Canada's Asbestos “Mafia”1: In Words and Pictures 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



We have tried logic, we have tried facts. We have liaised, consulted and demonstrated until we were blue in the face. Nothing seems capable of prising the asbestos baton out of the cold dead hands of Quebec's industry of mass destruction. Cuddly old Canada and proud Quebec don't give a rat's ass about the deaths they are exporting along with their shipments of chrysotile (white) asbestos.

In the face of condemnation from Quebec's own public and occupational health professionals, the province's asbestos stakeholders remain resolute in their determination to prioritize 450 local jobs over the lives of millions of vulnerable people. After all, surely the job of an asbestos worker in the town of Thetford Mines matters more than the lives of Indians, Indonesians, Filipinos and others in countries which import Canadian asbestos. Anyway, the people in Mumbai, Jakarta and Manila don't vote in the Canadian and Quebec elections so who cares about them – surely not Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Quebec's Premier Jean Charest.

The recent announcement by the Quebec Government that it will provide a $58 million loan guarantee for a new asbestos mine, subject to minor provisos, signals a total and utter disregard for anyone and anything other than the iconic industry which is held in such high regard in Quebec. The reasons for the status of the asbestos industry are partially historical and partially habit. It seems that asbestos = Quebec and that criticism of chrysotile asbestos, the only type of asbestos mined in Quebec, is interpreted as an attack on the bedrock of Quebec nationalism.

Enough is enough. The entrepreneurs, industry lobbyists and stakeholders in Quebec have to evolve. They have to find new reasons to get out of bed in the morning. They have to let go of their asbestos security blanket and move with the times. Asbestos has been discredited; in the end, the industry will not save you. If you are lucky it might not kill you but it will kill some of the mine workers and many of the people in the Canadian mining regions. It will also kill people overseas; for them, hazardous exposures will be a matter of routine. When they get ill, there will be no diagnosis, no treatment and no cure – just an excruciating and predictable death.


Canada and Quebec stand condemned for their crimes against humanity. These once proud states have, through their own wilful acts, destroyed their reputations and reduced their legacy to one best summed up by the cartoon featured above. As offensive as it might be, it is not nearly as offensive as dumping millions of tonnes of a known carcinogen on innocent human beings.

April 21, 2011


1 One of the definitions of “mafia” given by the Oxford Dictionary of English is “a group regarded as exerting a hidden sinister influence.”



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