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kathleen ruff

Asbestos Activist is First Recipient of New International Award

Katheleen Ruff CR Award 2013

Dr. Barry Castleman with Kathleen Ruff

An asbestos activist has been chosen for the first ever activist award given by an international science group dedicated to helping to solve global occupational and environmental health problems.

The activist is Kathleen Ruff, a Canadian long-time asbestos industry critic and board member of Canada’s Rideau Institute, a non-profit public policy research organization.  Kathleen received the Canadian Public Health Association’s National Public Health Hero Award in 2011 for her advocacy to end Canada’s export of asbestos.

She has written extensively about Canada’s asbestos industry for GBAN, the e-newsletter of the Global Ban Asbestos Network. She also founded and coordinates a human rights news website called Right On Canada.  Her article “Exposé of the International Chrysotile Association” appeared in both publications.

“It is time for the immunity – enjoyed by the asbestos industry and its lobby groups for so many decades – to end,” she said.

We cited Kathleen’s high caliber investigative reporting recently when we told you here about an academic scientist accused of colluding with the asbestos industry to downplay health risks.

The controversy centered on the accuracy of the conclusions of research on asbestos miners by McGill University’s Prof. J.C. McDonald.  “Prof. McDonald’s research was reportedly financed with one million dollars by the Quebec Asbestos Mining Association (QAMA).” Kathleen boldly revealed.

Now at its annual meeting on October 25-26, the Collegium Ramazzini presented their first activist award to Kathleen for her relentless work in the global asbestos struggle.  American asbestos expert   Dr. Barry Castleman  gave the introductory remarks.

We at Kazan Law are pleased that an asbestos activist was the Collegium’s top priority for this new award and agree that Kathleen is a worthy recipient.  Her efforts in exposing both the dangers of asbestos and the corruption surrounding its continued permitted use both are in line with the Collegium’s mission.

The Collegium Ramazzini, headquartered in Italy, assesses present and future risks of injury and disease attributable to the workplace and the environment. It focuses especially on the identification of preventable risk factors.  Asbestos exposure certainly fits that bill.

International Experts Gather to Discuss Developents in the Global Asbestos Industry

Member of Parliament John Cryer, Barrister Tublu Mukherjee, Canadian Ban Asbestos activist Kathleen Ruff

Member of Parliament John Cryer, Barrister Tublu Mukherjee, Canadian Ban Asbestos activist Kathleen Ruff

The latest developments in the global asbestos industry were discussed during the annual seminar of the Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group in the House of Commons in London earlier this week.

The meeting featured presentations from a number of UK specialists and international experts, who updated the asbestos victims community, environmental activists, lawyers and campaigners on the dangers of the carcinogenic substance and its continued use around the world.

Keynote speaker Barrister Tublu Mukherjee delivered a presentation on the issues of asbestos in India, noting that consumption of the material has grown due to commercial and political reasons. Specifically, Mukherjee pointed to the role of British institutions, which have helped to keep the industry afloat in India. Mukherjee’s comments sparked discussions among delegates to determine which steps should be taken to reduce Britain’s role.

The presentation that perhaps highlighted the importance of the meeting the most, though, was “The Asbestos Frontline,” delivered by Canadian Ban Asbestos activist Kathleen Ruff.

‘Huge Gains’ in Canadian asbestos industry

Only a few short years ago, the asbestos industry was widely supported in Canada, including by every political party in the Canadian House of Commons and the Quebec National Assembly, Ruff noted. Since that time, though, support for the asbestos trade has dwindled, led by scientists, government health officials and public health organizations. These groups have come out in opposition of plans by the Canadian government to revive the industry and claim that asbestos can be used safely.

Fortunately, the opposition to the asbestos industry has science on their side in this instance. Asbestos, which was once widely used because of its fire-resistant properties and utility as an insulator, has been proven to cause a range of serious diseases since the mid-1960s. Overall, these illnesses – which include asbestosis, lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma – claim the lives of approximately 107,000 people around the world each year, according to estimates from the World Health Organization.

As Ruff notes, Canada is currently at a critical stage in terms of asbestos, as although mines have been closed and opposition has grown, plans remain in place to revitalize the industry. The most important thing anyone can do, Ruff says, is to continue to put pressure on government officials and raise awareness at international meetings.

