Monday, November 23, 2009



The Defence Department is now conducting a long-term study on the health of those submariners who survived the 2004 fire aboard HMCS Chicoutimi.

But according to details provided to Defence Watch, of the 56 surviving crew who manned HMCS Chicoutimi during the fire, only 11 are still assigned to submarines or to the Fifth Maritime Operations Group.

Eighteen of the crew have left the Canadian Forces for a variety of reasons, according to an accounting of where the crew members are.

Twenty crew members are currently employed in other capacities, including teaching submarine-related or occupation specific courses at naval schools, working on navy bases, or working on the Maritime Staff in Ottawa.

The remaining seven of the 56-member crew are employed outside the navy at the following locations: Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, the Joint Personnel Support Unit, 5th Service Battalion and other units.

“No compensation or severance package specifically or solely designed for the survivors of the Chicoutimi incident has been offered or paid to the crew members,”, according to a Defence Department response to a Parliamentary question by NDP Veterans critic Peter Stoffer.

Under the first of its kind study, the result of an agreement between the navy and the Canadian Forces medical branch, the health of the crew, including those now out of the military, will be tracked until 2014. At that point it will be determined whether to continue monitoring their health.

In a 2008 article Canadian Press journalist Murray Brewster reported that sailors were falling ill with debilitating medical conditions. In Brewster’s interviews with sailors, the submariners detailed how they suffered from unexplained fainting spells, short-term memory loss and chronic conditions, such as asthma. There were also reports of neurological disorders.

Military records indicate that over half the Chicoutimi crew suffered from post- traumatic stress following the fire. In addition, since the fire, over 20 sailors complained of breathing trouble.

The health of the submariners will be compared to a control group of submariners, who were not involved in the incident.