Judge reconsiders veteran's fight for Agent Orange compensation
A federal judge has agreed to reconsider an elderly veteran’s fight for compensation after claims that the spraying of Agent Orange negatively affected his health.
“I’m quite confident now the decision will be in my favour,” says 82-year-old Basil McAllister.
“There were tears coming down his eyes, that he had won it,” says his wife, Betty.
The deadly dioxin Agent Orange was sprayed at CFB Gagetown during the 1960s while McAllister worked on the base.
Since then, the Burton, N.B. resident says he had skin cancer and prostate cancer, which has spread to his bones.
A Type 2 Diabetic, he also needs to take four needles a day.
McAllister claims he worked closely with 10 other people who have since received monthly payments for their own Agent Orange damages, but that he was denied for compensation five times.
After the fifth denial, he decided to take the case to court. He couldn’t afford a lawyer, so he defended himself.
“Basil has always fought for his rights, and everybody else’s,” says his wife.
Officials with the federal government said that in order to receive a pension for Agent Orange compensation, a claimant must prove there was direct exposure to the chemical.
In court, Veterans Affairs argued that McAllister’s direct exposure evidence was insufficient and not credible, adding that decisions made about other pensions were irrelevant to his case.
But in her decision, Judge Cecily Strickland said the federal government did not prove there was never any spraying of Agent Orange in training areas.
Many veterans and veterans’ advocates have been following the case.
“There’s a lot of people who wish him well,” says Thomas Beaver of Canadian Veterans Advocacy. “There’s a lot of people we found out who are going through the same situation.”
“He’s done it in a professional manner,” says Carol Brown-Parker of the Agent Orange Association of Canada. “He was well prepared, he had lots of documents, and the federal court judge ruled in his favour. That’s big.”
While the judge has ruled in McAllister’s favour, she doesn’t have the authority to grant compensation. But her decision means the case will go back to a new board for consideration.
“I will fight until there are no more steps to take, or then I’ll die,” he says.
Veterans Affairs did not comment on the judge’s decision.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Nick Moore