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Mercédes Benegbi, left, with playmate Silvie Maillot, was 10 years old when The Globe and Mail published a series of stories on the problems of thalidomide victims in 1973.

Hugh Winsor/The Globe and Mail

Many readers have written to the letters editor, to editor-in-chief David Walmsley and to me to thank The Globe and Mail for its special series on the thalidomiders who are suffering terrible pain and pressing for compensation from the federal government.

On Monday night, the House of Commons voted unanimously, a rare event, to provide full support to the survivors, while in the gallery the victims wept with relief and happiness.

Earlier in the day, I heard from a former colleague, Ottawa writer Hugh Winsor, who reminded me that this was not the first time that The Globe had exposed the problems of the thalidomiders, then children and now adults.

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Above you can see a photograph of Mercédes Benegbi, now the executive director of the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada and at that time a smiling 10-year-old writing in her work book. The headline then was: "Thalidomide: After 10 years many Canadian victims have yet to receive any compensation."

Talks were going on at that time in a New Jersey court to settle what compensation should be awarded to the victims.

In his front-page story in March, 1973, Mr. Winsor wrote that "the fact that some children will receive substantial compensation, others have received nothing and others have agreed to accept what by any standards must be inadequate amounts, has been due largely to chance.

"It also points to the success of the drug companies involved in keeping the whole compensation process … in a blanket of secrecy. It also points to the failure of any public agency or government to intercede on the children's behalf."

Mr. Winsor noted in an e-mail to me on Monday that the Globe series in 1973 eventually prodded the then Liberal government to do something for the the thalidomide victims. "In a very Canadian story, the issue turned on the differences between Quebec's Code Civil and the common law applicable to the rest of the country. Most of the victims in the rest of the country got some damage award in the courts from the Delaware-based Richardson-Merrell drug company, but the Quebec victims had missed their window in the Code Civil. Although he couldn't do anything about the law, Marc Lalonde, who was then the minister of health and welfare, was so upset about the unfairness to the Quebec victims that the federal government brought huge pressure on Richardson-Merrell to pay compensation along the scale of those payments made in the rest of the country."

There was a second compensation deal in 1991 that Perrin Beatty, then health minister, recently described as "as generous" as possible.

And online on Monday, Brian Forbes, a founding member of the original Thalidomide Task Force, noted that Ottawa made a firm commitment to the victims 50 years ago.

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If you missed it on Saturday, I wrote about the power of journalism and how one week of coverage saw action from Ottawa.

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