Latest News

Historic day for Ontario miners and families exposed to McIntyre Powder

December 2, 2022
Rows of people standing on the large staircase in the legislature. There are 7 people at the very front holding a banner with photos of various miners who were affected by McIntyre Powder. Text at the bottom of the banner says "Our hearts travel with you"

Toronto and Sudbury, Ont. – The Ontario government has officially apologized to tens of thousands of miners and their families for the government’s role in the sanctioned use of McIntyre Powder.

Between 1943 and 1979, Canadian workers in mining and other industrial workplaces were mandated to inhale an aluminum-based inhalant known as McIntyre Powder as a condition of employment. At the time, it was thought that inhaling the powder would protect the workers’ lungs.

In 2015, the McIntyre Powder Project was established by Janice Martell, whose father Jim Hobbs, was a former Steelworker and underground miner. Jim was required by his employer to inhale the aluminum dust prior to each of his shifts between 1978-1979. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2001.

“For the past many years, I have had the privilege of hearing miners’ stories and getting to know and love these workers and their families. This historic apology to the tens of thousands of mine workers who were subjected to aluminum dust inhalation, and to their families who watched them suffer, provides the acknowledgement needed for healing,” said Janice Martell.

In 2016, the McIntyre Powder Project began gathering evidence on the health of exposed miners. The project partnered with the USW, the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) and the Office of the Worker Advisor (OWA) to seek out workers and families through “intake clinics” in Northern Ontario, which helped to confirm high rates of Parkinson’s disease, lung diseases, cancers and other diseases among the miners.

“The recognition of their wrongs and the long-waited apology from the government is justice for workers and their families. The Steelworkers union is committed to continue supporting and advocating for workers exposed to occupational illnesses and diseases,” said Myles Sullivan, USW District 6 Director (Ontario and Atlantic Canada).

In February 2022, the Ontario government announced Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) will recognize Parkinson’s as an occupational disease linked to the use of McIntyre Powder in mining and other industries, and award compensation to former workers and surviving family members. It was a victory for the workers and their families, but especially for Martell who spent years trying to help her father secure workers’ compensation benefits through WSIB, without success.

Along with Martell, six former miners and 24 of their family members and USW members travelled from Sudbury to Queen’s Park in Toronto to hear the government’s apology.

The United Steelworkers union represents 225,000 members in nearly every economic sector across Canada and is the largest private-sector union in North America with 850,000 members in Canada, the United States and the Caribbean.

Each year, thousands of workers choose to join the USW because of our strong track record in creating healthier, safer and more respectful workplaces and negotiating better working conditions and fairer compensation – including good wages, benefits and pensions.

Join our newsletter

Media Contact

Myles Sullivan, USW District 6 Director, 416-243-8792
Sylvia Boyce, USW District 6, Safety and Environment Co-ordinator,
Janice Hobbs Martell, Founder of McIntyre Powder Project, 705-849-5802, minersinfo@yahoo.ca
Lorei Leigh De Los Reyes, USW Communications, 416-544-6009, @ ldelosreyes@usw.ca

Recent news

A group of Métallos at a picket, raising a flag with the slogan

Support for anti-scab legislation marks important progress for workers’ rights

February 28, 2024 | Media Releases

OTTAWA – Yesterday’s vote in the House of Commons to advance Bill C-58 (banning replacement workers in the case of a labour dispute) to committee is a significant step forward for workers’ rights in Canada. The United Steelworkers union (USW) now hopes for swift progress through the committee stage. “The vote on the anti-scab bill […]

Read More
Click to read the article about Support for anti-scab legislation marks important progress for workers’ rights
Featured image for Historic day for health care in Canada: pharmacare

Historic day for health care in Canada: pharmacare

February 23, 2024 | Media Releases

Today marks a historic day for health care in Canada, as an agreement between the Liberal government and the NDP on Pharmacare is confirmed. The steadfast efforts by the NDP will now pave the way for a universal national pharmacare program and represents an important step towards equitable access to prescription drugs for all Canadians. For many years, Steelworkers, with the broader labour movement, have worked with the NDP to push for a universal, single-payer pharmacare plan, that would reduce the burden of expensive, inaccessible prescription drugs for Canadians. The bill, to be tabled shortly, will establish the framework for a national Pharmacare program and will also introduce, in the short term, new coverage for contraception and diabetes treatment, addressing the urgent health care needs of Canadians.

Read More
Click to read the article about Historic day for health care in Canada: pharmacare
Image for Bridges of Canada prison chaplains in Alberta join United Steelworkers union

Bridges of Canada prison chaplains in Alberta join United Steelworkers union

February 27, 2024 | Media Releases

The United Steelworkers union (USW) proudly welcomes prison chaplains employed by Bridges of Canada in Alberta following an overwhelming vote to join the union. These dedicated chaplains, representing various faiths and spiritual practices, provide essential chaplaincy services and spiritual care to inmates within Alberta’s prisons. The USW, known for its diverse membership of workers across […]

Read More
Click to read the article about Bridges of Canada prison chaplains in Alberta join United Steelworkers union