It may be ironic that it took a political party bent on separating from Canada to push the federal government into pulling the plug on the exportation of asbestos, but the deed apparently is done.
The Sept. 4 election of the Parti Quebecois as a minority government, replacing Liberal Premier Jean Charest, effectively ended the idea of reopening an asbestos mine in the province.
On Friday, the feds followed suit, removing their opposition to the international agreement that added the form of asbestos–chrysotile–that would have been mined in what apparently will remain a closed facility in Asbestos, Quebec.
Instead, the government said it will provide up to $50 million in transitional support.
"Chrysotile mines are no longer viable, and Canada will no longer be an exporter of chrysotile," said a news release from local MP Pat Davidson, who added that the support strategy is ""something which I have been calling for as MP for Sarnia-Lambton for some time now."
Davidson went as far as to congratulate her government for "taking a bold and decisive step in reversing a four-decade old policy. I have no doubt that this announcement will be supported in Sarnia-Lambton and in fact across Canada by all Canadians, who will feel this decision is the right and responsible choice to make."
Sisters on a campaign 'delighted' with news
Leah Nielsen and Stacy Cattran, sisters who grew up in Sarnia and share the grief of having lost their father to asbestos-related disease, told LambtonShield.com they're "delighted" with the news.
Still, both intend to advocate for even bigger changes in the way Canada views asbestos.
Said Nielsen: "There is still work to be done. Asbestos has yet to be banned. People need proper compensation. An asbestos registry needs to be established to protect home/business renovators, firemen, construction workers, etc. But this is a fantastic start to help make the world a better place. We don't want our loved ones who have died to have died in vain. We will continue to fight."
Cattran echoed her sister's words: "We are gratified that our country will stop exporting thousands of tons of asbestos to the developing world, that Canadian embassies will no longer be used to promote the “safe use” of asbestos, and that tax dollars will not fund an asbestos lobby group that uses junk science to deceive people throughout the world."
Lambton County Warden Steve Arnold lauded the federal government's move.
"This is great news for all of us for generations to come, both locally and for our neighbours throughout the world," said Arnold. "So many in our community have lobbied long and hard for the federal government to do the right thing and quit supporting the mining and exporting of this carcinogen. For so many it is too late, and for the families of those victims we continue to feel their pain. This victory is one that has come at too high a price and my hope is that we as a society act quickly to protect our people from any new threats of this magnitude that come to light."
LambtonShield.com columnist Matt McEachran, a cousin of Leah Nielsen and Stacy Cattran (who lost their father to asbestos-related illness), was one of those who publicly chastised the government for continuing to allow asbestos to be exported.
And Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley essentially did the same, asking the president of the company that would have opened the mine to visit Sarnia (he declined the invitation).
A planned Sept. 29 vigil/walk will continue as planned, say organizers.