“They were heroes, and took a lot of pride in their work and community because of that,” she said. Many historians agree that a lengthy, violent labor strike at the mine in 1949 was the beginning of broad political, economic and social changes in Quebec that became known as the Quiet Revolution.
The Jeffrey Mine officially shut down in 2012, many years after scientists deemed asbestos dangerous and cancer-causing. 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.
Though many countries have taken steps to ban its use or production, including Canada in 2018, the World Health Organization estimated in 2005 that about 125 million people worldwide were exposed to asbestos at work.
Some residents of the town, particularly older inhabitants, vehemently fought the change, as some French Canadians don’t necessarily associate “Asbestos” with the deadly mineral because the French word for asbestos is “amiante.”
“Us older people are all in favor of the name Asbestos,” André Thibodeau, a 76-year-old lifelong Asbestos resident, told CBC News while casting his vote. “You don’t change names for nothing!”
Young people and small-business owners — it can be difficult to sell products labeled with “asbestos” — were among those who pushed hardest for the changeProfessor Van Horssen said. She said she hoped that the name change reflected hope for the future of the town.
“The community has been through incredible changes in its history, from having to move their homes every few years so the mine could expand to having their world completely change when they were finally told what the mineral was doing to their bodies,” she said. “They’ll survive this, and hopefully begin a new era that’s not reliant on a toxic industry.”