Asbestos, Quebec Voters re-elected Liberal Karine Vallieres, MNA for Richmond by a wide margin April 7, 2014
In the last Quebec Provincial election in 2012 Premier Jean Charest and his Liberal Government fell to a Parti Quebecois Minority Government led by Pauline Marois. This time the Liberals came back with a large majority Government. The Town of Asbestos, home of the Jeffrey Asbestos Mine is in the Provincial riding of Richmond. Asbestos was a big issue in the 2012 election as Jean Charest had promised loans to reopen the asbestos mines with support from the Harper Federal Government. The separatist party of Quebec Independence gained popular support across the Province by promising to forever keep closed the asbestos mine. This allowed Karine Vallieres, age 36, the daughter of long-time Liberal member, and friend of asbestos, Yvon Vallieres to hold the Richmond Riding seat for the outgoing Liberals despite the Jean Charest failure across the Province. Mr. Vallieres who is now 65 years old held the seat from 1973 to 1976 when he lost it to the PQ. He was returned in 1981 and held the Riding since then until 2012, retiring with his daughter to run in his place in an election where the future of the Jeffrey Mine was a major issue especially locally.
The PQ created Quebec Charter of Values was supposed to be the key issue in this election. It is extremely controversial in its attempts to make Quebec a secular society where minorities will be restricted in their cultural expression much like use of the English language is already restricted. The rights of minorities mean little outside of the Liberal base of Montreal and Premier Pauline Marois was hoping for a majority government which would allow Independence to again be the issue as the next step. Premier Marois tried to keep Quebec Independence from being an issue in the 2014 election but she did not succeed. The PQ moved to the right working to get its Conservative French rural community base to support them. To assist they are using star candidate and strong advocate of Quebec Independence, Conservative Billionaire Pierre Peladeau, known in Quebec by his initials PKP. Pierre Karl Peladeau among other things, owns Quebecor, Videotron, Sun Newspapers and the extremely conservative and controversial Sun TV News Channel. The choice of candidates hurt the PQ among its more left leaning supporters and may be the prime reason the PQ lost on April 7th, 2014. The PQ had very little chance in the big cities as well because of ethnic populations who strongly oppose the Quebec Charter of Values,
Asbestos and the asbestos mine was not an election issue and nobody suggested that the asbestos mine would reopen. The Town of Asbestos and surrounding area are helped by government assistance to create new jobs to replace jobs in the Jeffrey asbestos mine.
In the last Quebec independence referendum a majority in Richmond Riding voted for Quebec Independence and so there was a good chance the PQ could take the seat, with asbestos and the local Jeffrey asbestos mine no longer an issue. It was a close election last time and considered a swing seat in 2014 but Ms. Vallieres was re-elected by a very wide margin of votes. Premier Marois had been hoping that Quebec Independence would not be an issue either this time but made critical errors in the campaign which cost her even her own seat in the National Assembly. The Liberal Opposition continuously pushed the PQ on the Quebec Independence and Referendum issues and led in the Polls. It is highly unlikely that the new Liberal Government headed by a Neurosurgeon Philippe Couillard, who as a previous Liberal Quebec Health Minister brought in restrictions on cigarette smoking in public, will do anything to reopen the asbestos mines of Quebec.
The people of English Canada are overwhelmingly happy to see the PQ defeated but do owe a debt of gratitude to them for having ended Canada’s role in mining and exporting deadly asbestos.
Asbestos Safety Ad featuring the World Trade Center
Bystanders of the fall of the twin towers were exposed to asbestos dust which no doubt was inhaled by many.
The World Trade Center, which was being built in 1971 had construction plans changed when New York City banned the use of asbestos in buildings. Mesothelioma a deadly cancer caused by asbestos exposure was becoming more well known. At that point construction of the World Trade Center was near the 64th floor of the twin towers. The use of asbestos was already reduced by the time construction was being done above the 40th floor in anticipation of the City of New York ban. Over 400 tons of asbestos had already been put into the towers. Original plans called for over 5,000 tons of asbestos to be used. Thirty years before the September 11 attack it was prophetically suggested by the inventor of the wet asbestos fireproofing spray, that if there ever was a fire above the 64th floor the buildings could collapse. On February 13, 1975 there was a fire on the 11th floor of the World Trade Center North Tower which was put out within a few hours. The Asbestos industry much criticized for Mesothelioma and other asbestos related illness took credit for the outcome in the advertisement shown above about the benefits of asbestos in buildings. Many years later and twelve years ago the twin towers of the World Trade Center came down, after terrorist hijackers crashed planes into the upper floors on September 11, 2001, Lower Manhattan was filled with toxic dust and many people hamajor asbestos exposure and are at risk for Mesothelioma. The World Trade Center Health Registry estimates about 410,000 people were exposed to a host of toxins including asbestos during the rescue, recovery and clean-up efforts that followed 9/11. People most affected by asbestos at Ground Zero were people assigned to rescue survivors. These workers were among the first on the scene and the last to leave the wreckage. Search and rescue workers and others responsible for cleaning up the debris after the towers collapsed were also exposed.
