Volume 95, Issue 56

Friday, January 11, 2002
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Operation Massive II?

LTC gets new buses, but long waits continue

Home-schoolers fight to get into university

Prof: Canada ill-prepared for threat

Lung cancer photo album

News Briefs

Prof: Canada ill-prepared for threat

By Ben Leith
Gazette Staff

Canada is ill-prepared for the global threat of bio-terrorism, warned a Western history professor during a public lecture yesterday.

"The threat of bioterrorism today is very great," said Western history professor Don Avery, whose speech in the Medical Sciences building was aimed at bridging the gap between the faculties of science and social science. "We have been dragging our heals [in security preparations] compared to the Americans."

Avery's discussion focused on biological weapons and Canada's role in their development, spanning a time period from World War II, through the Cold War and up until the current global situation.

"In the 20th century, the first example of the use of bioweapons was during the First World War when Germans used anthrax on American horses," Avery said, noting the recent anthrax attacks on the United States are the first anthrax attacks ever to produce casualties.

During the Second World War, there were many similarities between the United States' Manhattan Project – which developed the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan – and their bioweapons program, which also involved Canada and Britain, Avery said.

"The most striking difference between the two is [the level of] Canadian and British involvement," he said. "Canada served the role of liaison between the United States and the [Britain]. As the junior partner, we had involvement without responsibility."

According to Avery, Canada has made significant contributions to the historical development of bioweapons. The testing of American and British munitions and the early work of Canadian scientists such as Nobel laureate Frederick Banting are all examples of such contributions.

"Our perception of biological weapons has changed since Sept. 11," he said. "There are realistic fears that ventilated anthrax could be spread using a more effective agent."

Ted Medzon, professor emeritus of microbiology and immunology, said Avery's talk opened his eyes to the politics and protocol involved in the issue of bioweapons.

"There is little public discussion about bioweapons, so I am pleased that he has done this work," he said.

Mike Setterfield, a third-year student in pharmacology and toxicology, said he gained a different understanding of bioweapons by attending the discussion.

"I was able to appreciate the issue from a historical perspective, after learning about it from a scientific point of view," he said.

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