Tired of being linked to toxic substance, the Quebec town of Asbestos is changing its name
ASBESTOS -- The Quebec town of Asbestos is tired of the negative connotation of its name – so it's getting a new one.
Town officials said in a news release Wednesday that municipal council has agreed to a name change following "several reflections and with a view to development oriented towards the future."
Mayor Hugues Grimard said Wednesday the name carries an unfortunate connotation and it's preventing the town from developing foreign business ties.
"If we want to go further in terms of economic development, then we don't have the choice," Grimard said in an interview. "The media attention of our past stays with us any time we do anything."
Grimard said he knows of at least four businesses that wanted to move to the area but backed out after investors learned the town's name.
"I have a local development agent who went to Ohio and he tried to give his business card and people actually didn't even want to take the card," the mayor said.
The Eastern Townships community of some 7,000 people is home to the Jeffrey mine, which was once the world's largest asbestos mine and the town's largest employer.
Because it's a great electrical insulator, asbestos was commonly used in construction materials during the Industrial Era. It began to emerge in the early 1900s that asbestos was a health hazard and increasingly became associated with lung conditions and cancer. Countries began banning the use of asbestos in building materials as early as the 1970s; Canada's ban on the toxic mineral came into effect on Dec. 30, 2018.
"As the word 'asbestos' does not have a good connotation, particularly in English-speaking circles, it is a barrier to the city's willingness to develop economic relations abroad," the city's news release stated.
The connotation isn't as striking in French because the mineral 'asbestos' is translated to 'amiante' in French.
The city's heritage is still important, officials said.
"City council remains aware that the history of Asbestos and its heritage are very dear to everyone. This is why these elements will be taken into account throughout the process," the notice read.
So what will the town's new name be? Well that's up to its residents, said Asbestos Mayor Hugues Grimard. Municipal council will collect suggestions from citizens before coming to a conclusion.
The town's new name will be announced in 2020.
With files from The Canadian Press