'Everyone ... has a sob story': Thalidomide survivors say they were belittled by disabilities minister

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'Everyone ... has a sob story': Thalidomide survivors say they were belittled by disabilities minister

Post by Trooper on Tue 05 Dec 2017, 4:36 pm

Hehr said he apologized after his comments were 'misconstrued'

By Catharine Tunney --- Dec 05, 2017


Thalidomide survivors say Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities Kent Hehr degraded them during a meeting.

Members of a thalidomide survivor group say they felt belittled and are appalled after meeting with Kent Hehr, the federal minister for persons with disabilities, and accuse him of making repugnant statements about their life expectancies.

The minister flat out denies at least one of their claims and said he has apologized if some of his comments were misinterpreted.

Fiona Sampson, a thalidomide survivor who attended the Oct. 19 meeting, told reporters on Tuesday that Hehr degraded those in attendance with his remarks.

"In response to members of the group reading really heartfelt testimonials, Minister Hehr — apropos of nothing — commented, 'Well you don't have it as bad today as adults as you did when you were kids,'" said Sampson, a human rights lawyer and chair of Thalidomide Survivors Task Group.

"Then he went on to say, 'Well you don't have it so bad. Everyone in Canada has a sob story.'"

Sampson said one of the most repugnant statements in the 30-minute meeting came after the group explained to Hehr that they have shortened lifespans and have already lost five members since the House of Commons passed a unanimous motion to support survivors back in 2014.

"He said to us, 'So you probably have about 10 years left then now. That's good news for the Canadian government.' We were shocked and appalled," she said.

One of the members in that meeting was hospitalized in the ICU two weeks later, said Sampson, making his comments "especially repugnant"

Sampson said her team wrote to the prime minister directly about the meeting and Hehr later called her to apologize.

In a statement, Hehr denied making comments about lifespans at the meeting, but said he apologized to the organization after his comments were misconstrued.

"My heart goes out to thalidomide survivors. I have listened to their stories and I know our government, led by the minister of health, is taking the concerns very seriously and I will continue to advocate on behalf of all Canadians with disabilities," said Hehr in a statement issued Tuesday.

"As someone with a disability myself, it was certainly not my intention to offend anyone. While some of my comments were misconstrued, as soon as I learned that my comments were felt to be offensive, I immediately called the organization directly and apologized."

Touching allegations

Sampson also alleges at one moment in the meeting Hehr was feigning shock and reached out to grab one of the members by the arm, close to her breast.


Members of the Thalidomide Survivors Task Group hold a news conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Tuesday, December 5, 2017. From left to right are Fiona Sampson, Mary Ryder, Lee Ann Dalling and Alexandra Niblock.

"In a way that was inappropriate and and unwelcome. And I think that was a shock to us all too," said Sampson.

"It was an unwelcomed physical contact that violated her personal space."

The member in question is sick and wasn't at the news conference, she added.

Hehr said today was the first time he's hearing about the accusations.

"Last week I spoke directly to the organization to apologize if my comments were misconstrued, but today was the first time I heard about this accusation and I am extremely troubled by it. If there was any physical contact, it was completely accidental and I apologize," he said.

The survivors are calling on the federal government to honour a pledge to compensate them with a lump sum payment of $250,000 and increased annual pensions.

They say patients have received lump sum payments of $125,000 each, noting they are struggling to make ends meet due to the extent of their disabilities.

In December 2014, the House of Commons passed a unanimous motion with a commitment to provide "full support' to Canadian thalidomide victims who were born with physical disabilities due to the effects of the drug during pregnancy.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/thalidomide-survivors-hehr-allegations-1.4433539
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Re: 'Everyone ... has a sob story': Thalidomide survivors say they were belittled by disabilities minister

Post by JAFO on Tue 05 Dec 2017, 6:31 pm

I still don't understand why a man with this much compassion and understanding of disabilities lost the Veterans Affairs Cabinet post?

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Re: 'Everyone ... has a sob story': Thalidomide survivors say they were belittled by disabilities minister

Post by Trooper on Tue 05 Dec 2017, 6:57 pm

JAFO wrote:I still don't understand why a man with this much compassion and understanding of disabilities lost the Veterans Affairs Cabinet post?


