Monday, May 25, 2020


I had two uncles who survived World War Two despite having been in active combat. One flew bombers over Germany and the other was in the Canadian Navy. Both came home in one piece (just like my father) but none survived the working world that followed. Both my uncles became engineers on the railroad and spent the following decades taking diesel engine trains back and forth around Ontario. My uncle based out of Norwood, Ontario died at age 58 from lung cancer. The other uncle based out of Etobicoke (Toronto) made it to his retirement although his lungs and breathing passageways were very bad. He died shortly thereafter. The whole family knew that it was the diesel fumes inside enclosed train engines (especially in winter) that did them both in. The first uncle died in the mid 1980s. The science has known about the lethality of diesel fumes literally for many decades yet some decision makers inside the Canadian Border Services Agency, the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) and certain politicians who will never spend a single day working in diesel fumes pretend to know better and otherwise.

Last Saturday's Waterloo Region Record carried Part 3 of the series by Greg Mercer titled "The Uncounted". Part 3 is titled "Workers pay the price when regulations lag behind science". Both male and female border guards have elevated rates of cancer although female guards appear especially prone to breast cancers. Nitrogen dioxide levels are routinely from 100 to 200 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3) inside the guards booths and far in excess of safety levels for long term exposure. Apparently what exacerbates the health problems is a link between diesel fumes, shift work and breast cancers all three of which are in abundance at the Ambassador Bridge linking Canada and the U.S..

The WSIB in its role as protector of lower employer compensation premiums has consistently denied cancer compensation claims including breast cancers stating that they are caused by factors other than occupational exposure. In British Columbia the Supreme Court in 2016 ruled in favour of three women who were initially denied compensation for their claims that their cancers resulted from exposure to carcinogenic substances in their lab work at Mission Memorial Hospital. Apparently WSIBs across Canada have no difficulties in ignoring legal landmarks if it saves their province money on the backs of workers.

That in a nutshell is what this series in the Record is all about. It is knowing inconvenient truths and ignoring them in order to screw workers out of financial compensation that they are due from occupational health hazards. The employers don't want to spend the money necessary to protect their employees' health and the provincial governments don't want to pay them the compensation they are due after they've gotten sick. Meanwhile our judicial system conveniently keep their heads buried in the sand and pretend that this behaviour by our authorities is not criminal behaviour. In fact it is. People are dying and they are dying in difficult financial straits because of a conspiracy of self-serving silence at the top.

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