Dust from World Trade Center Collapse on September 11
September 11 rescuers, survivors and occupants of the area have suffered from asbestos exposure and illnesses from inhaling the asbestos and other toxins in the air. In addition to the fine asbestos powder which landed on September 11 the Boston Globe reported on September 14, 2001 that one test sample taken of the air in the vicinity of ground zero contained 4% asbestos which is four times the legal limit of 1% at which point it is considered unsafe. Cranes and bulldozers working in the area for clean up, continuously disturbed the asbestos dust for months. There is no doubt that the destruction of the World Trade Center has expanded the risk of 1000s of people of developing Mesothelioma. Many people will in time develop Asbestosis or worse, Mesothelioma, which can only be caused by asbestos exposure.
Most large buildings up until the late 1970s were constructed with asbestos for safety reasons. The World Trade Center was opened April 4, 1973 and was filled with asbestos. That is how buildings were built. Not anymore. There is no asbestos in buildings built today but people continue to live, work and attend school in asbestos filled older buildings every day. Asbestos exposure is still an everyday occurrence in Canada and the USA. The greatest danger from asbestos exposure comes when it is disturbed and released in the air to be breathed in by people in the vicinity. That is what happened on September 11, 2001. There is no evidence that would suggest that the World Trade Center would have been saved or any less people would have died if the asbestos was used right to the top as planned. There are many lessons to be learned from the construction and destruction of the World Trade Center including the ones related to asbestos.
Quebec residents had the opportunity to vote against asbestos and the asbestos mine on September 4, 2012 in a Quebec election. Most did with a Parti Quebecois Minority Government elected. The pro-asbestos mine, Quebec Liberal Government of Jean Charest has been defeated, as was Charest personally in his Sherbrooke Riding. The Town of Asbestos, being the home of the Jeffrey Mine is in the Richmond Riding. Liberal Karine Vallières won the Richmond riding by a few hundred votes over PQ candidate Étienne-Alexis Boucher. The PQ Government cancelled the loan to the mine and the miner has announced it will not reopen. There were obviously many bigger issues in the election than asbestos but support for the mine while saving one seat in the National Assembly no doubt hurt the Charest Government elsewhere. Asbestos is about as unpopular a product as exists anywhere and when given a choice most people would vote against asbestos. Even the Federal Government of Stephen Harper has backed off of its support for asbestos knowing it is a losing cause. They have put the asbestos feud behind them and are co-operating on other issues.
Stephen Harper and Pauline Marois now get along
In February 2012, a Quebec delegation came to India to promote asbestos exports to India. They were met with protests there. Nevertheless, an official agreement was signed to promote “safe handling of asbestos” in India. Asbestos is used extensively in India for roofing and mixed with cement. They have been Canada’s best customer for asbestos exports. With that agreement in hand the Quebec Government of Jean Charest knew there would be a continuing market for its controversial export. On June 29, 2012 shortly before announcing the Quebec election, the Charest Government announced it would loan $58,000,000 to restart asbestos mine operations at the Jeffrey Mine in the Town of Asbestos, Quebec. Private investors in Quebec agreed to invest $25,000,000 more in the asbestos mine. While this was not a popular thing for the Charest Government to do just before a Quebec election it was clearly intended to help that Government retain its Richmond Riding seat in the area of the mine. Asbestos became an election issue which may have affect many Quebec votes elsewhere. There was not clear or strong opposition to the move by Quebec opposition leaders who discussed the issue in a Quebec election debate on August 11, 2012. Since then all three opposition parties have clearly opposed the refinancing of the mine. The Quebec Government is a popular PQ minority which stopped the loan to the asbestos mine to fulfill its promise. For now the Canadian asbestos industry remains dormant.
Six minerals are defined as “asbestos” in two different classes. In Canada only the serpentine class has been mined. The serpentine class includes only the fibrous mineral chrysotile. It is more flexible and has a wider range of uses because of that quality. Chrysotile is white. It is argued by the Canadian industry and its supporters that chrysotile or “white asbestos” is less dangerous than the minerals in the other class of asbestos known as the amphibole class. With chrysotile many of the uses tend to result in the asbestos fibers being on the inside of building materials where there is less direct exposure to the fibers for possible inhalation. The danger is less in some situations but it is not accurate to simply say chrysotile is less deadly.
