It was not too long ago that Canada was a major exporter of asbestos, a carcinogen that kills thousands of people each year. In large part thanks to Kathleen Ruff, that is no longer the case.
The Smithers woman was honoured by the Quebec National Assembly Thursday for her near decade-long fight to end the export of a substance long banned from use in Canadian buildings.
“I will be very proud and honoured to accept it, but it’s on behalf of all of these scientists, academics, health experts in Quebec who stood up and were counted when it really mattered,” said Ruff.
“When it was difficult to do so, they spoke truth to power and they showed great courage and integrity.”
Quebec closed its last asbestos mine in 2012. About 2,000 Canadians die from asbestos-related diseases each year. The deaths will continue for decades, as it often takes 20-30 years for exposure to manifest as cancer or other lung diseases.
Despite the risk, Canada still imports products like vehicle parts and construction materials with asbestos. That is why Ruff said her fight is not over.