A French legal battle offers an opportunity to revisit Canada’s role in chemical weapons use and whether Ottawa owes something to its Vietnamese victims.
On the weekend activists gathered in Paris to support a court case launched by a woman exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam. The group Collectif Vietnam Dioxine is supporting French-Vietnamese woman, Tran To Nga, who is suing 14 companies that sold the powerful defoliant dioxin to the US military.
As a member of the Vietnamese Communists (Viet Cong) Nga breathed Agent Orange in 1966. She told the Associated Press “because of that, I lost one child due to heart defects. I have two other daughters who were born with malformations. And my grandchildren, too.” Spread between generations through breast milk, food and the water supply, Agent Orange victims’ children and grandchildren are often born with serious disabilities.
The toll the cancerous chemical had on Vietnam is staggering. Some three million Vietnamese were exposed to a defoliant that can cause immune deficiencies and damage one’s nervous system. Between 1962 and 1971 US forces sprayed 11 million litres of Agent Orange in southern Vietnam.