On this International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, we, Mothers on the Frontline and allies from all walks of life, urge our governments to act with ambition to protect the air we breathe.

Our health and quality of life depend on it. Just like the future of our children.

The summer we just had has made our blood run cold. We felt unable to protect our children. Pollution from forest fires has found its way into our lungs.

Those of us who live in the most affected areas were terrified. They saw parts of our country, of our lives, go up in smoke.

The impacts of our climate inaction are coming faster than expected. It is urgent to listen to scientists now, if not having done so before.

The situation is worse for those of us who live in Rouyn-Noranda. In addition to pollution from forest fires, the Quebec government authorizes the Horne Foundry to expose the population to 25 times more arsenic in the air than elsewhere in the territory. Levels of contamination are found in homes, daycares and schools.1 Arsenic is measured at excessively high levels in the nails of children in the Notre-Dame neighborhood.2

Despite public demands, no plan is required for this Glencore subsidiary to meet the national standard of 3 ng/mg. Not even in five years!

The government also allows it to release lead, cadmium, nickel, mercury, cobalt and 18 other poisons. However, the cumulative, multiplicative and potentially synergistic effects of exposure to all these pollutants are extremely worrying.

Because we don’t see them, we don’t feel them and their effects are expressed in the medium and long term, everyone tries to forget them. Yet they poison people’s health and kill silently.

Life expectancy in Rouyn-Noranda is five years lower than the Quebec average. The incidence of lung cancer and low birth weights are higher there than elsewhere.

Scientific studies have shown that repeated exposure to high levels of lead or arsenic during pregnancy and childhood has lifelong consequences. Cognitive disorders, attention deficit disorders with or without hyperactivity, dementia problems, intellectual disabilities and depression can result much later in life.

It is unacceptable that a multinational, listed among the worst companies for violating human rights, workers’ rights and the environment, has held the health of the population hostage for so long.

Glencore is depriving the population of their right to a healthy environment. A right that is nevertheless enshrined in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

We cannot change the past, but we can act for the future.

We ask the government to enforce the same standards for air quality in Rouyn-Noranda as elsewhere in Quebec. In 2023, protecting health and jobs must be the same fight. Practices must change now.

To all elected officials, we reiterate the flagship request of Mothers at the Front. We want from now on, ALL political decisions to scrutinize their impacts on the environment in order to protect the health of our children and all living things.

Life is worth more than profit.