Kathleen Ruff, RightOnCanada.ca
In a letter sent to the president of Concordia University in Montreal, scientists and health advocates call on Concordia University to withdraw a study, commissioned and funded by the university’s John Molson School of Business (JMSB). The report, entitled “Lessons from the Quebec Asbestos Industry: Can there be meaningful dialogue and consensus when facts come up against feelings?”, claims that an asbestos consortium seeking to re-open the Jeffrey mine in Quebec was supported by the scientific evidence, while the arguments of those who opposed the mining and export of asbestos were just emotional.
The university commissioned the study in order to provide public relations lessons to help other industries involved in controversial projects, particularly in the energy sector.
The letter from scientists and health advocates states:
“We call on Concordia University to retract the report because of its gross inaccuracies and bias and because it promotes the global asbestos trade, which the medical and scientific community have condemned as morally indefensible.”
The author of the report, John Aylen, teaches Business Communications and Integrated Marketing Communications at Concordia’s JMSB and runs a public relations and corporate communications firm. Aylen was hired by the asbestos consortium as a public relations consultant to assist its efforts to obtain a $58 million loan from the Quebec government to open the Jeffrey mine. In his report, Aylen extols the asbestos consortium but does not disclose that he was a paid consultant and spokesperson for the consortium.
Aylen lists the following four proponents of the Jeffrey mine:
- Baljit Chadha, leader of the consortium (who Aylen calls Barry Smith)
- Bernard Coulombe, President of Jeffrey Mine (who Aylen calls Bernard Pigeon)
- Jacques Dunnigan, a longtime employee and consultant for the asbestos lobby
- Clément Godbout, President of the Chrysotile Institute
In his report, Aylen acknowledges the “gracious and generous contributions” of Baljit Chadha. It is not clear whether this included a financial contribution to the report.
Aylen’s report was presented at the 2015 national conference of the Canadian Public Relations Society.
- Read the letter to the president of Concordia University here.
- Read Aylen’s report here.
- Read article in Montreal Gazette, Concordia to review asbestos report, here.
- Read article in Le Journal de Montréal, Concordia défend l’amiante (Concordia defends asbestos), here.