Asbestos, Que., Set To Change Name In 2020

A town in Quebec is cleaning up its act — or rather, its name.

Asbestos announced this week that it plans to change its name, because apparently being named after a deadly mineral is a bit of a buzzkill. 

Councillors voted unanimously to move forward with the decision Tuesday night. It had previously voted down a proposed name change in 2006. 

“The word ‘Asbestos’ does not have a good connotation, particularly in English-speaking circles,” the town wrote in a news release this week.

Asbestos is a mineral that was widely used in building and industrial materials to make structures stronger and more fire-resistant. However, it’s now banned in several countries because exposure to it can lead to health problems, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. 

Asbestos is located about 180 kilometres from Montreal. It was home to the Jeffrey Mine, once the world’s largest asbestos mine. At one point, the Jeffrey Mine supplied half of the world’s asbestos. The mine shut down in 2012, and in 2018 the federal government completely banned the “manufacture, use, import and export” of asbestos and products that contain it in Canada.

Watch: A New York Times story on Newfoundland’s Dildo uses … interesting graphic.


And while there are plenty of “less than ideal” Canadian place names — here’s looking at you Dildo, N.L. — Asbestos town council says they’re moving forward with the change because it’s actively hurting economic growth. The town has accumulated $7 million in debt since the mine shut down. 

“We have to adapt,” Coun. Nicole Forgues told Radio-Canada. “We have companies … that have [removed] the word ‘Asbestos’ from their trucks because they had problems in the United States.”

What’s in a name?

The town acknowledged the industrial role minerals like asbestos have played in its development, and says its citizens will have an active role in choosing a new name. 


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“As citizens are the ambassadors of a municipality and are the representatives of its vitality, it was obvious that the public would be involved in the process and the choice of the new name,” said mayor Hugues Grimard.

The town is inviting Asbestonians — the name for people from Asbestos, of course — to give suggestions for the new name. Let’s hope it doesn’t end up named “Asbestos McAsbestos Face.” 

The process of changing the town’s name will start in early 2020.

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