Canadian town of Asbestos breathes easy with new name

MONTREAL (AFP) – The Canadian town Asbestos has voted to rename itself ‘Val-des-Sources’, the mayor announced on Monday, in a hope to shed its association with the deadly mineral.

Asbestos, a town 100 kilometres from Montreal with a population of 6,700, is historically entwined with the nearby Jeffrey asbestos mine, which was active until 2012 and was the backbone of the local economy.

But the town decided to change its name mostly for economic reasons, after years of losing the PR war ever since asbestos – fibrous crystal mineral often used as building insulation – was declared cancer-causing by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the 1980s.

“The word ‘asbestos’ unfortunately does not have a good connotation, particularly in English-speaking circles. It is an obstacle to the city’s willingness to develop outside economic relations,” the town said in November 2019 following the decision to rename itself.

The new name was unveiled at a special municipal council meeting that was streamed live on the town Facebook page.

Last week, Asbestrians aged 14 and up were asked to vote by ranking names in order of preference among six choices: Val-des-Sources, Azur-des-Cantons, Jeffrey-sur-le-Lac, Larochelle, Phenix and Trois-Lacs.

Asbestrians will officially become Valsourcians in December, once their choice has been ratified by the appropriate authorities, Mayor Hugues Grimard said.