The Canadian Cancer Society is deeply disappointed that the Quebec Economic Development Minister Clement Gignac yesterday announced conditional support for a project that could lead to the re-opening of Jeffrey Mine in the city of Asbestos.

"From a public health point of view, the Quebec Government has made the wrong decision as all forms of asbestos cause cancer," says Paul Lapierre, Vice President, Cancer Control and Public Affairs, Canadian Cancer Society. "We strongly urge Minister Gignac to re-consider his decision and to withdraw this support."

According to media reports, the Quebec Government has given its agreement in principle to the reopening of the Jeffrey Asbestos Mine. The offer is conditional on a consortium of investors lining up the required $25 million in financing by July 1. The consortium, composed of Balcorp Ltd. and partners, has been waiting for the government to announce whether it will guarantee a $58 million loan guarantee to expand the Jeffrey Mine operations, which it says is crucial to restating the mine. Minister Gignac said his announcement affirms that the Quebec government will continue to support the chrysotile asbestos industry.

Other conditions for the Quebec Government conditional support include Balcorp Ltd. contributing $1.5 million a year for five years, starting in 2015, for economic diversification in the region, plus financing annual inspections of the clients who buy asbestos from Jeffrey Mines to ensure they are respecting the same health standards as those in Quebec.

The Society has been urging Premier Jean Charest to not approve the $58 million loan guarantee for Jeffrey Mine. Worldwide about 107,000 people die annually from disease related to occupational exposure to asbestos. The Society has been joined by other health organizations - including Quebec's regional health bureaus and the Canadian Medical Association - in urging the Quebec government to not support the mine.

"This decision directly conflicts with global cancer control. The epidemic of asbestos-related cancers, both in Canada and around the world, will continue to spread," says Lapierre.

While the Society is discouraged by the announcement of the conditional support, Lapierre says the organization is more committed than ever to continue its work on this issue. "We will not back down. We know Canadians and citizens of other countries are counting on us to protect their health. We won't let them down."

The Society has been lobbying the federal government to take more action against asbestos and has expressed its concern about the government's continued support of the asbestos industry in Canada.

The Canadian Cancer Society believes that all efforts must be made to eliminate exposure to asbestos and to eliminate asbestos-related diseases. The Society is urging the federal government to adopt a comprehensive strategy to address all aspect of the asbestos issue, including:

- immediately setting a clear timetable for phasing out the use and export of asbestos;

- implementing a national surveillance system to track health outcomes of people who have been exposed to asbestos;

- creating a public registry of buildings that contain asbestos;

- providing transition support for affected communities;

- including chrysotile on the Rotterdam Convention's Prior Informed Consent list.

Canadian Cancer Society