In honour of asbestos victim, Howard Willems

Fri, Nov 8, 2013


Kathleen Ruff, RightOnCanada

I never got to meet Howard Willems. But we talked on the phone and exchanged many emails. Howard had mesothelioma. He got exposed to asbestos when inspecting buildings as part of his job as a food inspector in Saskatchewan for the Canadian government. In his last year of life, regardless of his own pain and suffering, Howard gave his all to protect others from being harmed by asbestos. He asked the Saskatchewan government to bring in a law requiring all government buildings to be listed on a registry if there is any asbestos in the building, so that workers would know the danger and be able to protect themselves.

After Howard’s death, his family and friends carried on the fight. And on November 7, the anniversary of Howard’s death, the Saskatchewan government proclaimed a new law requiring such a registry. It is called the Howard Willems law.

Thank you, Howard.

Province makes asbestos registry mandatory

New law requires buildings with asbestos be listed

Jill Smith, CJME, Nov 7, 2013

The Saskatchewan government is marking the death of a man who advocated for asbestos safety measures by announcing a new measure making asbestos reporting mandatory.

On Thursday the government proclaimed the new law, which is named after Howard Willems. It makes it mandatory for crown corporations, school districts, health regions, and the provincial government to ensure their buildings are listed on the province’s on-line registry if there is asbestos present anywhere in their facilities.

“We’re the first (province) in Canada that has mandated a registry and the first one that has brought it up,” said labour relations and workplace safety minister Don Morgan.

He gives Willems the credit for making it happen. He died one year ago Thursday from cancer; it was caused by inhaling asbestos, something that came with the territory in his job as a food inspector for the federal government. He spent years inspecting old dairy and honey facilities, which often used asbestos in building materials. Before his death he formed the Saskatchewan Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, aiming to have the government create a public registry of buildings with asbestos in them.

On the anniversary of his stepfather’s death Jesse Todd was there to see the new measure proclaimed.

“It’s a tremendous day,” he told reporters. “It’s very gratifying to see it pass. It’s been a long year.”

Todd stressed that this is “Howard’s legacy, hoping that the recognition of the right to know for workers will help keep them safe.

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