And why they replaced him with Seamus?
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Re: 'Everyone ... has a sob story': Thalidomide survivors say they were belittled by disabilities minister

Post by prawnstar on Fri 08 Dec 2017, 12:31 pm

JT puts MPs that don't fit in anywhere in VAC. Good to see we aren't the only ones Kent Hehr screwed with. He hates everyone.


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Re: 'Everyone ... has a sob story': Thalidomide survivors say they were belittled by disabilities minister

Post by Trooper on Fri 08 Dec 2017, 7:20 pm

prawnstar wrote:JT puts MPs that don't fit in anywhere in VAC. Good to see we aren't the only ones Kent Hehr screwed with. He hates everyone.


I'm sure before JT puts anyone in that position he asked them if they are willing to be a puppet to the bureaucrats. Without the bureaucrats, the PM, and the MVA would be lost.
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Re: 'Everyone ... has a sob story': Thalidomide survivors say they were belittled by disabilities minister

Post by Trooper on Fri 08 Dec 2017, 7:32 pm

Hehr apologizes, pledges to do better after new complaint from Calgary mom

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, December 7, 2017


OTTAWA -- Disabilities Minister Kent Hehr admitted to sometimes being "brash" and "inappropriate" after a fresh complaint of disrespect surfaced Thursday -- this one from a Calgary woman engaged in a class-action lawsuit against the federal government.

Jennifer McCrea, who has been fighting on behalf of a group of mothers who say they were denied benefits while on maternity leave, contacted Hehr's office in October 2016 after being encouraged to speak to local Liberal MPs about her case.

Hehr, who was shuffled into the Sport and Disabilities portfolios by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this past summer, was veterans affairs minister at the time.

"(He was) very condescending," McCrea said of the October 2016 interaction, noting she was able to secure less than two minutes of his time.
She asked him pointedly why Ottawa continues to fight sick women -- a "loaded question" to which he allegedly replied, "Well, Ms. McCrea, that is the old question, like asking ... 'When did you stop beating your wife?"'

"I didn't respond (with) anything because my jaw was on the floor," McCrea recalled.

"I had never really actually heard of the term that it is a 'loaded question' ... I was just literally (wondering), 'Who talks like that, let alone ... a minister or a member of Parliament?"

McCrea said she decided to come forward about Hehr's comments after hearing a group of thalidomide survivors describe earlier this week how they felt belittled by Hehr's bedside manner during a meeting earlier this year.

Hehr needs to be more sensitive in his interactions, McCrea said -- a sentiment with which the minister appeared to agree when asked about the issue Thursday during question period.

"When speaking to people I tend to be very straightforward; however, I understand my comments can be brash and sometimes even inappropriate," Hehr said as he read a written statement.

"I regret my comments and I sincerely apologize. As I've said before, I'm committed to taking steps to better myself."

Hehr also apologized earlier this week after the thalidomide controversy erupted, Hehr although he described some of his comments as having been "misconstrued."

"As someone with a disability myself, it was certainly not my intention to offend anyone," he said at the time.
Conservative MP Rachael Harder, her party's status of women critic, suggested Hehr needs to consider how better to interact with his constituents.

"There is clearly a disturbing pattern here of victim blaming," said Harder, who also questioned the minister directly in the House.

"I think certainly he needs to reflect on his actions ... I would expect his behaviour to change."

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh appeared genuinely taken aback by the remark.

"He can't be talking about violence against women like that," he said. "We need our leaders to be denouncing violence against women and in no way making light of it."

Stephen Moreau, a lawyer who is representing McCrea's group of mothers, said disclosing the comments in 2016 would have distracted from efforts to get the Liberal government to take action on the question of maternity benefits.

But since nothing has yet happened on that file, the two issues may be related, he suggested.

"We're seeing a comment that is consistent with the pattern that we are seeing of this government in terms of fighting the litigation tooth and nail," Moreau said.

http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/hehr-apologizes-pledges-to-do-better-after-new-complaint-from-calgary-mom-1.3711254


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Re: 'Everyone ... has a sob story': Thalidomide survivors say they were belittled by disabilities minister

Post by bosn181 on Fri 08 Dec 2017, 8:52 pm

can't wait to see him get the boot if they have the common sence to make the easy call he been a let down from day one

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