December 22, 2011
Clément Gignac, Minister of Natural Resources
National Assembly, Québec
Dear Minister Gignac:
On December 9, 2010, you met Ms. Rachel Lee in the National Assembly. Ms. Lee was suffering from cancer caused by asbestos (mesothelioma). She was part of the Asia-Quebec Solidarity Delegation. She came to Quebec to request that your government not fund the re-opening of the Jeffrey mine and stop exporting asbestos.
We wish to inform you that Ms. Lee died of mesothelioma yesterday. Below are two photos taken when she was in Quebec last December and a photo taken yesterday while she was dying. Her young son is beside her.
While she was in Quebec, she was taking powerful medication to deal with the excruciating pain she was experiencing. Despite her personal suffering, she came to Quebec in the middle of winter, motivated by courage and altruism, seeking to prevent others from suffering the tragedy that she and her family were suffering as victims of asbestos. It is hard to forget and even harder to forgive that during her stay in Quebec, Ms. Lee was attacked by Jacques Dunnigan, PhD, of the asbestos lobby, who accused her and the Asian delegation of trickery, falsely saying that she was not really suffering from mesothelioma. This attack caused Ms. Lee much pain.
We think that you will agree that this attack showed extreme callousness and cruelty, that dishonours Quebec.
Ms. Lee had never worked in a factory using asbestos,. She simply lived in an apartment building near a large Korean factory manufacturing chrysotile asbestos cement products. Other residents of the building have also died or are suffering from mesothelioma. Most of the asbestos imported into Korea came from Quebec.
When Ms. Lee spoke at a press conference at the Quebec National Assembly last December, she could not help crying when speaking of her two children who would become orphans and her husband, who would become a widower. The tragic outcome she foresaw became reality yesterday.
Mr. Minister, you met and you heard the appeal that Ms. Lee made that to you personally that your government not fund the re-opening of the Jeffrey mine and not create more asbestos victims. She asked you the question: “Are our dead not enough?”
We ask you, and the new Minister of Economic Development, Sam Hamad, and Premier Charest, to restore the honour of Quebec, to honour the appeal made to you by Rachel Lee on behalf of asbestos victims around the world and not fund the Jeffrey mine. In this way, the tragedy of Rachel Lee’s death, and the deaths of thousands of other asbestos victims every year, will have served some purpose.
We await your response with hope.
DR FERNAND TURCOTTE, MD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Social & Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval *
KATHLEEN RUFF, author, Exporting Harm: How Canada markets asbestos to the developing world; coordinator, Asia-Québec Solidarity delegation
ÉRIC DARIER, Ph.D., Director of Greenpeace Québec *
MICHELINE BEAUDRY, Ph.D., retired professor of public nutrition, Université Laval *
NOTE: We, the signers, had the great privilege of knowing Rachel Lee when she came to Québec in December 2010
* Institutions named for identification purposes only
Copy: Minister of Economic Development, Sam Hamad