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Veteran who claims poisoning starts hunger strike outside minister's office

Former Canadian Forces soldier Pascal Lacoste shows his chained hands as he sits in his home in Quebec City, Wednesday, October 26, 2011 An ex-soldier who says he was poisoned while serving overseas has gone on a hunger strike outside the office of Canada's veterans affairs minister until he gets medical treatment.

Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A military veteran on a hunger strike collapsed momentarily during the third day of his protest against the federal government Monday.

Mr. Lacoste is trying to convince the government to recognize that he and other soldiers were poisoned while serving overseas.

The 38-year-old former soldier was leaving a camper lent to him by a friend and heading back to his SUV when he fell to the ground.

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An ambulance was called as his mother rushed to hold him, clutching him to her chest. Mr. Lacoste eventually recovered after taking gasps of air from an oxygen mask.

But the exhausted-looking man refused to go to hospital. He decided to continue his hunger strike instead.

Mr. Lacoste told a Canadian Press photographer that a small drop in blood pressure caused him to collapse.

"I went outside the vehicle and I went from hot to cold, from sitting to a standing position and I felt a little dizzy," he explained.

"The ambulance workers came to check and everything was OK, everything returned to normal and we'll continue the battle."

Mr. Lacoste still hasn't had any food after rejecting an offer for treatment from Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney.

He says what he wants now is recognition from Ottawa that soldiers have been poisoned upon exposure to depleted uranium.

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In a statement issued late Monday, Mr. Blaney's office said the minister has offered Mr. Lacoste "treatment and services" from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"We encourage other veterans who served in Bosnia who may be suffering to contact the department to receive these same services."

Mr. Lacoste says he is prepared to die if that's what it takes.

He claims he is only drinking capfuls of water to help him swallow his prescription pills.

Mr. Lacoste blames his own declining health, which includes chronic pain and a degenerative neurological disorder, on depleted-uranium poisoning he believes he contracted in Bosnia in the 1990s.

The Veterans Affairs department maintains it's unlikely any Canadian soldiers were contaminated with depleted uranium because few, if any, ever came into contact with it while in service.

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Mr. Lacoste has been chained to his SUV outside the minister's riding office since the hunger strike began.

About a dozen veterans have also shown up to express their support.

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