TIMMINS – Janice Martell walked into the room where volunteers had gathered in preparation for a two-day miner’s health clinic starting the next day in Timmins. It was a gratifying and emotional moment for her. There were 50 volunteers from different health organizations and local unions. “It just hit me we’re not alone anymore,” said Martell.
It was a far cry from the way she felt just a few years ago when she reluctantly withdrew her father’s application for Workman’s Compensation on a claim he was suffering neurological effects from repeated exposure to McIntyre Powder aluminum dust while working as a uranium miner Elliot Lake.
“I withdrew my dad’s claim because I realized there was no way to win,” Martell recalled. “When you’re an individual person and you apply for WSIB (Workplace Safety & Insurance Board benefits), you feel so isolated.
“I didn’t know where to turn at that point. What do you do? I don’t know scientists and medical people who can look into this. I didn’t know how to reach them, I didn’t know how to engage them. So I started my project. And this team of so-wonderful dedicated people — the Steelworkers (union) hosted it, they organized it. OHCOW (Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers) is handling all of the health information.”
Over the course of two days — Wednesday and Thursday — at the Ramada Inn, a steady flow of retired miners or family members of now-deceased workers attended the clinic, sharing their history about their exposure to McIntyre Powder and the residual effects.
Most of the people who attended were from the Timmins area, however, some travelled a vast distance including a retired miner now living in Saskatchewan, and another family that flew in from Newfoundland. There were also several who came up from southern Ontario.
Many of them reported having respiratory problems or neurological disorders including various forms of dementia.
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