QUITTING IS NEVER an option for Janice Hobbs-Martell. She won’t quit until every single one of the 25,000 Ontario miners exposed to deadly McIntyre Powder receive the least they deserve—an official apology for the way they were treated.
Hobbs-Martell took up the fight for the miners in 2001 when her miner father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Since then she has led the McIntyre Powder Project in many successful fights, including:
an official study of the effects of the supposedly harmless powder;
an official admition that the powder is a serious health risk;
the official decision by the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to add Parkinson’s disease as a new occupation disease, due to its link to work-related exposure to McIntyre Powder;
financial compensation for 40 workers damaged by the powder.
Her next campaign target is an official apology from the government.
An important milestone
Hobbs-Martell knows an official apology won’t advance ongoing efforts to improve access to compensation. But, it would be an important milestone for an often overlooked issue, she says.
“We want these guys to know that their lives are important,” she said. “We want them to know that the sacrifice they made for their families, for the wealth that they built in this province, to make Ontario a powerhouse … we want them to know that they were not forgotten and that what happened to them was wrong
Every day, from 1943 to 1979, miners were herded into sealed change rooms, on government order, where the toxic powder would be dispersed in the air. They were told it would protect them from silicosis. They were told it would be good for them. It wasn’t.
What all those miners knew in their bones has turned out to be right: McIntyre Powder has been linked to neurological health effects, including a heightened risk of Parkinson’s disease and parkinsonism.
“This is not a partisan issue,” said Janice Hobbs-Martell, founder of the McIntyre Powder Project.
Miners need to hear the apology
Hobbs-Martell said they’ve received support from across the legislature, including from Mines Minister George Pirie, MPP for Timmins. While a date has not yet been confirmed, they are aiming for Nov. 30 to recognize the 79th anniversary of the first time workers were exposed to McIntyre Powder.
“I want to be there for my dad,” said Hobbs-Martell. “I want to be there for my mom, I want to be there for my family, and for the mine workers who were exposed; all of my McIntyre Powder Project mine workers and the ones whose names I will never know."
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