Quebec Public Opposes Asbestos Subsidy 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



A public opinion poll carried out between January 3 and 5, 2011 revealed that the majority of people in Quebec are against government support for the asbestos industry. Sixty-five per cent of the 1,001 Quebeckers questioned said the government should not support the asbestos industry while a staggering 76% were against government financing for a new mining project.1 The online poll, carried out by Leger Marketing, was commissioned by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE). Introducing the questions, the pollsters explained that the current issue involved foreign investment, economic benefits for the Quebec mining region as well as adverse health risks: “all the medical authorities, including the Canadian Cancer society, oppose the project…”

Commenting on the results of the survey, Dr. Eric Notepaper, the Chair of Cape, said:

“These results clearly show that the vast majority of Quebeckers are opposed to government financing for the Jeffrey mine… We hope that Premier Charest will be guided by the good sense of Quebeckers and that he will not finance the consortium of investors who want to re-launch the export of asbestos.”2

Dr. Fernand Turcotte, professor emeritus of public health, Laval University and a member of CAPE, reiterated criticism of Premier Charest's pro-asbestos position saying:

“Health experts in Quebec and from around the world have asked the Quebec government not to finance the Jeffrey mine. It is clear that an overwhelming majority of the Quebec population also oppose the government giving financing for the Jeffrey Mine. Is the government listening?”3

Throughout recent weeks, the Quebec's asbestos lobby has been uncharacteristically quiet. Having dominated the Canadian asbestos debate for decades, the loss of control over media coverage surrounding asbestos has come as something of a rude awakening. Trying to downplay the implications of Turkey banning asbestos on December 31, 2010, Asbestos Mouthpiece Clement Godbout said: “Turkey has not bought chrysotile (asbestos) for at least six years, so it has not been a client of Quebec enterprises for several years.”4

Godbout, President of the (Canadian) Chrysotile Institute, and other asbestos lobbyists, such as representatives of the Brazilian Chrysotile Institute, are increasingly positioning themselves as victims of the powerful and omnipotent ban asbestos lobby. It would be ludicrous if it were not so tragic that these industry fat cats are now trying to portray themselves as mere pawns in the titanic battle over asbestos. “For us,” Godbout told a journalist “2010 was hell. The anti-asbestos lobby went at it with a campaign never seen before in user countries. Everything was put in place to challenge chrysotile. In these circumstances, we were incapable of getting our message out.”

Indeed, the propaganda disseminated by the purveyors of deadly chrysotile asbestos is no longer regarded as credible. Godbout and his cronies must look back fondly on the days when unsuspecting consumers, ignorant governments and innocent workers would blithely accept industry's reassurances that chrysotile asbestos could be used safely. Exposing the industry's lies has been the work of decades – it has been carried out by asbestos victims groups, grass-roots activists, trade unionists, human rights campaigners and other sectors of civil society. In recent years, concerted efforts have been made by the ban asbestos network to coordinate strategies and mount joint initiatives. The mission to Canada conducted in December 2010 by the Asian Solidarity Delegation is the most recent manifestation of the determination of this network to pool their resources and focus their efforts on priority areas.5

The asbestos industry in Canada lies bankrupt and bleeding. Its demise, as signified by the collapse of the plans to build a new asbestos mine, would symbolize major progress for those wishing to see an end to the global trade in this deadly substance. Whether Premier Charest and his Government will listen to the majority of Quebeckers, health experts from Quebec, scientists and physicians from around the world, global labor federations and asbestos victims from chrysotile-consuming countries remains to be seen.

January 16, 2011


1 Kazan-Allen L. Stop the Mine – Update! January 14, 2011.

2 Statement by the Canadian Associations of Physicians for the Environment. January 14, 2011.

3 Lalonde M. Quebecers don't want government cash going to asbestos industry. January 14, 2011
Amiante: 75% des Quebecois contre la relance de la mine Jeffrey. January 14, 2011.

4 Kazan-Allen L. Asbestos Ban in Turkey. December 30 2010.

5 Asian Solidarity Delegation to Quebec, Canada: Archive List



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