Just a couple weeks ago, on what was one of the most sweltering “summer” days in the Nation’s Capital, many of our most outspoken Canadian “mefloquine warriors” gathered at the stairs of Parliament Hill in Ottawa to share their knowledge and experiences with mefloquine. Many of these warriors traveled very long distances to express the combined expectations for the Canadian government to address the current prescribing guidelines for mefloquine, and the consequences of 25 years of use of this anti-malarial drug in both military and civilian populations.
The message at the rally was simple and clear and will be repeated until official action is taken. Canadians need Acknowledgment, Outreach, Research. And all those in attendance agree that a great place to begin this “reconciliation process”, if you will, is by way of reopening the Somalia Commission of Inquiry which failed to address the role that mefloquine may have played in the beating death of a Somali teenager. The questions about mefloquine have been raised numerous times, including in the official final Somalia Commission Report and in the 1999 Auditor General’s report, but there has never been any attempt of independent research or investigation to answer these questions by the Canadian Government. Mefloquine has never been officially addressed, but the repeated and obvious suggestions that further investigation and research is needed to understand the true neuropsychiatric adverse effects of mefloquine have been published. So where is the research? Frank psychosis, which has been reported at much higher rates than what is recognized in the original research used for the drug approval, is of particular interest since it is well accepted among those who were with Clayton Matchee, before, after and during the events of that night of torture and death of Shidane Arone, that Clayton was likely in a state of acute psychosis as a result of mefloquine.
So…it is without question…that one of the most respected leaders in the ongoing call to action regarding mefloquine was the first to take to the stage at the Ottawa Rally. Dr. Remington Nevin is a Vermont-based physician epidemiologist and expert consultant in the adverse effects of antimalarial drugs, particularly mefloquine. (website link) He eloquently presented both historical and clinical facts from his many years of inquiry, research, and publications. Dr. Nevin is a former U.S. Army Major and Preventive Medicine Officer with extensive travel medicine and policy experience. He candidly shares his first encounter with distributing mefloquine tablets to soldiers on an Afghanistan deployment in 2007. His speech adds enlightening perspectives on the development of mefloquine by the US Army, the well known clinical features of both acute and chronic neurotoxic effects of mefloquine, which he now coins quinism, and he also briefly describes the interplay of US and Canadian political decisions in having Canada join the US-led mission in Somalia, along with the abrupt decision to use mefloquine exclusively for the troops despite the lack of Health Canada’s approval at the time. Dr. Nevin’s speech is documented on our website for all to glimpse into this mefloquine warrior’s profound knowledge as the leading medical and research expert on mefloquine.
While Dr. Nevin was able to provide facts from his years of dedicated research, the next pivotal Mefloquine Warrior and lead organizer of the Ottawa Mefloquine Rally, was Marj Matchee, wife of Master Cpl Clayton Matchee. In a parliamentary brief she submitted to the Committee of Veterans Affairs in October 2016, Marj described the horrid side effects and extreme mood shifts, horrible dreams, hallucinations, and insomnia issues that Clayton complained of while using mefloquine just prior to returning to Somalia on that ill-fated mission. And now Marj’s mission is clear. Marj wants the truth about mefloquine to be known and wants the records set straight so that her grandchildren know all the details of this Canadian tragedy. There is a legacy that mefloquine has damaged the minds of all soldiers ordered to take this poorly investigated, psychotropic anti-malarial. Marj is determined to ensure the history books are revised, and that Canadians understand mefloquine’s role in the epidemic of mental illness and suicides in our modern Canadian Veterans.
Also speaking from the point of view of a family torn by mefloquine, were the two aunts of CPL Scott Smith, who took his life on Christmas Day, 1995. Scott too, complained to his family at home about the mefloquine side effects, and they feel strongly that their once loving, happy nephew, and son of their sister Val Reyes-Santiesteban, could no longer endure the pain and discomfort of the neuropsychiatric effects which ultimately lead to his abrupt death. Scott Smith’s mother was unable to attend the rally, but sent her messages by way of her family, and is a continuous supporter of the efforts to raise mefloquine awareness.
