A Toxic Legacy of the Vietnam War

The Department of History is pleased to announce that “Toxic Time-Bomb,” Dr. Ron Harpelle’s latest environmental film, will premiere at a live-streaming event organized to mark the Journée internationale d’hommage et de soutien aux victimes de l’Agent orange, (Agent Orange Day).

August 10 is Agent Orange Day because that was the day, 59 years ago, that the United States began aerial spraying toxic herbicides in Vietnam. From 1961 to 1971, 75 million litres of these tactical herbicides were sprayed on approximately 12 percent of South and Central Vietnam and they were also used in neighbouring Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.

Nearly 5 million people were affected by the spraying during the war and children are still being born with birth defects linked to these herbicides. Today in Vietnam more than 100,000 children are the third and fourth generations of victims. Sadly, some of the Agent Orange used in Vietnam was produced in Canada and the legacy of its production haunts us still.

“Toxic Time-Bomb” is about the impact of industrial pollution and about the activists who have spent 30 years fighting to ensure that industry and government take responsibility for the destruction of the environment in and around their community. Agent Orange was produced by Uniroyal Canada in Elmira, Ont., a small farming community just outside Waterloo. In late 1989, 17 years after production stopped, Elmira was obliged to shut down its water supply because of the discovery of high levels of dangerous chemicals in the aquifer that flows under the town. The film was made with support from the Ontario Arts Council and is part of a larger co-production project with French filmmaker Sylvie Vàng Jacquemin and local filmmaker Kelly Saxberg.

The film is available in English, with French, Spanish and Vietnamese versions and will premiere on August 9 at 10:30 pm and again on August 10 at 6:00 am local time.

For details and to see the film as part of the event, look on Facebook for either the Collectif Vietnam-Dioxine or the Journée des victimes de l'agent orange. For those who miss the premiere, the film will be made available for viewing online until August 14 at Shebafilms.com.