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Any person who lives or has lived in Rouyn-Noranda since January 1991 could claim up to $528,000.

A class action against Fonderie Horne and Québec | Air quality in Rouyn-Noranda

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“The proximity to a residential area required the greatest caution,” notes the appeal filed at the Rouyn-Noranda courthouse.

  • Thomas Gerbet (View profile)Thomas Gerbet

Citizens of Rouyn-Noranda are trying to obtain damages from the Horne Foundry and the Quebec government for having harmed them, reveals a request for collective action, obtained by Radio-Canada, which will be filed in Superior Court Monday morning. Billions of dollars are at stake.

The plaintiffs are defended by the law firm Siskinds Desmeules, which won the class action against Desjardins Group following the data theft. This law firm also obtained, in 2020, payment of damages to citizens of Shannon, near Quebec, who feared for their health after consuming contaminated water for years.< /p>

Maître Karim Diallo, one of the three lawyers who defends the citizens of Rouyn-Noranda, intends to apply almost 100% the recipe that worked in Shannon's case. They will not attempt to establish a causal link between polluting emissions from the Horne Foundry and diseases (“excessively difficult”, beyond any doubt), but will rely on the fear that citizens have of being sick, the stress caused and neighborhood disturbances.

It is not because there is no physical or bodily harm that there is no damage. […] There is moral harm, there is an attack on their well-being and their security. And these are rights that are protected by the charters.

A quote from Karim Diallo, lawyer for the plaintiffs in the class action

The The plaintiffs in the class action are two residents of Rouyn-Noranda, Julie Fortier and Miguel Charlebois, who are not sick. Both are parents who fear for their health and that of their loved ones.

Air quality in Rouyn-Noranda

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Air quality in Rouyn-Noranda

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The Superior Court must first authorize the request to bring a class action. If so, a judge will then decide the merits of the action and determine the damages that eligible people can claim.

If the appeal is authorized, any person residing or having resided, at one time or another, in Rouyn-Noranda, since 1991, will be automatically registered, unless they request to be removed. A simple proof of residence will be enough to claim the money, if applicable.

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A resident of the Notre-Dame district can potentially claim a maximum of $528,000 and a resident of the rest of the city: $322,500.

With a current population in the urban perimeter of the municipality (J9K) of 23,500 people, including more than 2,500 in the Notre-Dame district, the total amounts of claims in the event of victory, the citizens could reach several billion dollars.

Why go back to 1991 and not before? Because the most solid information and data we have is the public health report which tells us that the people who lived there from 1991 are at risk, answers lawyer Karim Diallo .

According to the class action request, the members of the group have been unknowingly exposed, for several decades (and still are to this day), to a much larger cocktail of toxic and carcinogenic contaminants emanating from the Horne Foundry. than the government authorities and the company would have us believe.

The action alleges that the Horne Foundry committed and continues to commit a fault by acting in a careless manner , reckless and negligent to the detriment of the health and quality of life of the population of Rouyn-Noranda and to the detriment of the quality of the environment.

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Glencore is an Anglo-Swiss multinational.

The multinational Glencore which operates the Foundry was, and still is, authorized by the Quebec government to emit much more arsenic than what the Quebec standard provides.

Members of the group should not have to live with the increased and proven risk of developing cancer or other illnesses, any more than any other Quebec citizen. […] There is no rational and reasonable justification for the members of the group to be treated as second-class citizens, with a lesser right to a quality environment.

A quote from Excerpt from the request for class action.

The plaintiffs criticize the Quebec government for not having informed them adequately and in a timely manner about the extent of the contamination to which they were exposed so that they could react to the threat.

This increased and proven risk and the fear that results from it must be compensated, just like the troubles and inconveniences, we can read in the document filed at the courthouse.

The text of the appeal recalls that as early as 1979, reports from the Quebec government spoke of an excess of deaths in Rouyn-Noranda, particularly from lung cancer and respiratory diseases. The level of arsenic in children's hair was two to three times higher among those who lived near the Foundry compared to those living elsewhere.

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Rouyn-Noranda, in the 1970s.

In 2004 , an interministerial working group even recommended reducing arsenic emissions in the Notre-Dame district to 10 nanograms per cubic meter (10 ng/m3) and establishing a plan to reach the Quebec standard of 3 ng/m3.

Despite this, on October 26, 2007, the Ministry of the Environment issued a certificate to the factory to emit up to 200 ng/m3 of arsenic.

The government of Quebec is going against the recommendations of its own advisory committees and the objectives and obligations arising from the Environmental Quality Act.

A quote from Excerpt from the class action request document

In 2019, regional public health considers that concrete actions must be put in place immediately so that the population is no longer chronically exposed to emissions.

Despite this, the Horne Foundry submits a plan, at the end of 2019, which presents no quantified target [and] minimizes the results of the Biomonitoring Report, allege the plaintiffs.

