The Marystown Shipyard Family Alliance 

by Bernadine Bennett



Our committee, the Marystown Shipyard Families Alliance, was formed in the spring of 2006 when it became apparent that workers and their families were not being adequately represented. A retrospective epidemiological cohort study funded by the Newfoundland Government and completed in 2002 by a prestigious Canadian university proved to be an incompetent piece of work. Out of frustration and disillusionment with the political machinations that have carried on since then our committee was born

Our committee, co-chaired by Bertha Smith and myself, is not affiliated with any other group or organization. My father died in 1993 from lung cancer and Bertha Smith's husband died in 1997 from brain cancer. Fortunately, we made the acquaintance of Dr. Noel Kerin, Occupational Medical Consultant based in Toronto, Ontario. To date we are representing 40 workers and or families and have submitted claims for each to the WHSCC (Workplace Health Safety and Compensation Commission); these claims are currently under review.

We believe that the only way to assess the cancer burden of the Marystown shipyard is through a formal intake clinic process designed to evaluate individual workers' health status and toxic exposures in the workplace. Intake clinics – such as those in Peterborough and Sudbury, Ontario – have proven to be highly effective.

The Marystown Shipyard became operational in 1967 and continues to this day under new ownership. Until 1998, the original owner/operator was the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. The hazardous exposures at Marystown were no different from those experienced by workers in Japanese, English, Scottish or Italian shipyards. There is, however, a legal issue that we feel sets Marystown Shipyard apart from the others. To facilitate the sale of the shipyard to private owners in 1998, the Canadian Government accepted a legal liability not only for the cleanup of the contaminated site but also for workers who were affected by hazardous shipyard exposures. We believe that this liability goes above and beyond compensation from WHSCC. An intake clinic for workers from the shipyard is, in our opinion, the sole responsibility of our government. With other members of the community, we are seeking legal representation to force the Government to honor its commitment to the workers and local residents who have been injured by the operations of the Marystown shipyard. 1

June 5, 2007


1 Legal representatives interested in working with us on this campaign can email me:



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