Hep C tainted blood victims, federal government argue in court over $250M fund

CBC News Posted: Jun 20, 2016 2:50 PM ET Last Updated: Jun 20, 2016 4:19 PM ET

‘Victims are being re-victimized,‘ says man whose wife died before receiving any compensation

Canada’s tainted blood scandal continues to reverberate in court over the allocation of a $250-million surplus from an earlier settlement fund.
A court hearing is being held in Toronto this week to consider submissions on how to distribute millions of dollars sitting unused from a settlement fund for those infected with hepatitis C through blood transfusions between 1986 and 1990.
The fund was part of a compensation package offered by the federal government to those who received tainted blood during the time when the government knew there was a test to screen blood for the disease but wasn’t using it.
The first group of tainted blood victims and their relatives received compensation from a fund that was intended for 45,000 to 55,000 individuals. Since only 15,000 people signed up, the $250-million surplus exists.
• Hepatitis C sufferers haven’t received promised federal money
• Advocate for tainted blood victims, John Plater, dies

Lawyers for the federal government argue the money should be returned to federal coffers.
Those involved in the group action argue the original compensation they received wasn’t enough and the funds should be divided and handed out.
This week’s court hearing only covers those infected from 1986 to 1990.
Hepatitis C victims angered by compensation limits, CDC Digital Archives
Separate groups of more than 300 victims who were infected before 1986 or after 1990 have not been paid because there’s a $65-million shortfall in their settlement fund.
Fred Girling’s wife was one of them. She died before the funds could be distributed.
“Government of Canada lawyers are taking a hard line at court by opposing the proposed solution, meaning victims like my wife and now her estate will never be paid. Victims are being re-victimized,” Girling wrote in an online petition.
Beyond the emotional, psychological and physical toll of coping with hepatitis C, having to fight for money that was approved years ago is undeserved, Girling wrote.
The petition calls on the federal government to direct the $250-million surplus to all hepatitis C tainted blood victims, including the pre-1986 and post-1990 ones.
The court cannot award the funds directly. Rather, the federal government will receive the money back and can then keep or distribute it.
Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott said today the decisions on reimbursing people were made by the previous government and that the case is before the court.
The joint hearing by video link of the superior courts of Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia covers Canadians across the country. The dispute isn’t expected to be resolved for months.

With files from CBC’s Natalie Kalata