QUEBEC — Marie-Paule Spieser lost her best friend to a rare form of liver cancer in September of 2000. As an experienced nurse in her mid-40s, Ms. Spieser knew something had to be wrong.
Her friend's husband had also been diagnosed with cancer and it seemed nearly every household in the neighbourhood where she lived was stricken with some form of the disease.
Then a few weeks later, just before Christmas, Ms. Spieser along with the 4,000 other residents of Shannon, a small town located just outside the Valcartier military base near Quebec City, learned that their water supply had been contaminated for years with the chemical solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE, a probable carcinogen.
Eight years later, Ms. Spieser, who has also suffered health problems allegedly caused by high levels of TCE found in her home's drinking water, is now the leading plaintiff in a huge class-action suit that includes 243 current residents with cancer allegedly linked to TCE. The lawsuit has ballooned to more than 1,300 people, including many with other illnesses allegedly linked to TCE and relatives of deceased persons who once resided in Shannon. According to lawyers, the number could eventually reach as many as 2,000.
“I still live in Shannon and I can't wait to leave,” Ms. Spieser said Friday. “It is scandalous. In a news report yesterday we learned that the federal government knew about the contamination as far back as 1978, yet they did nothing to warn people. What were they doing?”
As word spreads across the country to the hundreds of military families and former residents who lived in Shannon between 1953 and 2003, the case may turn into the biggest class-action suit of its kind in North America.
“A lot of people on that military base got cancer. … So it's bigger than just a lawsuit. It's really a deep wound to the heart of small-town Canada,” said Stephen Clarke, one of the group's lawyers.
May be of interest to some here.