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Cadet Tragedy of 1974 Acknowledged

The Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) released a report this week on the grenade explosion at the cadet training centre in CFB Valcartier that took place 41 years ago.

National Defence Minister Jason Kenney, responded to the investigation into the 1974 explosion that killed six young cadets and wounded dozens more.

“The accidental explosion of a grenade at the Cadet Training Centre in CFB Valcartier in 1974 was a tragedy that hurt both victims and their families. This matter is important to the Government of Canada, which is why my predecessor, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, authorized an investigation into this incident by the Ombudsman,” said Kenney.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, Kenney offered regrets about the effect the event had on the victims and their families. He also stated the review by the Ombudsman confirmed that more could have been done.

Read about the incident here...
Read about the incident here…

In accepting the Ombudsman’s recommendations, Kenney recognized those who directly witnessed or were injured in this accident may still be suffering.

“I am committed to ensuring that they get the help they need. I have therefore directed the Department of National Defence, in line with the Ombudsman’s recommendations, to offer assessments to all those who have been affected by this incident to determine the physical and psychological care they require. Based on these assessments, we will ensure that the affected individuals have access to health care and compensation, where appropriate,” said Kenney.

The accidental grenade explosion at the Cadet Training Centre killed six cadets and wounded dozens more while they were gathered for a lecture in one of the barracks.

The effects of this tragedy forever changed the lives of the cadets and instructors present at the time, as well as the families of the fallen and injured. It resulted in significant changes in the way the CAF delivers the Cadet Program.

“Following direction from the Minister of National Defence, we are taking immediate action on the Ombudsman’s recommendations to ensure that victims get the care they deserve. The CAF is fully committed to supporting this effort through the development and implementation of a framework for assessment and care and immediately reaching out to those who have been affected by this incident,” said Lieutenant-General Guy Thibault, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff.

Former Cadet Gerry Fortaty shares his account of the event
Former Cadet Gerry Fortaty shares his account of the event

Today’s cadets participate in a wide range of citizenship, leadership, and physical fitness activities in a safe and supervised environment. According to Lt Gen Vance, their welfare is the first priority of the CAF.

A far greater network of support and resources is now available to cadets, their instructors, and families in the case of traumatic events or an accident.

“We take the responsibility to protect the young people in our care very seriously, this is paramount in any cadet activity. We deeply regret and will never forget the tragic event in Valcartier. We will remember those we lost, and care for the survivors and those who continue to suffer,” said Vance.

Although incidents like the explosion in Valcartier are not the norm the Ombudsman’s office will be assisting the CAF with a five-year renewal initiative of the Cadet Program and will pursue an independent review of the entire Canadian Cadet Program, the objective to identify issues and make recommendations as to how the program may be improved.

The CAF encourages all those who believe they have been affected by this incident to contact them03 at 1-844-800-8566 or 1974@forces.gc.ca.

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Vicki L Morrison

Thanks to her husband's military career Vicki reinvented herself as a writer so she could work from home, while taking care of their three kids. A former MFRC executive director Vicki is a passionate advocate for military families who loves telling their stories.

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