Read more about the Westminster Asbestos Seminar.

Canadian Prime Minister Attacked for Asbestos Promotion

stephen harperPrime Minister Stephen Harper is holding his second rally in Asbestos, Quebec today, seeking votes by promoting himself as the political leader most dedicated to the asbestos industry. Over twenty health, union and environmental organizations have responded in an open letter urging Harper to end his support for the asbestos trade.

April 26, 2011

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

We urge you to put people’s lives ahead of politics. Please end your support for the deadly asbestos trade.

Canada’s leading medical authorities have all told you that Canada’s export of asbestos is medically and morally indefensible and will lead to an epidemic of asbestos-related disease and death overseas.

We are shocked and dismayed that you are denying the clear scientific evidence and instead are supporting a plan to revive Canada’s bankrupt, dying and deadly asbestos industry.

Public policy should be based on science, not politics. The science is indisputable that all asbestos is deadly. Not a single reputable authority supports your claim that chrysotile asbestos (which represents 100% of the global asbestos trade) can be safely used.

Canada is becoming known as an immoral asbestos pusher and as an enemy of global public health. This is not the role Canadians want to play in the world. This does not reflect Canadian values.

We are appalled that, in order to protect the asbestos industry, you have publicly promised to block the upcoming Conference of the U.N. Environmental Convention (Rotterdam Convention) so as to prevent chrysotile asbestos being listed as a hazardous substance. Chrysotile asbestos is a hazardous substance under Canadian law. It is, in our opinion, hypocritical and contemptuous of the lives of people in the developing world to prevent them from being provided with this critical information, as if their lives were less worthy of protection.

It is with sorrow and shame that we note that Canada is becoming a pariah on the international stage for its obstruction of global efforts to protect health, human rights and the environment.

Prime Minister Harper, you are the only national leader in Canada and in the Western world to promote asbestos. At the same time, Canadian taxpayers are paying millions of dollars to remove asbestos from your official residence and your place of work, the Parliament Buildings, in order to protect you and other Canadian politicians from being harmed by exposure to asbestos.

This election is about trust and integrity. We urgently call on you to show integrity. We ask you to:

Respect the science
Put human life ahead of partisan political interests
Support a ban on asbestos and the provision of transition assistance to the last remaining asbestos miners and their community
Support the listing of chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention
Adopt a comprehensive strategy to address Canada’s asbestos disease crisis

We request a response from you. Please do not, as usually happens, forward our letter to Christian Paradis, the Minister of Natural Resources, who is an avid supporter of the asbestos industry and simply puts forward its discredited position.

We urgently await your response on this critical ethical issue.


Kathleen Ruff
Senior human rights adviser, Rideau Institute



Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
Nature Québec
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Canada
Sierra Club Canada
International Longshore & Warehouse Union Canada
Maîtres chez nous-21e siècle, Québec
Syndicat des débardeurs de Montréal, SCFP Section locale 375
British Columbia & Yukon Territory Building & Construction Trades Council
Prevent Cancer Now
Atlantic Coast District, International Longshoremen’s Association
Canadian Society for Asbestos Victims
MiningWatch Canada
Asbestos-related Research, Education and Advocacy Fund
Boilermakers Lodge 359
Sheet Metal Local 280
International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Union Local #2 BC
BC Ferry & Marine Worker’s Union
IBEW Local 993, Northern B.C. & Yukon
I L A, Local 1657,  Montréal
International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 115


1) Reputable Scientific Organisations that Oppose your position on chrysotile asbestos:

The Canadian Medical Association
The Canadian Cancer Society
The Lung Association of Canada
The Quebec Medical Association
The Canadian Public Health Association
The Quebec Association for Public Health
The Quebec Association of Physicians Specializing in Community Health
The Lung Association of Quebec
The National Specialty Society for Community Medicine
The National Public Health Institute of Quebec
The Quebec Association for Occupational Hygiene, Health & Safety
All the Quebec government’s sixteen regional Directors of Public Health
The Quebec College of Physicians
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
The Quebec College of Family Physicians
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The International Social Security Association
The International Labour Organization
The International Commission on Occupational Health
The World Health Organization

2) Reputable Scientific Organisations that Support your position on chrysotile asbestos:



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