The amphibole class is made up of crystal forms and includes the minerals amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite. The amphibole forms are usually blue or brown. There is an important distinction to be made between serpentine and amphibole asbestos due to differences in their chemical composition. Blue asbestos is sprayed on with many uses and as such blue asbestos in such use more brittle and more likely to break off into the air for inhalation. Brown asbestos tends to be used for fireproofing boards and wall and with such use tends to be painted over or covered which reduces the danger. It is often said that blue asbestos is the most dangerous and blue asbestos is no longer mined. Asbestos in all forms of asbestos (including chrysotile asbestos) are known to be human carcinogens.
The chart above shows that in 2010 the bulk of Canada’s asbestos exports were to less developed countries. More than half goes to India. Asbestos use is banned completely in most developed countries where there is education about the dangers of asbestos. Developed countries have the ability to ensure that asbestos is handled with reasonable safety but even then it is far from safe. Where Canada’s asbestos is sent there is almost no knowledge, education or ability to ensure that asbestos is handled with any safeguards at all on arrival. Canadian asbestos is in the white fibrous form Chrysotile and the false argument is made that it is safe while the dangerous asbestos is blue asbestos that does not come from Canada. Is Canada exporting death to the poor people of the world? Do we have a moral responsibility? How do you feel about this? Your comments here are invited but also let the Governments of Canada and Quebec know how you feel.
Open Pit Mining with no thought of safety or protection
Here we will provide information about the miners and the danger they faced in Canada for over a century in the open pit asbestos mines. The modern asbestos mining methods are far more protective to the miners with education and high safety standards. Canadian asbestos is the white fibrous variety known as Chrysotile. Miners and others have been incorrectly told that white asbestos is safe and that only blue asbestos is dangerous. Modern asbestos mining in Canada is done with extreme safeguards.
The inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious diseases and death…
1890s Canadian workers separate asbestos from rock
It is no longer common to have Canadian workers handle asbestos directly without safeguards. In the photo shown above these women long ago were working with asbestos from the Johnson Mine in Thetford, Quebec to separate the asbestos fibers from the rock manually. There were no standards or safeguards at all.
Canadian asbestos exported to India and other developing countries is now regularly handled without education or standards. There are few safeguards by workers there.
In modern India workers continue to handle asbestos
Woman in Bangladesh shipyards filtering asbestos
Child in India is present where asbestos pipe is cut by unprotected workers
Our new Canadian Asbestos Facts website is part of a major campaign to to educate Canadians to know more and to get angry about asbestos and to get involved in efforts to ban asbestos exports and use. We readily admit we are biased against asbestos. We are working to inform Canadians about the harm caused by asbestos and what people can do to protect their health and increase public safety standards. We will provide information to assist persons who suffer from Mesothelioma and their families. This includes education about healthcare and financial compensation. There are many good organizations and individuals working hard in the war against asbestos. We have links from our site to some of the other asbestos related websites. We want to link it all together on the web and work together to make the asbestos and mesothelioma resources available to all. Please send us with our contact form any suggested internet links to add, and if you have a website please add a link to ours.
The asbestos industry in Canada has been supported by an organization called The Chrysotile Institute based in Montreal for many years. It was founded in 1984 (a perfect year for such an Orwellian organization to begin) and was originally called the Asbestos Institute. It was most recently funded by the Quebec Government. The Institute closed at the end of April 2012 with no public explanation given. The office in Montreal was quietly vacated April 5th with no forwarding address or phone number. On April 28th notice was posted in the Canada Gazette of intention to surrender its federal corporate charter. It no longer exists. The institute had been the leading source of asbestos disinformation around the world. It suggests that Chrysotile, the white form of asbestos mined in Canada, is safer than blue or other types of asbestos and it is okay to use with modest safety precautions. An example of their message that asbestos is good and minimizing the danger of it, is the following quote:
“Scientific and medical research has revealed that excessive exposure to inhaled asbestos dust can be dangerous to health. It should be noted, however, that the risks are generally related to exposure during handling of asbestos fibres in work environment.”
This quote and other false and dangerous information can still be found at www.chrysotile.com the website for the institute. Although the institute has abruptly ceased operations and closed, the website can be found online but hopefully it too will disappear. The misinformation campaign of the asbestos industry continues without it. Help us spread the truth and save lives in Canada and around the world.
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