Former RCMP members are now wondering whether a training centre in Carleton Place, Ont., may have led to serious health problems after the building was linked to another facility previously found to be riddled with contaminants.
The RCMP Veterans' Association said it was contacted by a number of concerned members after Radio-Canada revealed last week that a contaminated facility in Kemptville, Ont., could be connected to the illnesses and deaths of those who trained there.
"Would you mind circulating a message that would have any member ... who was lodged at Carleton Place and experiencing medical issues to please contact me," read an email from the association, obtained by Radio-Canada .
The two buildings, located in municipalities south of Ottawa, served as training centres for specialized squads whose members came from across Canada. Both buildings were former bunkers built in the early 1960s during the Cold War.
The Kemptville facility, known as the Canada Training Centre, was closed in 2006 and demolished the following year.
While the building was in use, the federal government conducted a range of tests and inspections that uncovered lead in the tap water and paint, toxic mould, a kitchen that failed to meet public health standards and asbestos and silica in the structure's building materials.
The RCMP Veterans' Association is now trying to find out whether former members who trained at the Carleton Place centre had similar experiences.
Agents developed serious illnesses
"I am aware a number of our former SERT members are experiencing medical issues that are similar in nature, but there is no way of knowing at this time if the Carleton Place facility contributed to these situations," reads the email, written by former Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) member Sandy Glenn.
Officers who trained at the Kemptville facility would eventually develop a number of medical issues ranging from lung infections caused by fungus to Parkinson's disease.
Radio-Canada also identified at least six RCMP members who had trained there and died prematurely.
Whether the Carleton Place facility suffered from the same level of deterioration is still unclear, but Glenn said his colleagues are going through similar health problems.
"Two of our SERT former members have been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy and three more have similar symptoms and are bringing the circumstances to their physicians," Glenn said in a phone interview, referring to a disease of the nervous system that first attacks the hands and feet.
Former Carleton Place officers suffering from illnesses have also communicated with Radio-Canada, but Glenn warned it was still too early to connect the building to any health concerns.
"Remember, our team did an awful lot of explosive training all across Canada," he said. "There is so much stuff we exposed ourselves to that was unhealthy. The building could have been another one."
Presence of contaminants unknown
The Carleton Place centre was used to train members of the RCMP's Emergency Response Team (ERT) from 1981 to the end of the 1980s and served as the headquarters for SERT from 1986 to 1989, but it was also used to train officers from the force's Special I unit — which eventually moved to Kemptville in 1988.
Officers from that unit were tasked with piercing holes in the walls, ceiling and cement to practise installing surveillance equipment.
If asbestos was present, "we breathed it," Glenn said.
Radio-Canada has asked the RCMP whether the force was ever informed of the presence of contaminants at the Carleton Place building, but has not yet received a response.