Quebec: Asbestos injustice against workers continues

Fri, Mar 24, 2017


Kathleen Ruff,

An in-depth investigative report by Radio-Canada’s award-winning TV program, Enquête, reveals how Quebec’s Commission on Occupational Standards, Equity, Health and Safety  is refusing compensation to many workers, who were exposed to asbestos at work and who are dying from asbestos-related diseases.

In the documentary, Malades de l’amiante… et laissés pour compte (Workers with asbestos diseases .. abandoned), which aired on March 23, journalist Julie Dufresne documents systemic injustice delivered to workers by the Commission on Occupational Standards, Equity, Health and Safety, whose conduct demonstrates the opposite to what its beautiful name claims.

Among the injustices put forward in the documentary are:

Cases of retired construction workers, who were continually exposed to asbestos at work, who now have asbestos-related diseases, who were examined by six pulmonologists who unanimously recommended that compensation should be awarded, but whose cases were challenged by the employer and rejected by the Commission.

The union to which one of the workers had belonged, the Confederation of National Trade Unions, tried to help the retiree by providing him with a lawyer. The union was then inundated with calls from other retired workers with asbestos-related diseases and experiencing the same kind of injustice at the hands of the Commission.

In the case of one retired electrician, the employer (a public hospital) spent nearly $39,000 on legal fees and a Montreal doctor to avoid paying their former employee compensation of $30,000.

However, it is financially rewarding to employers to defeat compensation claims from workers with asbestos-related diseases or other occupational diseases, since employers finance the Commission and the premium each employer pays is set according to the amount of compensation paid out by the Commission to that employer’s employees or former employees.

According to Katherine Lippel, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, the Quebec régime is the worst in Canada on this issue. She points out that there are six times more challenges in cases of occupational injuries or illnesses in Quebec than in Ontario.

As a result of the Radio-Canada documentary, Quebec’s Minister of Labour, Dominique Vien, says that she has had “a very serious conversation” with the Commission and asked it to find a solution to the asbestos file.

This hardly demonstrate competent leadership on the part of the Minister.

The Minister refused to consider introducing a fund for workers exposed to asbestos, similar to the funds that exist in France and other countries.

In Quebec and all across Canada, workers and their families were betrayed by governments that showed negligence by failing to protect them from the known harm caused by asbestos. Today, workers and their families are again being betrayed by flawed compensation systems that deny them  justice.

The tragic story of asbestos suffering and injustice continues.


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