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Volume 18, Number 20, May 12, 2004

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Chemical Warfare Agent Test Subject Gets Cash

Retired Canadian Forces corporal Roy Wheeler received a $24,000 payment at a ceremony held in Chilliwack, B.C. yesterday in recognition of his participation in chemical warfare agent tests. His application was the first to be approved under a new government program. The cheque was presented by Major Angelo Battiston, Commanding Officer of the Area Support Unit, Chilliwack. 

The $50-million recognition program for Canadian veterans who were involved in chemical warfare agent tests between the 1940s and the 1970s at Suffield, AB, and the Chemical Warfare Laboratories, Ottawa, was announced on Feb. 19, 2004 by the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Veterans Affairs. The one-time $24,000 payment is in addition to pension benefits to which these veterans may be entitled. 

"Through their selfless service, veterans such as Mr. Wheeler spared their comrades in arms the horrors of chemical warfare," said the Honourable David Pratt, Minister of National Defence. "These volunteers provided the foundation for Canada’s response to the very real threat of chemical warfare a threat that continues to this day." 

"Mr. Wheeler represents all veterans who served their country as participants in these tests," said the Honourable John McCallum, Minister of Veterans Affairs. "This program recognizes the contributions of these individuals publicly and acknowledges the debt of gratitude that Canadians owe them." 

In 1966, Corporal Wheeler, a lineman with 1 Canadian Brigade Group Headquarters and Signal Squadron in Calgary, Alberta, participated in a trial that used diluted mustard gas at Suffield Experimental Station. The aim of the trial was to develop a training agent that could be safely used in field exercises. The data collected ensured that personnel who participated in later large-scale exercises could be exposed to realistic chemical warfare conditions with a minimum risk to their health and safety. 

The program office for the Chemical Warfare Agent Testing Recognition Program opened on April 5, 2004. The office has received more than 1,700 inquiries and more than 700 applications. Approximately 100 applications have been approved to date and cheques are already being mailed to eligible veterans. 

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