Quebec clears path for farmers with Parkinson’s to get employees’ compensation

It will soon be easier for people in the agricultural sector who developed Parkinson’s disease from long-term exposure to pesticides to take advantage of the Quebec Occupational Safety and Health Committee (CNESST).

With Parkinson’s on the list of accepted occupational diseases, people who work on farms no longer need to prove that the disease is work-related.

Similar to France, Quebecers seeking compensation must provide evidence that they have been directly exposed to pesticides through contact or inhalation for at least 10 years.

Another limitation of the government’s decision: the diagnosis of Parkinson’s must be made within seven years of the end of pesticide exposure.

According to a statement from the Department of Labor, this change marks the government’s recognition of “the evolution of scientific advances” which state that “exposure to pesticides without the proper precautions can have adverse effects on human health.”

“By promoting better access to the compensation plan for the thousands of men and women who work daily to feed Quebec, we ensure that everyone is treated fairly,” said André Lamontagne, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in an explanation.

The Minister for Labor, Employment and Social Solidarity in Quebec, Jean Boulet, right, pictured with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Quebec, Andre Lamontagne, center. (Jacques Boissinot / The Canadian Press)

For 55-year-old Serge Boily, having his condition recognized as work-related is a great success.

“It changes my life. Knowing that I’m recognized gives me hope,” he said.

Boily worked as a pesticide sprayer in the Quebec City area in the 1990s. He developed Parkinson’s disease and now has memory loss, loss of balance, difficulty swallowing, and sometimes even speaking.

He’s not sure what kind of compensation he can get, but is optimistic that this decision could improve his life.

“This is a big breakthrough”

Elizabeth McNamara, 71, lived with her husband on a dairy farm in the Outaouais area of ​​Quebec for 24 years. They used two herbicides: glyphosate and atrazine.

He developed Parkinson’s disease in 2012, the same year France officially recognized the link between the disease and pesticide exposure.

McNamara developed Parkinson’s disease four years later.

She told CBC she was trembling, low on energy, and having difficulty walking any significant distance.

“You can see that your capacities are decreasing,” she said. “My speech is not yet affected, but my husband’s speech is very much affected.”

McNamara, a member of the Association of Quebec Pesticide Victims, described the government’s decision as “a light at the end of the tunnel”.

“I was so happy to see we at least acknowledge it today,” said McNamara. “This is a big breakthrough.”

The club worked hard for this change. They appeared before a hearing on the National Assembly Legislative Committee alongside Parkinson Quebec and the Union of Agricultural Producers.

We thought an employee would be injured by a machine, not a pesticide in the air.– Elizabeth McNamara

McNamara said her main goal is to raise awareness of the harmful effects of pesticides and warn the younger generation.

“My biggest job was to let people know so we can nip it in the bud.”

She herself is not entitled to any compensation as she has not paid any health and safety premiums.

She says that most of the farmers she knew at the time never contributed to CNESST for themselves.

“We did it for employees, but we didn’t do it for ourselves,” she said. “We thought an employee would be injured by a machine, not a pesticide in the air.”

McNamara also wants other conditions related to exposure to pesticides to be added to the list of occupational health problems, including non-Hodgkin lymphomas, prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s and fertility problems.

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