Manitoba woman urges federal government to help asbestos victims
WINNIPEG (CP) - An aboriginal woman who says the insulation in her childhood home has
made her and her family sick said Friday she has found seven similar cases on reserves in
Raven Thundersky said the federal government must act quickly to encourage hundreds of
others who have lived in similar houses across Canada to get testing and treatment if needed.
"Some of the people we're up against seem to be shoving a lot of misinformation down
people's throats," Thundersky told a news conference.
"That needs to stop so the ones who are affected by asbestos have a chance at life."
Thundersky and her sister, Rebecca Bruce, filed a lawsuit against the government last year
seeking unspecified damages.
The two women claim their sisters died from cancer that came from Zonolite, the brand name
for a type of vermiculite insulation that has been found to contain asbestos.
Thundersky said she has been diagnosed with asbestosis in her lungs and six other relatives
have had health problems she believes are directly linked to exposure to asbestos fibres.
Her husband, Allan Aitken, said the seven cases they've identified have actually been
diagnosed by a doctor as lung or stomach cancer, but he and his wife have no doubt there is
a clear link.
"In conversation with them we are 100 per cent convinced they have mesothelioma," a cancer
known to be caused by exposure to asbestos fibres, said Aitken.
"But mesothelioma takes a specific biopsy to identify the disease and unless the doctors
know what they're doing they won't look for it."
The federal government has not yet responded to the lawsuit.
Thundersky and Bruce hope a judge will certify the case as a class-action lawsuit, which
would allow others to join.
Dennis White Bird, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said residents from more
than 200 homes could be interested in joining.
A spokeswoman for Indian and Northern Affairs said officials sent a letter to chiefs across
Canada earlier this month asking for their help in reaching out to those who lived, or may still
be living, in houses built with Zonolite.
"The letter asks the chiefs to encourage people who have concerns to contact Health Canada
for a visual inspection," said Patricia Valladao.
If asbestos is found, Indian Affairs will decide what to do "on a case-by-case basis."
Housing Minister Joe Fontana said earlier this year the government won't pay to have all the
insulation removed because he's not yet convinced it poses anything more than "a potential