Workers of the former Advocate Mines near Baie Verte are still fighting for compensation from the Workplace Health and Safety Compensation Commission (WHSCC) for the work-related diseases many of them suffer from because of exposure to asbestos at the mine.
Lars Hoven, leader of the Baie Verte Miners Action Committee, says many workers who were affected by asbestos exposure have yet to see any compensation.
“There’s still a lot that haven’t gotten anything from WHSCC,” he said, “and what some of these people are going through is terrible, just terrible.”
Hoven says he had hoped the creation of the miners registry would have moved the claims process further along.
The Baie Verte Miners Registry was an initiative of Memorial University, the United Steel Workers, SafetyNet and WHSCC designed to bring all the information of affected workers together in one place.
“The point of the registry was to have everything together to make it easier for WHSCC to process the claims of people who need the compensation,” said Hoven.
However, in many cases, that still isn’t happening.
Hoven says they wrote a letter to the minister of Service NL several weeks ago, asking that the claimants recognized as having medical problems relating to the work in the mines be given more consideration.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael raised the issue in the House of Assembly last week. She asked Dan Crummell, the minister of Service NL, why so few applications to WHSCC have been approved.
Crummell said the government is still committed to the Baie Verte mine workers.
“Our government strongly advocates for fair treatment and compensation for injured workers in this province and workers who are facing occupational diseases,” he said. “We have worked very closely with the community of Baie Verte, we have worked very closely with the United Steelworkers and we have worked very closely with the commission to go through a process. That is the process I am referring to.”
Crummell said the registry contains the names of more than 1,000 workers of the former mine.
The government has adjudicated 177 claims thus far, and has approved 74 — less than 10 per cent of the total registrants.
Michael says that isn’t good enough, given what some former workers went through.
“Most Baie Verte miners received more exposure to asbestos in months than the law permits for a lifetime,” said Michael. “Why does the minister continue to deny former miners the right to compensation for diseases recognized as caused by working in the Baie Verte mine?”
Crummell said his department will review the cases one-by-one, to determine the merit of each.
“We will base it on the best scientific and medical evidence available, that is out there in the purview in this area,” he explained. “All jurisdictions in Canada and around the world follow these protocols.”
Hoven says he believes something has to change in how WHSCC qualifies asbestos illnesses and how it compensates for them.
“We’re not saying everyone is going to get compensation. That’s out of the question,” he said. “But there are people who are really sick, and when you’re sick, you know you’re sick.”
Hoven says he suffers from asbestosis, so he knows what many people are going through.
“I know how difficult it can be sometimes,” he said. “It’s something I’ve accepted, and that I have to live with, but I’m far from the only one.”