Quebec National Assembly Halts Motion to Drop Asbestos Loan Guarantee

Canadian asbestos mine in Quebec

A motion to withdraw the government’s offer of a $58 million loan guarantee to revitalize the asbestos mining industry in Canada was dropped this week because of a lack of support in the Quebec National Assembly.

Despite a growing anti-asbestos sentiment throughout Canada, the majority in the Quebec Assembly failed to support the motion made by independent lawmaker Lisette Lapointe.

The last two asbestos mines in Canada were closed late in 2011 for environmental and financial reasons, but Premier Jean Charest has dangled that loan guarantee to Balcorp Ltd. if it can raise the $25 million in financing to reopen the Jeffrey Mine in Quebec.

An exposure to asbestos fibers can cause of variety of respiratory illnesses, including mesothelioma cancer.

Once prevalent in a wide variety of products, its use has been reduced dramatically in recent decades because of its toxic reputation. It is banned in more than 50 countries, but not in Canada or the United States.

“It’s disappointing – and disgusting – that members of the National Assembly did not stand with Ms. Lapointe,” Canadian activist Stacy Cattron told Asbestos.com. “The people of Quebec deserve politicians who are not corrupted by junk science from asbestos industry lobbyists.”

Cattron, whose father died from mesothelioma, is co-founder of the Canadian Voices of Asbestos Victims. Like many activists around the country, she was dismayed to hear of this week’s events in the General Assembly.

“This is a perfect opportunity to let this appalling industry die a natural death while there are no miners employed there,” Cattran said. “This is an industry that has used deceit to promote its agenda. Not only does it not deserve government funding, but (those that run it) deserve prison time.”

Balcorp, which continues to pursue the loan guarantee, has assured government officials that none of the asbestos mined would be used in Canada.

It also has said that the asbestos mined there would be handled safely.  It expects to export much of it to India, where it is used in cement for building purposes.

“Stop supporting sickness and death,” Lapointe said during her motion. “Those are harsh words, I know but that’s the reality.”

Lapointe is the wife of former Parti Quebecois premier Jacques Parizeau, now an independent legislator. As part of the motion, Lapointe noted that the International Agency for Research on Cancer already concluded that the chrysotile asbestos mined in Quebec, “is carcinogenic in all forms.”

One of her few supporters suggested that the $58 million loan guarantee would be better spent creating other jobs in the region.

Balcorp is run by businessman Balit Chadha. His wife, Roshi Chadha, is a corporate executive of Seja Trade, an exporting business. She recently resigned from her position with the Canadian Red Cross Board of Directors because of pressure from various anti-asbestos groups.

Also on Thursday, former Quebec legislator Pat Martin joined a group protesting Charest’s support of the loan guarantee. Charest has said previously that it is only promoting the “safe use,” of chrysotile asbestos.”


Tim Povtak is an award-winning writer with more than 30 years of reporting national and international news. His most recent experience is in researching and writing about asbestos litigation issues and asbestos-related conditions like mesothelioma. If you have a story idea for Tim, please email him at tpovtak@asbestos.com

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