HMCS Chicoutimi Health Surveillance Study: Phase One Results
June 19, 2019 – Ottawa – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces
The Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Forces Health Services Group have finalized the first phase of a health study which was designed to systematically document and describe the health effects associated with exposure to the October 2004 fire onboard Her Majesty’s Canadian Submarine Chicoutimi.
The Health Study followed 250 participants including 56 crewmembers, 42 members of the Care and Custody Team who looked after the submarine following its return to Faslane, Scotland, and 152 randomly selected submariners (acting as a control group). Stage one of the study analyzed the health of participants in the five years preceding the fire and five years following the fire.
The Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy has invited the former members of HMCS Chicoutimi, and the Care and Custody Team, to attend a Town Hall meeting at Canadian Forces Base Halifax where the results of the health study will be shared, and options for the next phase of the study will be discussed.
The Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Forces Health Services Group remain committed to undertaking this study, and will continue with the next phase of the study with input received at the upcoming Town Hall.
Media will be invited to attend a briefing following the Town Hall, where the results of the study will be released to the public.
“More than ten years ago, one of my predecessors as Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy met with the former members of HMCS Chicoutimi, and committed to undertaking this health study, the results of which were unacceptably delayed. For this I unreservedly apologize to our members and their families. We should have done better. As the mental and physical wellbeing of our sailors and the care of our people is our first priority, we appreciate the significance of the study’s findings, and the importance of continuing to monitor the health of everyone who was exposed to the fire.”
Vice Admiral Art McDonald, Commander Royal Canadian Navy
“I am struck by the grit and determination of the crew during and after the fire aboard Chicoutimi and also of the quality of the medical and mental health care they received following the incident. This report identifies not only the health impacts sustained by the crew, but also serves to improve our response to future traumatic events.”
BGen Andrew Downes, Surgeon General of the Canadian Armed Forces
In 2004 HMCS Chicoutimi sustained a fire during a transatlantic voyage from Scotland to Canada. The fire resulted in a number of casualties, and the death of Lt(N) Chris Saunders.
The crewmembers of HMCS Chicoutimi received comprehensive and enhanced medical and mental health care immediately following the fire, and over the subsequent months. Chief concerns at the time included respiratory conditions, and mental health issues. A number of crewmembers were also concerned that they may have had exposure to carcinogens that could have long-term health impacts.
At a Town Hall with crewmembers in 2008 the Royal Canadian Navy committed to undertaking a study to monitor the health of crewmembers, and members of the Care and Custody Team. The RCN reached an agreement for this study with the Canadian Forces Health Services Group in 2009.
The results of this study were unfortunately delayed due to several factors including insufficient tracking and follow-up, and while the draft report of the study was completed in 2015, it was not finalized until January, 2019.
Our intent now is to communicate the results of the study to crew and Care and Custody Team members and stakeholders in an open and transparent fashion, as quickly as possible, and to discuss options for further study.
Department of National Defence
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