A delegation from Casale Monferrato, the small Italian town devastated by high rates of mesothelioma and related disease after occupational and environmental exposure to asbestos, yesterday began its week-long visit to Ontario. The group, which includes oncologists, a civic politician, educators and labour activists, is sharing medical expertise, educational innovations and community organizing experience from their 40-year struggle to deal with the deadly disease. During this exchange, they are learning also from Ontario victims, their families and activists on exposure prevention methods, protection for those made ill and raising public awareness. While both Italy (1992) and Canada (2018) have bans on asbestos, the long latency period, with symptoms often only appearing from 20 to 30 or more years after exposure, mean the impacts and long-term risks of developing mesothelioma haunt workers and their families for decades.
At a meeting in Peterborough on Monday in a panel discussion on The Complex Legacy of Asbestos, six Italian advocates spoke about their campaign to shut down and demolish both the physical Eternit plant in Italy and its toxic legacy. Sharing experiences with former General Electric retirees suffering occupational diseases following exposure to workplace hazards, many of whom are still fighting for workers’ compensation, “the delegates felt validation and heard so many commonalities… There was an emotional connection because they shared that pain,” said Orlando Buonastella, organizer and community legal worker with Injured Workers Community Legal Clinic (IWC).
Tuesday and Wednesday the delegation is in Sarnia to share asbestos wisdom.
Toronto public events:
Friday (April 12 ) the organizers, the Amianto-Italia-Canada-Asbestos committee, are holding a session on getting information on health and safety and workers’ compensation into our schools and community – 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at ETFO provincial office, 136 Isabella Street (see further details and register).
Saturday (April 13) an all-day Occupational Disease Cluster Summit at the USW Hall includes presentations by Ontario communities with occupational disease clusters and knowledge exchange with the Italian delegation, aimed at developing a collective disease cluster strategy for Ontario. (see further details and register)
- Bain, Jason. 2019 Apr. 8. “City Hosts Delegation from Italian City Rocked by Asbestos.” Peterborough Examiner
- Clysdale, Taylor. 2019 Apr. 8. “Italian Asbestos Advocates Draw Parallels to Peterborough’s GE.” MyKawartha.com
- Morden, Paul. 2019 Mar. 19. “Italian Delegation to Share Asbestos Battle Stories.” Sarnia Observer
- Boryga, Andrew. 2016 Dec. 19. “Deadly remnants of asbestos in Italy.” New York Times
- Covino, Alfredo. 2016 Nov. 28. “The Asbestos Victims of Eternit – In Pictures.” The Guardian