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Local 604 president champions compensation for miners

We the North
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OPSEU Local 604 President Janice Martell is leading the quest to have Timmins-area miners compensated for neurodegenerative diseases she believes were caused by McIntyre Powder.

From 1943 till 1979, the aluminum powder was used to protect miners from silica dust. It was believed that inhaling it would give the lungs a protective coating. The practice was mandatory and given without medical supervision or the informed consent of the miners. Countless thousands of miners were exposed.

Today, many link the aluminum dust with diseases such Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Martell has been investigating the possible link since her father, a miner in Elliott Lake, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The WSIB rejected his claims for compensation based on the inhalation of McIntyre Powder, and Martell has been fighting to get the dust recognized as a cause of occupational disease ever since.

Attention was drawn to her efforts through a Fifth Estate episode that aired in January. Martell has created a voluntary registry called the McIntyre Powder Project and is organizing an intake clinic for May 11 and 12 in Timmins.

OPSEU is covering the costs of a coach to bring miners from Elliot Lake to Timmins for the clinic.

Union President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said he could not be prouder of Martell. “Janice is a fearless advocate for those who have suffered grave injustice. Hers is a powerful and tireless voice for a generation of miners who’ve developed debilitating diseases after decades of toil in dark, dusty tunnels.

“It’s high time the WSIB recognized the terrible suffering McIntyre Powder has caused and provided the compensation these miners need and deserve – before more pay the ultimate price, just for doing their jobs.”

Read the Northern Ontario Business article to find out more about how Martell and OPSEU are leading the struggle to recognize the rights of these miners to compensation.

Related: OPSEU in the News