Congratulations to Kathleen Ruff

On November 23, 2011, Kathleen Ruff of Smithers, BC, received the Rideau Institute Leadership Award in Ottawa. The award, first presented in 2010, is given to a person or group who has made “an outstanding contribution to a progressive vision of Canada.” Kathleen has been a consistently vocal and tireless advocate against asbestos. Nathan has had the privilege to work with Kathleen on this issue for years.

Each year Canada exports nearly 200,000 tonnes of asbestos to poor and developing nations. The majority of these exports go to India, where labourers use it without masks, or proper safety instruction. Asbestos causes thousands of unnecessary deaths each year.

Recognizing this injustice, Kathleen has written a book on the topic, Exporting Harm: How Canada Markets Asbestos to the Developing World and works as Coordinator of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance. The Rotterdam Convention is in place to encourage joint responsibility with importing and exporting hazardous materials such as asbestos.

Kathleen’s efforts have touched several people, including a group of Grade 10 students who won our first Create Your Canada contest in 2009. They were inspired to submit proposals for new federal legislation after Kathleen spoke at their school.

The outcome of that contest was the introduction of Nathan’s Private Member’s Bill in 2009 to ban asbestos. He re-introduced it in 2010 and will be re-introducing it again in 2012. None of this may have happened without Kathleen’s tremendous efforts and inspiring work. It just goes to show that one person can make a difference.