Sarnia 2011: Remembering Our Asbestos Victims 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



On October 1, 2011 a Walk to Remember Asbestos Victims was held in Centennial Park, Sarnia, Ontario in the memory of those whose lives have been cut short by asbestos. Organized by Canadian sisters Leah Nielsen and Stacy Cattran, whose father Bill Coulbeck had died of mesothelioma in 2008, in conjunction with the Sarnia group “Victims of Chemical Valley,” the event became a rallying point not only for local people but for Canadians from much further afield. It was a serendipitous coincidence that October 1 was also the deadline for the Quebec Government to announce its decision regarding a proposal to provide a $58 million loan guarantee to asbestos entrepreneurs backing a plan to develop a new underground mining facility in Quebec. As has happened on two previous occasions, the deadline came and went without a decision being made; officials now say that this decision will be made in the run-up to Christmas.

Participants at the Sarnia activities expressed their opposition to Quebec's pro-asbestos policy in person and via the banners they held aloft during the march: “Killing People for Profit is Wrong,” and “Ban Asbestos!” were popular slogans on the day. The speech by mesothelioma sufferer Bruce Bradshaw, who pleaded with Prime Minister Harper to terminate Canada's support for asbestos vested interests, was greeted with a standing ovation.

Photographs from the day's activities document a large turnout of victims and family members determined to brave the off-shore winds to show their outrage at Canada's continued support for the asbestos industry. The photographs and captions have been supplied by Leah Nielsen and Stacy Cattran.


Linda Reinstein, president of ADAO, addresses the group gathered for Friday evening's candlelight vigil.



Despite the cold, wet weather, there was a great turnout for the vigil as people came together to honour their loved ones.



A family arrives Saturday morning at Dow People Place.



People came with signs of all sizes and various sentiments.



Sisters and Walk organizers, Leah and Stacy, address the crowd.



Part of the crowd that gathered for the speeches and Walk.



Mesothelioma patient, Bruce Bradshaw, speaks from the heart.



The Walk--around 450 people braved the waterfront wind to show their support.



The Walk, featuring generations of families, many local and some from as far away as Nova Scotia, Alberta, and Utah.


At the end we all gathered at The Victims of Chemical Valley Memorial to write notes in sidewalk chalk expressing how much we loved and missed our loved ones, and promising never to give up the fight to ban asbestos.

October 6, 2011



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