In 2021, the government is reducing the limit for arsenic emitted by the Foundry to 100 ng/m3, still 33 times the Quebec standard.

Both the Horne Foundry and the Quebec government were aware of this exposure throughout the period covered by the action and failed to take the necessary measures to protect the members of the group from the harmful effects of such exhibition.

A quote from Excerpt from the class action request document

In 2022, public health data demonstrate that the population of Rouyn -Noranda a:

Radio-Canada then revealed that some of these data had been known for several years, but their publication was delayed by the former national director of public health Horacio Arruda.

According to the class action, it is truly in the summer of 2022, with the strong media coverage of the case, that citizens realize the full extent of the risks to which they are exposed. Parents then admit to regretting having had children in Rouyn-Noranda.

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Parents and children at the Rouyn-Noranda municipal council, in the summer of 2022.

Despite everything, in August 2022, the Quebec government, under pressure, decided to require the Horne Foundry to reach a limit of arsenic in the air of 15 ng/m3, three times the Quebec standard, and only within 5 years.

Achieve the Quebec standard within 6 months following the judgment

The class action also asks the Court to order Glencore to reduce, within 6 months, all contaminant emissions to the limits of Quebec standards.

According to the plaintiffs' allegations, by not investing in measures to reduce its emissions of toxic and carcinogenic contaminants for decades, the Horne Foundry was thus able to reduce expenses that were nevertheless essential for the health of the population of Rouyn-Noranda and which should have been essential to the continuation of its industrial activities.

The document alleges that the Horne Foundry and its shareholders have enriched themselves and are still getting richer to the detriment of the health of the group's members.

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“Our lives are worth more than their profits”, could we read on a large banner during a demonstration of 900 citizens, in front of the Foundry, in September 2022. Glencore's activities in Quebec generate more than 1.7 billion dollars in value added each year.

Saturday, on the occasion of a demonstration by worried mothers in front of the office of Prime Minister François Legault in Montreal, the Horne Foundry recalled that it plans to invest several hundred million dollars to reduce its environmental footprint.

A class action initiated by a student

It was a law student who convinced the Siskinds Desmeules firm to lead the collective action. Marie-Eve Maillé accompanied the lawyers throughout the preparation of the case, as she is also a lecturer at the Institute of Environmental Sciences of UQAM and at the University Center for Environmental Training from the University of Sherbrooke.

Julie Fortier, 39, is the mother of an 8-year-old child. She lives in the Notre-Dame district. It was only in 2022 that she became aware of the risks to her health and that of her family. The applicant mentions “anguish, anxiety and deprivation of liberty”.

Since last year, she has always wondered if she should go outside, if she should open her windows.

The fear of being sick is very present.

A quote by Julie Fortier, one of the two plaintiffs in the class action, in an interview with Radio-Canada

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Julie Fortier, resident of the Notre-Dame district, is claiming $306,000 as part of the class action.

The resident discusses “simple actions” to reduce exposure to contaminants, recommended by public health, which are, for her, a deprivation of the free and peaceful enjoyment of her home and his daily life.

The public health guide (New window) recommends that residents minimize the movement of animals between the inside and outside of the home, wash floors and counters frequently, and vacuum regularly equipped with a HEPA filter system, to protect against contaminated dust entering homes.

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Miguel Charlebois, resident of Rouyn-Noranda, is seeking $190,000 as part of the class action.< /p>

Miguel Charlebois, 43, the other plaintiff, sees this situation as a “blatant injustice.” The father feels “trapped” in this city where his relatives have all their ties.

I had confidence in the government to protect our health, he tells Radio-Canada, but he began to doubt when the publication of data was retained by national public health.

When he goes outside, he always wonders what he's breathing and is annoyed to find out that he won't know until later, when the air quality data is made public.

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I feel these doubts, this fear, every time I look at the chimneys [ de la Fonderie].

A quote from Miguel Charlebois, one of the plaintiffs in the class action.

The resident also fears for the loss of value of his house, while Rouyn-Noranda is one of the only cities in Quebec where the price of houses has decreased.

Examples of sections of law used in the class action request:

All person has the right, to the extent and in accordance with the standards provided for by law, to live in a healthy environment that respects biodiversity.

No person may discharge a contaminant into the environment or permit such a discharge in excess of the quantity or concentration determined in accordance with this Act.

Neighbors must accept the normal inconveniences of the neighborhood which do not exceed the limits of the tolerance they owe, depending on the nature or situation of their funds, or according to local customs.< /em>

Where the legislative and executive branches of government fail the citizens they represent, they have no alternative but to go to court in order to obtain compensation for the harm they suffer.

A quote from Excerpt from the class action request

He There will be a public information session about the class action on November 16 at the Petit Théâtre du Vieux Noranda.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116