Heidi von Palleske, whose father and mother both died from being exposed to asbestos from the Jeffrey mine, talks to members of the media during a press conference, in Ottawa November 24, 2011. Chris Roussakis/QMI Agency
OTTAWA - A woman who lost both of her parents to painful asbestos-related illnesses took her mother's dying wish to Parliament Hill Thursday.
Heidi Von Palleske - a self-proclaimed "asbestos orphan" - says she is rallying the Conservative government for an outright ban on exporting or mining the mineral.
"Four days before [mom] died, I recorded a plea where she asked that the exportation of asbestos to Third World countries stop because nobody - nobody - should die the way she was dying," said Von Palleske.
The Cobourg, Ont. resident's father worked in asbestos mine and said her mother developed a rare illness because she inhaled asbestos fibres from her husband's clothing.
Canada's last asbestos mine in Quebec shut down this month due to financial and environmental issues, marking the end of a 130-year industry in the country.
But Montreal asbestos trader Baljit Chadha is now trying to reopen the underground Jeffrey asbestos mine in Asbestos, Que., which closed two years ago. Quebec Premier Jean Charest has supported the bid with a $58-million government loan guarantee.
All federal parties except the Conservatives have called for an outright ban on chrysotile asbestos, which is already banned in 50 countries including European nations. The prime minister, however, is not willing to budge.
"Canada has promoted the safe use of chrysotile domestically and internationally for more than 30 years," Stephen Harper's spokesman Andrew MacDougall said in a statement. "Scientific reviews confirm that chrysotile fibres can be used safely under controlled conditions. Our government respects provincial jurisdiction over the development of natural resources."
Von Palleske's 11-year-old daughter, Cavanagh Matmor, is determined to rally the government to change its position.
"I can't believe it," said Matmor. "They don't know how it feels to have a grandmother and grandfather die of asbestos. But they don't listen to others ... It breaks my heart knowing that they're going to continue doing that."
The Grade 6 student has written to Harper directly but she says she just received a "cut-and-paste reply" from his office. Matmor has also called Chadha directly but says he keeps hanging up on her.
Canada has long been one of world's biggest exporters of asbestos even though it's no longer used for insulation in this country due to health concerns.