One of Canada’s best known anti-asbestos campaigners has been awarded the prestigious Medal of Honour by Quebec’s National Assembly in recognition of her tireless work campaigning against Canada’s deadly asbestos trade, and her pivotal role in bringing this trade to a halt.
Kathleen Ruff is well known to Forum members but her achievements deserve wider recognition. This award would have been unthinkable until fairly recently. Quebec was the heart of Canada’s asbestos industry, and Canada was one of the world’s leading asbestos producing and exporting countries. To defeat the asbestos industry in Canada the fight would have to be taken to the heart of the beast and Kathleen did this with relentless determination. She managed to pull together an effective coalition of doctors and scientists who were prepared to stand up and say publically that chrysotile kills. She worked closely with asbestos victims in Canada and other countries to expose the devastating effects of Canada’s love affair with asbestos. She persuaded key politicians to break with the consensus and take a stand against the asbestos industry. And she took on the lies and distortions of the asbestos lobby, their go-to scientists and the politicians who pushed their interests in Government.
As recently as 2012, the Quebec government had awarded the asbestos industry $58 million to help open the giant Jeffrey underground asbestos mine. But later that year, thanks in large part to Kathleen’s tireless campaigning alongside others, the loan was withdrawn and the mine closed, effectively putting an end to Canada’s century old asbestos trade. This was a triumph for campaigners in Canada as they defeated an industry with powerful friends and deep pockets.
The results, in terms of lives that will be saved in Canada, and the countries which received its asbestos exports, are incalculable. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Kathleen for her tireless and selfless campaigning. She is a shining example of what can be achieved with truth and determination. We in the Forum would like to extend our heartfelt congratulation to Kathleen on this richly deserved award.