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MPs call for inquiry into Canadian military's Mefloquine use
By Chris Doucette , Toronto Sun
First posted: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 07:22 PM EDT | Updated: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 07:30 PM EDT
For nearly 25 years, the cries of former soldiers given a controversial anti-malaria drug while serving in East Africa with the now defunct Canadian Airborne Regiment have fallen on deaf ears.
The federal government has largely dismissed some veterans who contend the drug Mefloquine is responsible for the country’s national disgrace known as the Somalia Affair and for their long-lasting psychological and neurological issues — side effects now acknowledged by some of Canada’s allies and the drug’s maker.
But the former paratroopers and their family members are finally being heard thanks to a few Conservative MPs — members of a House of Commons standing committee — who listened intently to their testimony during hearings last fall.
When the committee released its findings Tuesday, MPs John Brassard, Cathay Wagantall and Robert Kitchen called for an inquiry into how Canada’s military gave Mefloquine to soldiers before it was licensed by Health Canada and whether use of the drug led to the murder of Somali teen Shidane Arone.
They also slammed Liberal MPs on the committee for drafting a “deficient” report on the issue.
“While announcing that Mefloquine should only be administered as a last resort is a step in the right direction, the government still has to take action to address the concerns of veterans,” a statement released by the trio of Tory MPs read. “This includes forming an independent inquiry with the mandate to either establish or rule out any and all connection between the use of Mefloquine and the actions of Master Cpl. Clayton Matchee and Pte. Kyle Brown when they were deployed in Somalia.”
Canada’s elite Airborne Regiment suffered a black eye in Somalia when Arone, 16, was captured for allegedly trying to sneak onto a Canadian compound in 1993. He was subsequently tortured to death by soldiers.
Brown was sentenced to five years in prison for killing the prisoner and Matchee was deemed unfit to stand trial because of brain damage suffered when he attempted to hang himself in his jail cell. The Canadian Airborne Regiment was dismantled.
Matchee’s wife Marj “couldn’t be happier” about the call for an inquiry.
“It’s been 25 years, so let’s have this inquiry re-opened like it says and prove once and for all the role Mefloquine played in Somalia and thereafter with the military and the public,” she said.
Veteran Dave Bona, who has suffered from devastating side effects since taking Mefloquine while serving in Somalia and Rwanda in the 1990s, said the Conservatives’ call for an inquiry is a “very positive” step forward.
cdoucette@postmedia.com
MPs John Brassard, Cathay Wagantall and Robert Kitchen have called for an inquiry into how Canada’s military gave Mefloquine to soldiers before it was licensed by Health Canada and whether use of the drug led to the murder of Somali teen Shidane Arone. (POSTMEDIA NETWORK/PHOTO)

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