Globe public editor: The Globe exposed thalidomiders’ problems decades ago

Sylvia SteadBy Sylvia Stead, public editor for the Globe and Mail

Many readers have written to the letters editor, to editor-in-chief David Walmsley and to me to thank The Globe and Mail for its special series on the thalidomiders who are suffering terrible pain and pressing for compensation from the federal government.

On Monday night, the House of Commons voted unanimously, a rare event, to provide full support to the survivors, while in the gallery the victims wept with relief and happiness.

Earlier in the day, I heard from a former colleague, Ottawa writer Hugh Winsor, who reminded me that this was not the first time that The Globe had exposed the problems of the thalidomiders, then children and now adults.

Above you can see a photograph of Mercédes Benegbi, now the executive director of the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada and at that time a smiling 10-year-old writing in her work book. The headline then was: “Thalidomide: After 10 years many Canadian victims have yet to receive any compensation.”

Talks were going on at that time in a New Jersey court to settle what compensation should be awarded to the victims.

In his front-page story in March, 1973, Mr. Winsor wrote that “the fact that some children will receive substantial compensation, others have received nothing and others have agreed to accept what by any standards must be inadequate amounts, has been due largely to chance.

“It also points to the success of the drug companies involved in keeping the whole compensation process … in a blanket of secrecy. It also points to the failure of any public agency or government to intercede on the children’s behalf.”

To continue reading this column, please go theglobeandmail.com where this was originally published.

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