered from abuse and cruelty from other children. Many have taken as much training as possible, but have been unable to work or even find employment. One woman, who was featured on a W5 report about the forgotten survivors, has suffered a lifetime of rejection and lives alone in the backwoods of British Columbia. These stories are heartbreaking.
The thing that bothers me is that we are only talking about two dozen people. In the overall scheme of things, what financial impact will assisting them have on our country as a whole? Let us put the cost into perspective in order to make their lives a little easier for however long they have remaining. As I have said in the past in the House, it is disgusting to think that we, as members of Parliament in the greatest country in the world, cannot collectively do something to assist a few of our fellow citizens who have suffered since birth as a result of a decision by our country's health department at the time.
Canada offered a compensation package in 1991, and it included an in-person examination. Many people were either not aware of the 1991 package, or their mothers never admitted to them that they had taken thalidomide. The second compensation package, which has now been closed, was too restrictive in its demand for paperwork. It is important to note that Canada is not alone in its compensation offerings. In Britain, there was one offering, and then there was a second and greater offering when the victims realized the first package was not enough to compensate them. Victims in all of these places received the courtesy of an in-person examination and the benefit of the doubt.
I am calling on the government to show some compassion and understanding, and to move on the health committee's recommendation immediately.