Probe for uranium effects on vets

Bosnia veteran Pascal Lacoste went on a 72-hour hunger strike to create pressure for a probe.



OTTAWA - Former soldier Pascal Lacoste's hunger strike was not in vain.

The federal government responded Monday in part to his demands from his protest last month by announcing the creation of a committee on soldiers' health as it relates to depleted uranium exposure.

Minister of Veterans Affairs Steven Blaney also confirmed the establishment of the scientific consultation committee, which will meet early in 2012.

The committee will look at the possible exposure of former soldiers to depleted uranium and has until June 2013 to produce a report dealing with related health issues.

Blaney told QMI Agency that the committee will allow for the updating of the government's scientific data.

He vowed that the committee's report will not be ignored by the ministry.

"It's clear that these recommendations will serve to assure that our programs and services respond to the needs of our veterans and their families," he said.

Lacoste, who held a 72-hour hunger strike at Blaney's office, said the news was a "step in the right direction."

"Minister Blaney, at this time, has a chance to prove that he is there to really work for veterans," Lacoste said. "Making announcements and giving speeches, that's easy.

"We hope that this will not just be (words), that it won't be just reports of reports," said the former soldier, who added his health began to suffer after a mission in Bosnia where he was exposed to depleted uranium.

Facing concern from former soldiers and the opposition, Blaney assured that that the committee will be given the independence it needs to do its work.

NDP Veterans affairs deputy critic, MP Annick Papillon, said the creation of the committee is still vague and raises additional questions.

"We don't have information on the deadlines, its precise mandate, on what it will look at and how it will be financed," she said.


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