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Council of Canadians calls for Dr. Cleary to be reinstated as New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health


Photo by Joan Green.

The Council of Canadians Fredericton, Kent County and Saint John chapters are calling on the New Brunswick government to reinstate Dr. Eilish Cleary as the province’s chief medical officer of health.

Dr. Cleary was placed on leave by the provincial government on Dec. 2, then fired from her position on Dec. 7. Council of Canadians Kent County chapter activist Ann Pohl had contacted Dr. Cleary to study the health and environmental impacts of the herbicide glyphosate, which is used by the forestry company J.D. Irving ltd. and NB Power. It is widely believed that this is why she was dismissed.


The media conference. Photo by Joan Green.

Yesterday morning, the Fredericton chapter held a media conference to highlight the demand that Dr. Cleary be reinstated. The media conference was chaired by chapter activist Maggie Connell and included Jim Emberger of the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA), Wolastoq Grand Chief Ron Tremblay, Fredericton District Labour Council president Alex Bailey and Kedgwick filmmaker Charles Theriault.

CTV reports, “Supporters of Dr. Eilish Cleary have created a checklist of MLAs to be quizzed on whether they want the former New Brunswick Chief Medical Officer of Health reinstated. ‘We’re making a list and were checking it twice’, said Ron Tremblay, Chief of Wolastoq Grand Council. That, along with a variety of pointed Christmas cards meant to add pressure on what’s become a government headache. Doctors, academics and organizations have all signed a statement asking for Dr. Cleary’s return. Maggie Connell of the Council of Canadians says their message is simple. ‘We want Dr. Cleary back, we will have Dr. Cleary back, were insisting on it, and we will go the distance, as far as we need to go, to get her back’, she said.”

After the media conference, the Fredericton chapter presented a petition at the provincial legislature. NB Media Co-op has reported, “Stop Spraying in New Brunswick, a Facebook group 9,500 strong, will be delivering 1,100 of the first signatures of a petition to end the spraying of NB’s forest to Fredericton South MLA David Coon at the Legislature.”

Radio-Canada International has reported, “The provincial government in New Brunswick has been spraying herbicides on 15,000 hectares of crown land since the 1970’s when it first permitted pulp and paper companies to clearcut natural forest and replace it with plantations. The taxpayer funded programme is to benefit the lumber industry by protecting fast growing softwood trees from encroaching hardwood saplings. The hardwood saplings however are an important food supply for deer and moose, and there have been suggestions that the programme has removed thousands of tons of such food and has contributed to the steep decline in moose and deer numbers in the province in the past ten years.”

Dr. Eilish Cleary was appointed the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health in 2008. In October 2012, she issued a report warning against fracking in the province. The National Post reported at that time, “In her report, Dr. Eilish Cleary makes 30 recommendations that aim to address what she says is a lack of research on the health effects of the shale gas sector. Cleary’s report highlights the possible benefits a thriving shale gas industry could offer the province such as increased employment and tax revenues, but it also flags a gamut of potential health risks that include deteriorating air and water quality, increased truck traffic accidents and a ‘Boomtown Effect’.”

Provincial NDP leader Dominic Cardy now says, “A senior source has told me Dr. Cleary had to be cleared away before the Liberals overturn their shale gas moratorium next spring. The Liberals used Dr. Cleary’s work to justify their first flip-flop on fracking. Now, with none of her recommendations having been acted upon, the Liberals need to make sure the Chief Medical Officer of Health is not around to point out their hypocrisy.”

In addition, it is likely that Dr. Cleary’s research also included studying the health effects from the malfunctioning vapour recovery unit at the Saint John Irving Oil refinery. This unit was installed to reduce air pollutants, including volatile organic compounds linked to increased risk of cancer, but has been offline 37 per cent of the time from December 2012 to March 2015. If the 1.1 million barrels per day Energy East pipeline were to be approved, the amount of volatile organic compounds that would be released in the Saint John area would very likely dramatically increase.

The Council of Canadians has launched an action alert calling on New Brunswick premier Brian Gallant and health minister Victor Boudreau to reinstate Dr. Cleary. Please support this effort by clicking here.

To see a 2-minute CTV news video on yesterday’s media conference, please click here. A fuller 24-minute video of the media conference can be seen here.

Further reading
New Brunswick chapter activists mobilize for Dr. Eilish Cleary (Dec. 2, 2015)
Fredericton chapter protests in support of Dr. Eilish Cleary (Dec. 7, 2015)
New Brunswickers rally behind dismissed Chief Medical Officer of Health (Dec. 9, 2015 blog by Tori Ball)