Sunday, February 19, 2012


 "It is what it is and denying the facts
 does not change the facts. That's just
 going to get worse ... What is in that 
report that's taking so long to get it in
 our hands? And whatever it is, let's
 just figure it out before the situation
 in Marystown gets more desperate."


What is it about government's inability to address industrial health issues in a respectful, timely and straight forward way?

Our industrial history is littered with the bodies of individuals who died as the result of the conditions they worked in.

The majority of these deaths came slowly from cancer and respiratory diseases resulting from working underground or in other confined work spaces.

One does not have to look further than the awful impact that industrial disease had on the people of St. Lawrence, Lawn, Little St. Lawrence, and the surrounding area.  Those exposed to the dust for prolonged periods could not escape the consequences of the suffocating condition known as silicosis.

The issues related to dust were reported in the 1930's but it was not until 1969, when a  Royal Commission released its report that the full extent of the cost of industrial disease was made public. For the next two decades workers, survivors and families were forced into a frustrating battle with Workers Compensation for benefits and widow allowances. It is estimated that as many as 500 men - husbands, uncles, brothers and fathers perished and hundreds of others continue to suffer.

More recently, we have witnessed the struggle of crab plant workers and the prevalence of crab asthma. It is an occupational disease that can be life-threatening. Crab asthma strikes 15 per cent of people who work in the crab processing industry. They develop an allergic sensitivity to crab meat that leaves them debilitated and can eventually kill them.

With the collapse of the cod stocks, processors turned to crab and shrimp. The result was a sharp increase in Crab Asthma. There is no cure for the condition. Workers had but one choice to get out of the industry. In towns where the moratorium  had driven unemployment rates to 75%, people continued to work. Workers Compensation was reluctant to provide compensation.

Three years ago the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission carried out a study on industrial diseases (cancer) amongst former workers at the Marystown Shipyard which was operated by the provincial government up until the late 1990s. Workers were exposed to toxic chemicals in confined spaces without protective equipment for decades.

The Marystown Shipyard Families Alliance has been advocating for sick workers and the families of deceased workers in the hopes that government will stop denying the facts. The group says at least 27 former employees have died or are currently being treated for cancer related to working in the Shipyard.

For some reason, the government has refused to release the report.

These people, like crab plant workers and the St. Lawrence mine workers deserve to know what they were exposed to.  They deserve to be compensated and provided with the health care benefits.

Putting off the unveiling of the the facts in the report will not change the facts.

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