Reaching out to Canada's Asbestos Victims
In the wake of announcements by the Quebec and Canadian Governments which signalled the end to asbestos mining by one of the world's most prolific suppliers of asbestos fiber, ban asbestos campaigners and asbestos victims from around the world have expressed support for workers, victims and communities throughout Canada.1 At a meeting held in Brussels on September 17 & 18 entitled Europe's Asbestos Catastrophe, delegates unanimously approved a message which expressed solidarity with Quebec's asbestos victims and affirmed concern for people throughout Quebec's mining region.2 The people of Quebec, they wrote have the right to live and work in a safe environment; this right is being denied by the presence of asbestos in the built environment and the widespread environmental contamination produced by decades of asbestos mining.
One of the organizations which hosted the Brussels meeting was ABEVA, the Belgian Asbestos Victims' Group. Its President, Eric Jonckheere, is in Canada this week for a series of meetings with asbestos victims, grass-roots campaigners and representatives of civil society. Speaking from Canada yesterday, Eric told Belgian journalists My lungs are full of Quebec asbestos.3 Accompanied by French ban asbestos activist Alain Bobbio, Eric plans to visit the mine which supplied the asbestos to the Belgian factory where his father Pierre worked. Eric's father, mother and two brothers died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Eric and his brother both have pleural plaques, a condition which signifies exposure to asbestos.
Eric Jonckheere being interviewed by Belgian TV outside Belgian Court in 2011.
In the discussions this week in Canada, the European activists are raising the issues of reparations, decontamination and just transition as well as expressing solidarity with the victims and those adversely affected by current developments. Ending Canadian asbestos production is the first step, Eric has said but a total ban on the production, use and export of asbestos must be adopted. Today (September 28), Eric and Alain are taking part in discussions with staff from the Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers in Sarnia; afterwards they will participate in a candlelight vigil and the annual Walk to Remember Victims of Asbestos.4
September 28, 2012
1 Kazan-Allen L. Canada, No More Asbestos! September 16, 2012.
2 Kazan-Allen L. Asbestos at the Heart of European Debate. September 20, 2012.
3 Leherte A.O. Des Belges au Canada pour sensibiliser les victims de l'amiante. September 27, 2012.
4 Morden P. Asbestos battle not over, activists say. September 26, 2012.