“They were heroes, so they were very proud of their work and their community,” she said. Many historians agree that a protracted, violent strike at the mine in 1949 marked the beginning of a sweeping political, economic, and social change in Quebec that came to be known as the silent revolution.
The Jeffrey mine officially closed in 2012, many years after scientists classified asbestos as dangerous and carcinogenic. According to the World Health Organization, all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are carcinogenic. Exposure can cause cancer of the lungs, larynx, and ovaries, as well as mesothelioma and other diseases.
Although many countries have taken steps to ban its use or production, including Canada in 2018, in 2005 the World Health Organization estimated that around 125 million people around the world were exposed to asbestos at work.
Some residents of the city, especially older residents, fought vehemently against the change, as some French Canadians do not necessarily associate “asbestos” with the deadly mineral, as the French word for asbestos is “amiante”.
“We older people are all for the name of asbestos,” André Thibodeau, a 76-year-old lifelong asbestos resident, told CBC News as he was casting his vote. “You don’t change names for nothing!”
Young people and small business owners – it can be difficult to sell ‘asbestos’ labeled products – were among those most committed to change, said Professor Van Horssen. She said she hoped the name change reflected hope for the city’s future.
“The community has gone through incredible changes in their history, from moving every few years to allow the mine to expand, to completely changing their world when they were finally told what the mineral was doing to their bodies,” she said . “They will survive this and hopefully start a new era that doesn’t rely on a toxic industry.”