RCMP Now Worried Over
Toxic Exposure In Croatia
TORONTO - Following concerns over Canadian soldiers' possible exposure to toxic chemicals in Croatia, the RCMP is investigating a link to illness in its officers who served in the region.
Wednesday the Mounties that they, as well as the Department of National Defence, are conducting a review of a 1994 mission to Croatia.
About 250 RCMP officers served in Croatia between 1992 and 1995. They were monitoring local police to ensure human rights were protected.
Tom Dolan Now two of the members are sick and like some Canadian peacekeepers they're worried that their illness could be related to the substances they were exposed to while in Croatia.
One of the men, Constable Tom Dolan says he's mainly concerned about similar stories coming out of the military.
"We were in a lot of the same places that the military was, so if they picked up something, maybe what is happening to me is connected," Dolan says.
Canadian peacekeepers serving in Croatia worked with mounds of red dirt from an abandoned mine in 1993-94. They spent days shoveling the dirt into sandbags to build bunkers.
Later it was thought that the red dirt may have contained potentially dangerous chemicals and officer Dr. Eric Smith put a memo in hundreds of soldiers files that said they may have been exposed to PCB's and bauxite.
The memo was later removed and destroyed and the defence department is investigating the reasons why.
The internal probe was launched last week under the office of land force command inspector Col. Howie Marsh.
Lt-Col. Greg Cook, a senior medical advisor in the defence department told CBC News he believes the health concerns are unfounded.
"It raises undue alarm for all those individuals who are really not exposed to anything significant. It gives a misleading understanding that they've been exposed to something harmful when in most cases they have not," Cook said.
The officer who commanded the troops, Col. James Calvin defends Smith's memo. He says the soldiers welfare must come first. "I would have liked to have seen more vigor being put into the investigation, considering it was such a concern to the soldiers," Calvin says.
Smith has said he watered down the wording in the original memo because he was worn down by questions from senior officials but he never received the answers he was looking for.
Defence Minister Art Eggleton says answers will come out in the internal investigation. Critics however are questioning why the investigation is just beginning when there is evidence that Eggleton has known about the potential health risks to soldiers and missing documents for months.
That evidence surfaced Wednesday in a report in The Toronto Star that says Eggleton knew about the affair in November, from briefing notes from his officials. Speaking to reporters after the Liberal cabinet meeting in Ottawa, Eggleton said all the concerns would be looked at in the inquiry.