The Star’s investigation exposes the first widespread use of these chemicals in Canada outside of a military spraying operation.We were saturated in chemicals,” said Don Romanowich, 63, a former supervisor of an aerial spraying program in Kapuskasing, Ont., who was recently diagnosed with a slow-growing cancer that can be caused by herbicide exposure. “We were told not to drink the stuff but we had no idea.”
Nearly 20,000 kilometres away in Northern Ontario, toxic herbicides were employed to disable a different kind of enemy.The chemicals targeted what forestry reports described as “weed trees” — including birch, maple, poplar and shrubs — which stole sunlight and soil nutrients from young, profitable spruce species. The hormones in the defoliants caused the broad leaves on these weed trees to grow so quickly they starved to death.
The government records list the names of five supervisors who worked on spraying programs in Northern Ontario during the 1950s and 1960s. Four of the five have either been diagnosed with or died of cancer. Their job included mixing chemicals and standing in the fields supervising spray campaigns.
Teenaged workers are also listed in the records and the Star is working to track them down.