July 30 marks the 42nd anniversary of the tragic events that took the lives of six cadets and left many injured after a live grenade found its way into a safety lecture at the CFB Valcartier cadet training centre.
This year’s anniversary is especially significant to those affected by this tragedy.
“This anniversary is important because it’s the first one after the Ombudsman Report last year,” said Gerry Fostaty, author of “As You Were: The Tragedy at Valcartier.”
After decades of keeping the incident rather silent, last summer the military Ombudsman concluded a report investigating the events of July 30, 1974. It was indicated by Gary Walbourne, Ombudsman of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, that the victims received inadequate treatment and compensation.
Since then the DND and CAF have been reaching out to victims in order to provide medical and financial compensation.
“The Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) recognize that those affected by this horrific tragedy have struggled with the long-term effects of the trauma they experienced and regret that it took this long to formally recognize and address this tragedy,” said LGen. Guy Thibault, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, in a statement for this year’s anniversary.
Currently, the departments are gathering information on the victims’ physical and psychological needs.
“As a first step, we immediately began efforts to make contact with all those affected. Medical needs assessments were offered to all affected individuals that had been located to identify their health care needs, both physical and psychological, that are connected to this tragedy, and we continue to receive responses,” said Thibault.
Based on this information, the CAF and DND hopes to develop individualized treatment. They are also looking into ways to provide financial compensation.
Though the government is finally working to make amends for that horrific day, there is still a long way to go for those who have been kept silent for decades.
“I was one of those boys. For thirty-five years, I kept my thoughts to myself, and it was painful. In 2008 I discovered that the facts of the incident were released through the access to information act. I requested a copy and felt that since it was now public knowledge, I could open up. But, it is a difficult story to tell, and, as I became aware, it was a difficult story to hear. So, I began to write the story down to let my family know what had happened to me so long ago, and what had changed my life. That is how the book began,” remembered Fostaty.
For Fostaty and the other survivors, this time of year is a chance to reflect and reach out to others.
“It’s a very difficult time for a lot of the guys. Not everyone can make the memorial. It’s difficult to get there.
“We do reach out to each other. There are about a hundred of us in touch now, and so we do reach out to each other around the day and on the day to make sure everyone is thinking about each other,” said Fostaty.
A memorial ceremony and parade will be held on July 30 in Valcartier, Quebec.
Survivors of the 1974 accident are encouraged to reach out to the government by calling 1-844-800-8566 or emailing [email protected].
Feature image : AS YOU WERE: The Tragedy at Valcartier, by Gerry Fostaty