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Daughter seeks justice
By Paul Morden, QMI Agency
Last Updated: July 10, 2012 9:03am
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SARNIA - Laura Guill was looking for some peace after helping take care of father as he died at home in agony, with asbestos-filled lungs.
Joe Portiss worked at Holmes Insulation and then as a labourer in Chemical Valley but had to stop work at age 41 because of illness caused by exposure to asbestos, a fibre once widely used in construction in Canada but now known to cause lung damage and cancer.
Long an advocate for workers’ rights, Portiss continued in that role even after he could no longer work himself.
“For as far back as I can remember our home was always like an open complaints department,” Guill said. “Workers could come to the door seeking my dad’s help because they didn’t know what to do, or in many cases were too afraid to speak out themselves.”
Guill said that while her father was bedridden in the final years of his life, he was denied benefits by Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
“Throughout his illness WSIB simply said he wasn’t impaired enough to merit compensation,” Guill said. “Then, in the final stage, they said they required updated testing that his doctor said he couldn’t possibly withstand.”
Near the end, Portiss became so ill he could barely stand, his skin turned grey and doctors said he had just weeks to live.
Guill said they were told her father’s lungs were lined and filled with asbestos fibres, and could no longer expand or contract.
“The doctors explained that my dad was literally suffocating to death.”
She took time away from her real estate job to help her mother care for her father at home because that’s where he wanted to be.
Before long, he was no longer able to walk from his bed to the washroom or feed himself. The pain was terrible.
“Throughout the course of all this,” Guill said, “my dad was adamant that he was going to live long enough to gain some justice.”
He wanted asbestos banned and to see its victims receive the benefits they needed. The second of those two desires wouldn’t come for Portiss until after he died - just four days following his 59th birthday - and an autopsy provided WSIB with enough proof that it agreed to provide benefits to the family he left behind.
“His death was very difficult because I truly wanted his suffering to end, but I also couldn’t imagine my life without my dad,” Guill said. “Even now, every day is a struggle.”
So, she went back to school and became a licensed legal practitioner, with the aim of helping other families going through the same struggles.
Guill joined her mother at last fall’s Walk to Remember Victims of Asbestos on Sarnia’s waterfront, and plans to be at this year’s walk on Sept. 29.
At 1 p.m. that day, her family and Grigoras Law, the London firm Guill works for, are providing a lunch and an WSIB benefits information session for asbestos victims and their families at the Portuguese Canadian Club on Campbell Street.
“My parents spent my entire life teaching me that when something wrong happens, you have to use your head to work past the emotions and put your energy into a positive solution,” Guill said.
Asbestos is a problem for every citizen of Canada, she said.
The material’s use is highly regulated in Canada but it’s still mined in Quebec and exported to mainly third-world countries.
“The reality is our citizens are still mining it, packaging it, transporting it,” Guill said.
Asbestos mining has been supported by federal governments, both Conservative and Liberal, and just recently, the Quebec government approved a loan to keep an asbestos mine operating there for several more decades.
“Each time I see something like the mine being revived,” Guill said, “it feels like the government is spitting in our faces.”
The only answer, she said, is for Canada to do what her father wanted and ban the mining and exporting of asbestos.
“That,” Guill said, “will require the people of this nation to stop turning a blind eye.”
Information on how to register for Laura Guill’s seminar, Asbestos and WSIB: What You Need to Know, is available online at www.joeportiss.com.
Typical WSIB reaction. The adjudicator probably raked in a big bonus for denying this claim.
Anyone who has dealt with WSIB knows that they are only here to pad their own pockets.
The provincial governments will tell you that their hands are tied and can't do anything about the way WSIB is run. BS. So far this is the EXCUSE given by all area MPP's regardless of political strip.
Just a few areas WSIB is infamous for;
1) Over turn doctors orders.
2) Deny medicines.
3) Wear down the injured worker till he commits suicide or just gives up.
4) Falsify records.
5) Expense accounts.
WSIB needs to be overhauled from the top down with no mercy, treat them like the treat injured workers.
And I have a case that is open and shut but they deny it.
Richard Kubu, July 10th 2012, 12:28pm