Vice Chief of the Defence Staff expresses regret, promises further action for survivors of Valcartier tragedy2 August 2016
“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.” — Lieutenant-General Guy Thibault, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff
In the summer of 1974, a group of teenage cadets attending training camp at the Canadian Forces Base at Valcartier, Quebec, were summoned for a lecture on explosives safety. Dummy ammunition was circulated amongst the cadets as the captain explained the history and inherent danger of explosives. Unbeknownst to the cadets and the captain, a live grenade was also circulating through the group, passing from hand to hand. One boy asked the instructor if he could pull out the pin of the grenade and was assured that it was safe to do so. The resulting explosion ripped through the room, killing six boys and injuring fifty-four others.
As incomprehensible as the accident was, even more difficult to believe were the actions of the Canadian Forces in the days and decades that followed. Isolated by trauma, grief, and pain, the surviving cadets were expected to carry on with their lives. Because they were not members of the Canadian Forces, they were not eligible for financial compensation or medical care beyond what they received immediately after the explosion. The army provided no counselling of any kind for the survivors and instructed them not to speak of the incident.
On July 28, 2015, the DND/CAF Ombudsman released a report on the 1974 tragedy, finding that the cadets affected by the incident suffered long-lasting and life-altering injuries for which they received inadequate treatment and/or compensation. One year later, the statement from Lieutenant-General Guy Thibault, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff indicates that progress toward the recommendations outlined by the Ombudsman’s report is being made.
From the statement: “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. Based on these assessments, the next step will be to develop individualized treatment plans to identify areas of their care where more support is needed — and some of this work is already underway. Concurrently, DND has also been engaged in determining suitable financial recognition.”
It has taken more than four decades, but the cadets of Valcartier have finally begun to receive treatment and acknowledgment.
To read the full statement from Lieutenant-General Guy Thibault, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, please click here.
AS YOU WERE: THE TRAGEDY AT VALCARTIER The only full account of an event that received minor attention at the time, As You Were is the story of a normal day turned horrific; how duty, responsibility, and honour make ordinary people take extraordinary measures; and how the military tried to ignore this devastating incident. As You Were was published by Goose Lane Editions in 2011.