?A Bittersweet Victory for Hepatitis C Victims?

I have experienced many unforgettable moments in the House of Commons since becoming your Member of Parliament in 1993. Some were wonderful moments for our nation. The very worst I witnessed took place in 1998.

Liberal backbenchers were reduced to tears as they were forced by Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien, under threat of expulsion and a snap election, to stand in the House and vote against their conscience and against the wishes of their constituents. As a result they denied compensation to those infected with Hepatitis C though Canada?s blood supply system before 1986 and after 1990.

By compensating only those infected between 1986 and 1990, the federal Liberal government turned its back on about 60,000 Hepatitis C victims. Many of these victims were extremely ill and dying simply because they had trusted our nation?s blood system. Many had inadvertently infected their family members with this horrible disease.

Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Canada?s new Conservative government took action to ?right this wrong? In opposition, the Conservative Party of Canada steadfastly fought to have all victims of Hepatitis C tainted blood compensated for their considerable pain and suffering.

As government, we have acted swiftly to do exactly that through an agreement in which the federal government will place nearly $1-billion in a trust fund for those Hepatitis C victims denied compensation by the Liberals.

Every Canadian who contracted this disease through our blood system will receive compensation equivalent to amounts already provided to those infected between 1986 and 1990. Compensation will also be provided to the estates of those victims who died from the disease.

Prime Minister Harper was joined last week by victims and their families in announcing the new agreement. It was a bittersweet moment for two reasons. One, these victims should have never been denied by the Liberals in the first place and put through the emotional and exhausting fight to receive fair treatment.

Secondly, there were far too many tainted blood victims who never lived to see the announcement of this compensation agreement. In the Prime Minister?s words, ?Each and every one of those deaths constitutes a Canadian tragedy.?

While I don?t want to sully this rewarding moment, I must convey my disgust at the attempts by several Liberal MPs to assign credit for this new settlement to their former government. Too many men and women died waiting for compensation that the Liberal government continually denied them.

For over seven years, my colleagues and I battled an unsympathetic Liberal fortress that remained unmoved by the plight of the excluded Hepatitis C victims. It wasn?t until their minority government faced the threat of an election late last fall that their callous resolve wavered.

I realize that we cannot undo the past.

Nor can we erase the pain and suffering these victims and their families have endured. However, we can attempt to provide some closure to those who suffered and were then forced to fight their own government. We can demonstrate fairness and compassion, and ? just do what has always been the ?right thing? to do!