Don’t revive asbestos industry, asbestos victim and rights advocate tell Prime Minister Harper and Premier Charest

Press Release
For Immediate Release
November 24, 2011

(Ottawa) Asbestos victim, Heidi von Palleske, and human rights advocate, Kathleen Ruff, challenged Prime Minister Harper and Premier Charest today to not to revive the asbestos industry.

After 130 years, Canada has ceased mining or exporting asbestos. Quebec’s last asbestos mine at Thetford Mines shut down indefinitely earlier this month, laying off 350 workers. The mine faces enormous financial and environmental problems.

Harper and Charest, however, are supporting a plan by Montreal asbestos trader, Baljit S. Chadha, to re-launch Canada’s asbestos trade by opening the underground Jeffrey asbestos mine at Asbestos, Quebec, with the aid of a $58 million Quebec government loan guarantee.

“Chadha, Harper and Charest say that asbestos from the Jeffrey will cause no harm. But I know different,” stated von Palleske at a press conference in the House of Commons in Ottawa today.

“Asbestos from the Jeffrey mine killed my father and my mother and has damaged the lungs of my sister,” said von Palleske. “My dad, Wolfgang von Palleske, was exposed to Jeffrey mine asbestos, which was previously the Johns Manville mine, when he worked at the Johns Manville factory in Toronto. He died of mesothelioma in 2007. My mother died from mesothelioma this past summer because when she hugged him and when she washed his work clothes, she breathed in asbestos fibres he unknowingly brought home.”

“My siblings and I hugged our dad too. We are afraid for our own health,” continued von Palleske. “We are determined to do everything we humanly can to stop there being more asbestos victims and more grief.”

“All Canada’s leading medical and health authorities, including the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Lung Association, and the College of Family Physicians of Canada, have asked the government to stop the export of asbestos, saying it will cause disease and death overseas,” said von Palleske. “But Prime Minister Harper and his ministers refuse to listen. Instead, they listen to the asbestos lobby.”

“Since the government won’t listen to medical experts, I, along with other asbestos victims demand that the government listen to us. We have a right to be heard. We have paid the price with the lives of our loved ones for the deadly lie that asbestos can be ‘safely’ used,” said von Palleske. “We are demanding an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Harper.”

“Chadha, Harper and Charest are practicing deadly deception,” said Kathleen Ruff, a human rights activist who was recently awarded the Canadian Public Health Association’s National Public Health Hero Award and the Rideau Institute Leadership Award.

“They say that Canada’s asbestos is handled under ‘rigorous safety conditions’ overseas,” said Ruff. “But this month, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation filmed the managing director of Chadha’s top customer in India, Hyderabad Industries, giving people in India deadly misinformation, saying ‘this particular asbestos has not been known to give cancer, so far’ and that ‘Asbestos cement products present no known risk on health.’”

“People will die as a result of this misinformation from Chadha’s top customer,” said Ruff.

Other documentation has shown Quebec’s asbestos being handled under appallingly dangerous conditions in Indonesia. The CBC filmed workers in India, bathed in asbestos fibres, handling Quebec asbestos with their bare hands.

“The asbestos issue is a shocking example of a breakdown in democracy, a denial of science and a lack of human compassion on the part of our government,” said Ruff.

“We will never give up and we will never go away, until our government stops exporting asbestos,” said von Palleske. “We do this out of love for the ones we have lost.”

– 30 –


For more information, contact:

Heidi von Palleske, c. 647-833-0256;

Kathleen Ruff, o. 613-565-9449


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