Workers Health & Safety Centre

GE Peterborough Town of Widows documentary to air on CBC

Sue James
Tune in Thursday, August 8 to CBC to view a documentary exploring how GE Peterborough left a legacy of disease and death and the response of a community demanding justice.
For 126 years, General Electric (GE) operated a manufacturing facility in Peterborough, Ontario. At its peak, the company employed 6,000 workers. Just a few hundred remained when operations ceased in 2018. Over the years, these jobs sustained many families and were important to the local economy.  

These same jobs, however, came at a dear cost.

Pursuing justice

This documentary, entitled Town of Widows, tells the troubling, yet inspiring story of former GE workers, their families and a broad-based support network all working together in pursuit of justice for the horrible outcomes of unhealthy work.  
CBC point-of-view (POV) documentary series worked with the producers of Town of Widows to co-produce a 45-minute broadcast version airing on Thursday, August 8 at 9:00 pm on CBC TV.  
In the film, former GE workers share memories of air so thick with deadly asbestos fibres it resembled a snowstorm. A report published in 2017 cited a myriad of harmful working conditions at GE that persisted for decades following the Second World War. All totaled, workers were exposed to more than 40 known or suspected carcinogens and thousands of other toxic chemicals. (Pictured above is Sue James, co-chair of the Advisory Committee on Retrospective Exposures at GE. Sue is explaining documentation demonstrating GE’s denial of these toxic exposures.)
Many of those exposed have already died or suffer with illnesses linked with these exposures. With cancer and other illnesses caused by harmful workplace exposures taking years, even decades, to develop, many more will suffer still.
Efforts to date forced the Ontario workers’ compensation system to review and reverse many of the original occupational disease and fatality claim denials. Still, this community-based coalition is seeking justice for all and encouraging other communities confronted by similar suffering to speak out.

Preventable suffering

GE is by no means alone in forging a poisoned legacy. Upwards of 6,000 Ontarians die each year because of work—most from cancer but other illnesses too. The overwhelming majority of these deaths are never reported to or recognized by the workers’ compensation system (WSIB). Much of this suffering is preventable.  

WHSC—in support of prevention

WHSC resources offer critical training and information designed to help workers, their representatives and employers better understand exposures responsible for the ongoing epidemic of occupational disease, related legislation and measures to eliminate or reduce exposures. These resources include asbestos awareness training, asbestos hazard bulletin, along with mandatory supervisor, joint health and safety committee and WHMIS training.
WHSC related articles and resources:
To learn more: 
Call:   1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak with a training services representative