Commentary | McGill may cause cancer

Quebec is a major global producer of asbestos. While asbestos was once a profitable industry, its use has declined significantly as a result of it being labelled as a carcinogen. Currently, over 55 countries – including every EU member state – have banned the use of asbestos, citing almost universally accepted evidence of its deadly properties. Even with this international precedent, McGill seems to have cloistered itself from the logical arguments made against the mineral’s use in favour of corporate interests.

Roshi Chadha is a member of the McGill Board of Governors and an executive with Seja Trade, a subsidiary of the Montreal trading company Balcorp, Ltd., which exports Quebec-mined asbestos to developing countries. This week, as a result of increasing media pressure, Chadha took “a leave of absence.”

Furthermore, a forty-year McGill study on the safety of asbestos is being accused by industry critics of lacking transparency and containing manipulated data. According to a recent episode of CBC’s The National, the Quebec Asbestos Mining Association (QAMA) funded $1 million of research into this study. In 1997, a seperate study carried out at McGill claimed that it was another contaminant in the Quebec mines–not asbestos–that was causing cancer and that it was safe to export Asbestos to third world countries. McGill researchers are refusing, point blank, to publicly release the data of the 1997 study, obscuring how dangerous this mineral may be.

Our University does have a Regulation on the Conduct of Research stating that research at McGill “meets high scientific and ethical standards.” However, there is no transparent policy regarding corporate-sponsored research.

To ensure that McGill does not partner with such morally questionable industries in the future, the requirements for a corporation to enter into a partnership with McGill should be made publically accessible. There should also be a way for students to question the research being done at this university.

McGill is no longer conducting asbestos research, but as long as Roshi Chadha remains on its BoG, the university’s corporate connections to asbestos remain. Chadha and her husband – Concordia Board member Baljit Chadha – are seeking a $58 million loan from the Quebec government to re-open the massive Jeffrey Mine in Abestos, Quebec, to keep exporting Canadian asbestos overseas. Roshi Chadha’s presence on our Board only legitimizes her business, and The Daily urges McGill’s BoG to remove her from her position.

 


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