The Government of Canada announced today that it would provide comprehensive financial recognition and health care support for dozens of victims of the 1974 grenade explosion at the CFB Valcartier cadet camp.
“The cadets and families affected by this incident were the victims of a tragic and unique set of circumstances. These former cadets were under our care at the time, and some have struggled – and continue to struggle to this day – with the long-term effects of the trauma they experienced and the actions taken by the military in the aftermath of the incident. For this, we sincerely apologize. The financial recognition and health care support we are announcing today are long overdue, and will ensure that the victims are finally offered some measure of comfort, while getting the care they need and deserve,” said Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan.
On July 30, 1974, 138 teenaged RCA cadets were huddled inside a barrack for a lecture on safety, more specifically explosives safety. Sadly, one of the grenades, not known to be live ammunition, detonated and killed six cadets and injured dozens more.
In July 2015, the Minister of National Defence and the Ombudsman of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces committed to investigating the events and providing compensation to those affected.
The families of those six cadets tragically killed that day will be owed a payment of $100,000.
The financial compensation includes universal benevolent payment in the form of $42,000 for all former cadets in the room at the time of the explosion and non-professional first-responders who were at the scene immediately after the tragic and deadly accident. It is estimated that approximately 155 individuals will be eligible for this payment.
Additionally, individuals are also eligible for individualized benevolent payment for both physical and mental injuries sustained because of the accident. The maximum amount for this payment is $310,000. The loved ones of those that perished that day are also eligible for this payment.
The federal government has also promised to take care of any costs incurred by the affected individuals, as a result of the incident, and is not covered by provincial health care for the remainder of their lives.
“We want to ensure that the victims of this past tragic incident are well taken care of and are recognized for the pain and suffering they endured. As a result of this incident, the Cadet Program underwent significant changes. I can assure you that the Canadian Armed Forces takes its responsibility to protect the youth in its care very seriously, and the first priority in all cadet activities is the safety and welfare of cadets,” VAdm. Ron Lloyd, Acting Vice Chief of the Defence Staff.
This day means more than just financial compensation for those impacted by the tragedy. However, it’s the end to a long and trying journey.
“I am very pleased by the announcement by the Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan. This has been a long and difficult journey. For almost 43 years the Cadets of Valcartier 1974 have struggled with physical and psychological injuries waiting for their superiors to come to their rescue. For the past nine years, we have been trying to get them together, to see if something could be done for them. We knew that they needed help, but we had to find them to make sure that once a solution was reached, that it could be readily applied to them. There were 154 members of the company, and we have located all but 17 members,” said Gerry Fostaty, author of “As You Were: The Tragedy at Valcartier” and one of the cadets present that day.
It’s been a difficult process for the victims to have their story heard and recognized, let alone be compensated for it.
“The first struggle was to convince the government of the day (2009) that the grenade explosion actually took place, and all the unbelievable details surrounding it. Many MPs listened to the story, but it was a challenge to have our follow-up phone calls returned,” recalled Fostaty.
With the help of DND Ombudsman, Gary Walbourne, those affected by the 1974 incident were able to not only get their case heard, but led to making this day a reality.
“I think the survivors are also pleased that the announcement came from Minister Sajjan. His history in the Forces is not lost on the cadets, and I think they feel that he truly understands their situation. This is a good day for the survivors. It is the beginning of their healing. When one survivor was asked about the announcement the day after he was told about it, he said he had slept through the night for the first time in decades,” said Fostaty.