MAC: Mines and Communities

Quebec National Assembly applauds efforts to ban asbestos

Published by MAC on 2016-06-17
Source: Right on Canada

In historic turn-around, Quebec National Assembly applauds efforts to ban asbestos

Kathleen Ruff

15 June 2016

In an historic event on June 9, 2016, reversing a hundred years of history, all four political parties in the Quebec National Assembly gave a standing ovation and unanimous support to a motion to pay tribute to the work carried out over the past several years to stop asbestos mining in Quebec and to ban asbestos use.

See video of this historic event in the Quebec National Assembly here -

While the motion named one individual, Kathleen Ruff, the tribute was for the ceaseless efforts that were supported by Quebec health leaders and scientists and activists around the world, that challenged the government of Quebec to end its support of the asbestos industry. Over and over again these scientists, activists and asbestos victims in Quebec, Canada and overseas added their names to statements, letters, submissions and actions opposing Quebec’s export of asbestos. These efforts were widely reported in the Quebec media and eventually won public and political support.

The motion (English translation) stated:

“That the National Assembly pay tribute to Kathleen Ruff and thank her for her perseverance in the fight to stop the mining of asbestos in Quebec and Canada, and to prohibit its use;

That the National Assembly recognize the essential contribution of the work of Ms. Ruff to the health of workers and that of the citizens of Quebec.”

In a media release (English here -, the leader of Québec solidaire, Amir Khadir, stated: “The asbestos industry is extremely hazardous to health, everyone knows this. It is even deadly!” Khadir, who is a medical doctor, praised the successful efforts that challenged the influence of the asbestos lobby over Canadian policy; that made the government take account of the opinion of independent, recognized scientists and made it put human lives ahead of political expediency.

“Thanks to support given by Quebec scientists, public health experts, and a couple of very courageous union and political leaders, at a time when everything seemed against us, we were able to defeat the government’s plan to make Quebec the second largest exporter of asbestos in the world after Russia,” said Kathleen Ruff.

The video of the press conference can be seen here - The part of the press conference in English starts at 8:06 minutes.

This event marked the end of the Quebec government’s century-long promotion of asbestos.

This reversal occurred five years after an Asia-Quebec Solidarity delegation went to the Quebec National Assembly in December 2010 and met with the then Minister of Economic Development, Innovation & Export, Clément Gignac, met with the opposition Parti Québécois and met with union leaders to ask them to support health and stop supporting the export of asbestos. At that time, Amir Khadir, leader of Québec solidaire, was the only member of the National Assembly to take a stand against Quebec’s export of asbestos.

The victory today should be seen as honouring the efforts of the Quebec-Asia Solidarity delegation and, in particular, Rachel Lee, a member of the delegation, who came to Quebec in an effort to save others from dying from asbestos-related disease and who herself died from mesothelioma in January 2012. We will never forget her courage and selflessness.

Amir Khadir and Québec solidaire deserve respect and gratitude for the solidarity and commitment to justice that they have demonstrated.

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