Around a dozen people gathered at Saskatoon’s Victoria Park on Sunday afternoon for the annual anti-mefloquine rally, highlighting one of the darkest episodes in the countries military history.
The rally was visiting the Bridge City for the first time. In its fifth year, the rally raises awareness for the drug mefloquine, an anti-malaria drug soldiers of the airborne were forced to take before deploying to Somalia in the early 1990s.
Some of those who took it said the side effects ruined their lives.
One soldier remembered at the rally was Master Corporal Clayton Matchee, who faced court-martial for the torture and beating death of a Somali teen. Matchee attempted suicide and was left incapacitated.
Another airborne soldier, private Kyle Brown, was sentenced to five years in prison for his part in the beating death.
Spouse Marj Matchee blames the drug for Clayton’s behaviour. She is the founder of the veterans’ rally and said the annual event has taken steps in the right direction over the past years.
“These last few years, (the rally) has been trying to build our community, finding those ones that have been suffering in silence, not even connecting their health issues to mefloquine because they have been diagnosed with PTSD,” Marj said.
She says she has been advocating for 29 years for the cause, with a rally taking place every Sept. 19.
“We do this because we want the Somalian inquiry, which was closed prematurely because it didn’t follow its natural course. We want government recognition for the damage done to our veterans. We want government funding for better treatment and a cure if possible.”
“People need to know the difference between PTSD from their mefloquine poisoning,” said Marj. “(The rally) it’s all about awareness. It saves lives.”
“Don’t turn a blind eye to our veterans.”