sur la santé
où les deux sont à bon
reliés à la santé
humaine et à
May critique la
condition de l’eau
publique, le plus
grand site toxique
Ponds), ainsi que
ce que le
à propos de ces
Elle déclare que la
santé au Canada
Atlantique est une
question de culture
"C’est un enjeu
and the Environment:
Welcome to Atlantic Canada,
where both are cheap"
Sierra Club of Canada, Executive Director
Chair of Women’s Health and the Environment, Dalhousie
between our health and the environment are increasingly being
recognized. Water in Walkerton, Ontario has killed at least six
people, while air pollution in Ontario kills 1800 people prematurely
every year. Atlantic Canadians are not immune. The highest rate of
childhood asthma in Canada is in Prince Edward Island, with Nova Scotia
a close second. No one knows why. Theories range from long range
transport of air pollutants from the industrial zones to the west of us,
to higher rates of smoking in the home, to pesticide applications
impacting on the immune system.
Our water is no safer than Ontario’s.
Water testing was downloaded to municipalities two years ago in Nova
Scotia; industrial hog farms have moved into New Brunswick and are
pressing into Cumberland County in Nova Scotia; and many small
communities already have seriously high levels of the carcinogen
trihalomethane in their water. This is thanks to chlorinating water that
is already contaminated with organic material, decaying leaves etc.
Trihalomethane, according to Health Canada, causes increased risks of
cancer, birth defects and miscarriages. This problem is one with
dead-easy solutions. All it takes is a small investment to avoid turning
municipal water treatment plants into cancer-causing additive factories.
Unfortunately our public health officials seem more interested in
issuing bland reassurances than in demanding change. I think it's a
cultural and ethical problem, of which the most prominent example is the
Sydney Tar Ponds.
Now, I cannot tell you exactly how many people have died because of
that damned steel mill (and I use the word "damned" in its
precise and Biblical meaning), but I would estimate that,
conservatively, the pollution in Sydney has killed thousands of people.
The toxic ooze (700,000 tons in an open estuary into Sydney Harbour and
the 125 acres upstream used to bake coal into coke) continues to
threaten the health of Sydney residents. The cancer rate is higher there
than anywhere else in Canada, the birth defect rate is higher than the
rest of Nova Scotia -- but so is the occurrence of Alzheimer's, multiple
sclerosis, heart disease and mental illness. Not everyone who dies of
cancer in Sydney dies because they live near Canada's largest toxic
waste site, but undoubtedly, the fact that people in Sydney die earlier
and have higher cancer rates than even those people living in other
industrialized Cape Breton communities, like Glace Bay and New
Waterford, makes the government's ritual response to health studies
(that we must focus on "lifestyle") more than obscene.
It has been decades since the government knew that pollution in
Sydney was killing people. Nothing was done. Nothing has been done. They
just finished building an elementary school for over 500 students; a
brand new building which, in our current style, makes a school look like
a prison. It's on the bank above the tar ponds. Another generation of
kids will be conceived, born and develop in a place saturated with toxic
substances. Parents in Sydney care. Moms break down and weep with
frustration. God knows, I wrote most of my sections of Frederick Street
through angry tears. So did Maude write her chapters while weeping.* But
we got to leave after our weeks of interviews.
Governments are just used to treating Cape Breton, and indeed
Atlantic Canada, as some sort of basket case. Cod all gone? Well, you
know those Newfs, couldn't be the draggers. Westray blow up? Well, you
can't expect us to compensate families --- even though Mulroney gave his
buddies money from federal coffers to build the damned thing (note
appropriate usage). People dying in Sydney? Oh, you know those Cape
Bretoners. Too much smoking and drinking and why don't they move to
Health in Atlantic Canada is an ethical question. It's a moral issue.
The trade-off made (one hundred years ago) between human health and life
to support industry was a Faustian bargain. Summed up as "No smoke,
no baloney" by a mill manager, Cape Bretoners were told for decades
that the price of a paycheck was pollution. No one signed this bargain
in blood. It's a bad equation for the economy as well as for health and
it's time we named it for what it is -- not a "trade-off" but
murder. We must say clearly we will not accept less than achieving our
full potential as truly healthy human beings.
(left to right)
* Elizabeth May is the co-author with friend Maude Barlow of
"Frederick Street: Life and Death on Canada's Love Canal"
published by Harper Collins and available in bookstores everywhere.