Speaking from a past political point of view, everyone was honored to hear from former MP John Cummins(1993-2011) who worked for many years in parliament raising the issue of mefloquine adverse effects during the time of the Somalia Commission and Auditor General’s report. His team worked hard supporting those particularly outspoken at the time such as the families of Scott Smith and Marj Matchee. But despite many addresses in committee and at the house floor, no support or affirmative steps were ever taken with regards to acknowledgment, outreach, and research. Mefloquine was successfully swept under the carpet and would remain so until recent years. Please visit https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Hypothesis%3A+drug+makes+generals+lie.-a030148729
The mefloquine warriors very thankfully, also have the support of current members of parliament including Cathay Wagantall, John Brassard and Irene Mathyssen, who all took turns at the podium to speak about what they finally know and understand about mefloquine. Each of them, with Cathay Wagantall especially taking a lead role with many questions in the House of Commons, have confirmed that mefloquine is a national health issue that requires urgent attention from the Canadian Government. We were also pleased to see other members of Parliament visit the rally and exchange words with some of our most brave and seriously injured, who are at the core of this fight to have mefloquine addressed with regards to an epidemic of mental health issues and suicides among their brothers and sisters.
Which finally, brings me to the names of those truest of the mefloquine warriors….the four men who not only put their boots to the ground when they first enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces, but have continued marching for justice in what is truly a medical tragedy that has inflicted pain and suffering among thousands of soldiers world-side. All four of these Canadian Veterans testified at the Standing Committee Meeting in October 2016, along with three expert medical witnesses.
John Dowe served with the Airborne Regiment in Somalia, and witnessed first hand, the psychosis induced actions of Clayton Matchee. He is the co-founder of the International Veterans Mefloquine Alliance and actively works with mefloquine warriors from across the globe.
Dave Bona also toured in Somalia, as well as Rwanda, and has been very active with the media sharing his personal accounts of his first, and then multiple experiences with ingesting mefloquine and the havoc it has caused on his mind and body ever since. Dave has personally committed himself to veteran outreach, one at a time, ensuring as many as possible understand how and why exactly they suddenly lost their minds while on deployment. Dave is devoted to this endeavour until the Canadian Government officially commits to the urgent outreach needed for mefloquine injured veterans. Is is PTSD, or is it poisoning from mefloquine, that is the true and initial cause of their relentless symptoms and suffering?
Brandon Kett is an Afghanistan veteran who likely should have never been exposed to mefloquine if the Canadian Government addressed the outstanding concerns about mefloquine adverse effects when they were first raised. This anti-malarial option may have long been abandoned by the time of the most recent deployments of the last 10 years. He too is a mefloquine victim that simply should have never happened.
Last but not least, Claude Lalancette, also a paratrooper who was part of what is often considered an “illegal drug trial” on the troops deployed to Somalia, was not in attendance at the Ottawa Rally, but has been pivotal in getting all our mefloquine warriors the attention needed to put mefloquine in the spotlight. In September of 2016, just one year ago, Claude quickly grew frustrated with the lack of response from government and chose the means that best suited his desire to expedite the process and blaze through the bureaucratic steps. Claude held not just one, but two hunger strikes outside the Canadian Parliament with the demands to speak directly to the Ministers of Defence, Health, and Veterans Affairs. On both occasions, these meetings were met with quick engagement and Claude successfully obtained the opportunity to bring along other advocates and speak to the parliamentary committee dealing with Veteran Mental Health and Suicides. Claude…we all admire your tenacity and conviction, and applaud the manner in which you so bravely tackled the back route to getting the attention of the government.
Although there are many other strong advocates listed on our web-page including the well spoken Hervey Blois, the late Bonnie Toews, former Health Canada Scientist Dr. Michele-Brill Edwards, and civilians like myself, we have all unified under the banner of Mefloquine Awareness Canada to ensure those most impacted by mefloquine during their tours of duty, have their voices heard loud and clear, about how mefloquine has left a permanent impact on their health and well being in addition to the impacts left on their families.
Canadians need to become mefloquine aware. Canadians need mefloquineawareness.ca
About Bev Skwernuik
A trained optometrist, I am driven by the urge to increase my knowledge and improve my ability to contribute to the betterment of others. Personally affected by the anti-malarial drug mefloquine, I am touched by the horrific effects it has had on the lives of many others. I am currently dedicating myself to bringing awareness of mefloquine and the dangers of using it to the Canadian public.