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Alert Bay Mountie sues over asbestos in ferry

An Alert Bay RCMP constable has launched a class action against B.C. Ferries, claiming that "friable" airborne asbestos fibres are a hazard on the Queen of Quadra II.

According to a notice on the website of Merchant Law Group LLP:

A proposed class action has been commenced against BC Ferry Services Inc. by the Merchant Law Group LLP acting on behalf of a resident of Alert Bay. The claim asserts BC Ferries negligently exposed passengers to airborne asbestos. The claim is for injury (including anxiety) caused by the potential exposure, as well as loss of income and expenses relating to medical care.

Arthur Shaughnessy, an RCMP constable stationed in Alert Bay, is the plaintiff. A Statement of Claim filed in Victoria on April 27 says Constable Shaughnessy has been travelling on the ferry twice each working day for the past 13 years.

The Quadra Queen II is the only way for residents of Alert Bay and Sointula to travel to work, school or shopping in Port McNeill and elsewhere on the North Island.

The Statement of Claim also charges that insulation above the ceiling of the ferry's passenger lounge is 2% actinolite asbestos-bearing vermiculite, likely to become friable (easily crumbled or powdered) and to fall into the passenger space.

According to a report in the Victoria Times-Colonist, passengers on the ferry have been provided a bus for shelter; the passenger lounge has been closed.

Another Times-Colonist report, published April 27, says B.C. Ferries disputed a WorkSafe B.C. report criticizing the corporation for not doing enough to keep passengers and crew protected from asbestos.

Jill Miles, a longtime resident of Malcolm Island, told The Hook on Tuesday that she had been on the ferry that day and seen both a "limo-style bus" and a van provided for foot passengers, but they didn't have room for everyone. Many had to stand on the deck.

"People were not impressed," said Miles. She added that the ferry issue is a major concern: "All our children ride it."

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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