Mission & History

Our mission

“The Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada exists to empower its members and to improve their quality of life.”

TVAC is a non-profit charitable organization which represents over a hundred Canadians living with congenital malformations as result of the teratogenic effects of the thalidomide drug. This drug was prescribed in the late fifties and early sixties to pregnant women to relieve morning sickness. We often refer to the members of our organization – all of whom are thalidomide Survivors – as “thalidomiders”.

TVAC is currently the only group in North America who represents thalidomide survivors.

Also,TVAC has undertaken a new mandate to warn the public about the potentially devastating effects of certain drugs, so that recurrence of a tragedy such as thalidomide’s can be avoided.

Our history

TVAC was established in December 1987 with the assistance from the War Amputations of Canada and officaly incorporated on June 23, 1988. The five thalidomide Survivors founders of TVAC are:

  • Randolph Warren
  • Gavin Bamber
  • Paul Murphy
  • Alvin Law
  • Jim Bresnahan

The first ever gathering of Canadian thalidomide victims was held in Ottawa from August 2 to 4, 1988, to celebrate the creation of the organization.
It was originally founded to support the efforts of the War Amps’ Thalidomide Task Force set up to seek compensation for Canadian-born thalidomide victims. The objective of this action was to remind the Canadian government of the promise its Health Minister made in 1963 and the government’s obligations towards the victims.

The Promise made by the Government of Canada (1963)
“It is our job to ensure that these [thalidomide] victims are cared for in the best possible manner, that their needs are met to the fullest extent we can devise and to ensure, as much as possible, that a similar tragedy will never occur again.”
The Honourable J.W Montieth, Minister of Health and Welfare – January 29, 1963

On December 15, 1991, TVAC was restructurated into its present form, which requires it to be wholly managed and controlled by its members. TVAC has been recognized as a charitable organization since May 1, 1992.

In 2008, the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada celebrated its 20th anniversary of existence. During the celebration of this event, TVAC honored M. Cliff Chadderton, former Executive Director of the War Amputations of Canada, for his outstanding contribution to the cause of thalidomide survivors in Canada.

Group picture taken on our 20th anniversary
TVAC's 20th anniversary banner : 20 years and you're the heart of it all
Cliff Chadderton

Our achievements

Since 1988, our organization’s determination to carry TVAC forward in its mission of mutual assistance for Canadian thalidomide survivors and raising public awareness of the dangers associated with the use of teratogenic drugs has never faltered.  Here are just a few of our accomplishments in this task:

  • On June 1, 1995 we launched our “accommodation program”, tailored to the needs of Canadian thalidomide victims. The program’s purpose was to ensure that each and every Canadian thalidomide victim can maintain his or her independent life style with dignity and be a full-fledged citizen in his or her community.
  • We made a name for ourselves taking a position and making recommendations on the exceptional distribution system and absolute watchfulness required in the United States’ 1998 re-marketing of thalidomide;
  • In 1999, TVAC published the results of a study, conducted among its membership, entitled “Thalidomide survivors; a questionnaire survey on musculoskeletal abnormalities, general health, and quality of life”;
  • In 2004, in the course of an international meeting of thalidomider organizations around the world, we shared our experience and knowledge through our presentation on the status of thalidomide use in North America during the 30th anniversary of the Ishizue Foundation, an organization representing thalidomide victims in Japan;
  • Another consciousness-raising coup was achieved with our presentation “45 years later…Where do we Stand!” that we gave during the MOTHERISK conference, “Establishing a new Benchmark for Drug Evaluation during Pregnancy”, that was held on May 10, 2006 in Toronto. The objective of the presentation was to highlight the importance for us all as a society to take responsibility for the quality of treatment pregnant women should be receiving, an issue which is indissociably linked to the protection of unborn children. This presentation was subsequently published in the Canadian Journal of Clinical Pharmacology;
  • On July 17, 2008 we made a presentation to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on our position concerning the risks associated with the potential marketing of a generic thalidomide drug;
  • In solidarity with the Brazilian thalidomide survivors, TVAC participated to the International meeting, held from October 25th to 31st, 2009, in São Paulo. We were confronted to the harsh reality of a third generation of children, victim of thalidomide, in Brazil. As Canadian representatives, we shared historical facts concerning the thalidomide tragedy in Canada, but also our experience in regards to the controlled distribution of thalidomide in North America. The blessing of being able to share our common experiences and the warm welcome the international community received from our Brazilian colleagues gave to the event, an incredible feeling of brotherhood;
  • In the context of the re-marketing of thalidomide in Canada, August 4, 2010, and to protect the unborn children, we revised the RevAid program and proposed many recommendations, which were all favourably welcomed;
  • On March 2nd, 1962, the Canadian government withdrew Kevadon and Talimol (two different trade names for thalidomide) that had been prescribed to pregnant women without the slightest restriction. Therefore, the year 2012 has represented for all of us, both survivors and family members, 50 years of carrying on despite the manifold challenges inflicted on all of us. On October 19, 20 and 21, in Ottawa, TVAC members, parents, friends and partners have joined us at our National Event entitled : ″ THALIDOMIDE : 1 pill… 50 years later! ″. Formal presentations, discussions, workshops and entertainment has led on to make this great gathering another unforgettable moment in the life of our association;
  • In 2013, our report on the current living conditions of Canadian thalidomide survivors and their projections for their future shed light on the early physical degeneration and impoverishment problems severely impacting our entire community.
  • The alarming conclusions of the report led us, with the help of a TaskForce, to launch the “Right the Wrong!” campaign that rallied parliamentarians and the public to our cause. The success of this campaign led to the creation of the Thalidomide Survivors Contribution Program by the federal government.
  • We also have a documentation centre dedicated exclusively to the thalidomide tragedy and we provide a unique public education and awareness service concerning the teratogenic side-effects of thalidomide.

Our logo


The human figure was placed at the focal point of the design and represents thalidomide victims with a different icon, showing abnormalities: the arms are shorter and the legs bowed. The stylized figure was shaped into a “T”, for Thalidomide.

The colours have been carefully selected:

  • The red, a vibrant colour, is suggestive of the heart. It is also the main colour of the Canadian maple leaf. It can also represent a danger signal, or at least a warning.
  • The grey, more neutral, is soothing and calm, and tones down the vividness of the red and strikes a more corporate note.

The icon, placed in a square, extends out to the margins to avoid being stifled, boxed in. This is intended to suggest the possibility of growing, evolving, reaching outside the box, something that TVAC has always managed to do over the years!