Mesothelioma Widow Advocates Against Canadian Asbestos Exports

Michaela Keyserlingk is a mesothelioma widow calling out Canada’s conservative party, the Tories, on their lax asbestos exportation policies. Her late husband, Robert Keyserlingk, was exposed to the mineral while working on ships for the Canadian Navy many years earlier.

According to an article in The Star, Toronto’s newspaper, Tories executive director Dan Hilton sent a cease-and-desist letter to Keyserlingk after discovering an advertisement for her anti-asbestos website that featured the party’s logo next to a danger symbol and the text “Canada is the only western county that still exports deadly asbestos!”

Keyserlingk used this opposition as a megaphone to discuss her mission: ending production and exportation in Canada. While Canada no longer allows it to be used in the country, it exports the material from its mines to developing countries with few regulations on construction materials. It’s a policy the conservative party both supports and tries not to talk about too often.

In the late 1970s, asbestos was found to cause health problems such as mesothelioma. Because of the diseases’ long period of latency after someone is exposed, new cases of malignant mesothelioma are still being found today.

Robert Keyserlingk was an involved member of the conservative party, who began a letter-writing campaign near the end of his life to stop exportation. His widow Michaela is picking up where he left off. She and many other critics said they view their country’s stance on the mineral as hypocritical because it recognizes the dangers of asbestos enough to change its own laws, but not to change its policies regarding sending the known carcinogen overseas.

Macleans Magazine Online said Keyserlingk knew that using the logo was not allowed, but she wanted to attract the party’s attention. In response to Hilton’s cease-and-desist letter, Keyserlingk agreed to remove the symbol from her ad—after a conservative politician explains the party’s export policy and listens to her story.

While Keyserlingk waits for her demands to be met—or for the party to take further actions against her—she said she would use the attention she is receiving to promote her message that the current policy is harmful.

The Montreal Gazette reported that Keyserlingk doesn’t particularly enjoy the media spotlight.
“I would like to get back to my own life,” she told the Gazette. “But it’s worthwhile and I certainly owe that to my husband and I will keep on going.”

Tories stifle widow through IP laws, twirl moustaches, cackle
Maclean’s, August 16, 2011

Tim Harper: Ottawa widow stands firm against Conservative threats
The Star, August 16, 2011

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