Disabilities Minister – Kent Hehr Sneers at Thalidomide Victims
“Well you don’t have it so bad. Everyone in Canada has a sob story.” So said Sport and Persons with Disabilities Minister Kent Hehr to lawyer Fiona Sampson and four other thalidomide survivors in an October meeting.
“His lip was curled in a bit of a sneer when he made the ‘sob story’ comment,” Sampson told me. “He was mocking and dismissive.”
He even reached out to grab one woman’s arm which made her uncomfortable. The woman in question is missing one leg and some internal organs. You don’t touch any woman, particularly “thalidomiders,” as they call themselves, without permission, and a competent disabilities minister would know that.
This group of thalidomiders were women, and they have it very bad indeed. They were asking Hehr for help after a 2014 House of Commons pledge to fully support them turned to air, as these things tend to without public reminders. Because of their shortened lifespans, five victims have since died, they told him.
“So you probably have about 10 years left then now,” Hehr responded.
“That’s good news for the Canadian government.”
The remarks were a massive unkindness, especially to people who might not have arms or legs, with distorted hands and damaged bodies. In shock after the Hehr meeting, they couldn’t get out of the building. The handicapped doors didn’t work. “Collectively missing multiple hands, arms, legs, etc. we couldn’t get those huge, antique carved oak doors open,” Sampson said.
It was awful.