Quebec Asbestos Victims Association re-launched

Wed, Jan 17, 2018

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Kathleen Ruff, RightOnCanada.ca

A Quebec Asbestos Victims Association (L’Association des victimes de l’amiante du Québec, AVAQ), which was inactive for several years, is now re-launching its activities. The new President of AVAQ, Gilles Mercier, before his retirement, worked as a safety inspector for the Quebec government’s Occupational Health & Safety Commission. In June last year, his father died of mesothelioma.

“The reason why  I have become involved in re-launching AVAQ is very simple,” says Mercier. “I wish to participate in the creation of an association that will support asbestos victims and their families, put them in touch with one another and support them so that their rights are respected and so that they receive all the information on their state of health and the possibilities of treatment. It is based on my personal experience. If I had not been present, if I had not been directly involved in occupational health and safety, my father would NEVER have been diagnosed as a victim of asbestos in April 2013. Later, until his death on June 20, 2017, it was as if everything was set up, EVERYTHING, so that his file would fall between two chairs, so that he would not be, so that the family would not be not compensated. This is unacceptable.” (translation)

Mercier is in particular hoping that Canada will set up a pan-Canadian compensation fund like the one that exists in France.

AVAQ’s secretary is Micheline Marier, one of the original co-founders of AVAQ.

AVAQ calls on Quebec government to amend compensation regulations for asbestos victims

AVAQ is calling on the Quebec government to amend its workers compensation system regarding compensation for workers who were exposed to asbestos on the job and who subsequently contracted asbestos-related diseases.

An investigation by the Radio-Canada program, Enquête, in March 2017, Malades de l’amiante… et laissés pour compte, showed that health institutions in Quebec have been paying millions of dollars to scientists who put forward inaccurate scientific information at worker compensation hearings claiming that chrysotile asbestos is less harmful than amphibole asbestos and that chrysotile asbestos does not cause harm to health at certain exposure levels.  Consequently, workers who were exposed to asbestos on the job and who contracted asbestos-related diseases have had their compensation claims unjustly dismissed by Quebec’s Occupational Safety Commission (CNESST).

In a letter sent to Quebec’s Minister of Labour, Dominique Vien, on January 15, 2018, AVAQ calls for more in-depth training on the medical and epidemiological evidence regarding asbestos-related diseases to be given to administrative judges and medical assessors at Quebec’s compensation tribunals and that the law on Occupational Accidents and Diseases be amended so as to specify certain types of work for which exposure to asbestos fibres is recognized and that no threshold of exposure be required.

Norman King, a scientific adviser to AVAQ, states: “In addition to supporting victims and their families, another important goal of AVAQ is to put pressure on the Quebec government, the CNESST and its labour tribunals so that decisions are based on current scientific literature, not partial, biased information, so that claims of asbestos victims are not unjustly dismissed.”

Legacy of asbestos harm

While asbestos mining stopped in Quebec in 2011, the legacy of asbestos harm continues. Many serious issues remain to be addressed. Millions of tons of asbestos tailings surround towns in the asbestos mining region; Quebec’s occupational standards for asbestos exposure are appalling; asbestos victims are denied justice, to name just a few issues.

Unions and health experts in Quebec have called on the government to take action. Now with the re-launch of AVAQ, the voices of asbestos victims and their families will also be heard.

We wish AVAQ every success in achieving its important goals.

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