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Federal Health Minister to meet with thalidomide victims to discuss support

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose will meet with victims of the drug thalidomide on Monday to hear their recommendations for new government support.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose will meet with victims of the drug thalidomide on Monday to hear their recommendations for new government support.

The meeting comes months after an organization representing thalidomide survivors began r‎equesting an audience with Ms. Ambrose. She has said she did not know of their request before The Globe and Mail detailed their plight in a Nov. 22 report.

Her office told The Globe last week that the survivors' request was forwarded to the department and not to the minister.

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A spokesman for Ms. Ambrose said Sunday that the minister is looking forward to the meeting. "Our government is committed to supporting them and the Minister will be sitting down with them tomorrow to see how we can do exactly that," Michael Bolkenius said in a statement.

Asked what options might be under consideration, Mr. Bolkenius said the minister did not want to pre-empt survivors' demands and intended to hear directly from them before determining what Ottawa might offer.

Thalidomide was used to treat expectant mothers for symptoms such as morning sickness and was deemed safe by the government at the time of its use. It caused birth defects in nearly 100 people born in the early 1960s, such as flipper-like hands, stunted legs and internal organ damage.

Ms. Ambrose has said her department ‎is working on options for providing survivors with financial support.

The House of Commons is expected to approve a motion on Monday calling for "full support" for victims of thalidomide.‎ The Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada has said it would like a single lump-sum payment of $250,000 a victim for "urgent" needs, as well as annual support for the remainder of victims' lives. The association wants the sums to range from $75,000 to $150,000 a year, depending on the degree of the person's disability.

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