McIntyre Powder is fucking nightmarish bullshit that pretended to be therapeutic. I learned about it from the mighty Chuck Angus who has been commenting on the stuff on social media. I’ll let him describe the effects that caker business had on his grandfather:
My grandfather was forced to breath this shit for his entire working career and he died of severe neurological damage. The company told him that filling his lungs with aluminum every day would somehow protect him from silicosis. I found my grandfather’s silicosis medical card after he died.
Silicosis is a wicked disease that comes from breathing in silica particles. Like asbestos silica dust gets in your lungs and proceeds to wreck your shit like knuckle-dragging hockey moms who just discovered the Travelodge minibar. Except unlike asbestos which prefers giving you hell-cancer, silicosis merely hardens your lungs until you can’t breathe without help. Who needs lungs, right? Lungs are for chumps. In Canada the air is so polite that it will find its way into your bloodstream without needing lungs at all!
Anyway, silicosis was a serious problem for miners. But it was an even bigger problem for caker businesses working in mining. Imagine – having to pay for the sick, maimed, and injured workers. Oh, the horror! Think of all the money that would cost that could be going into an oligarch’s holding company! The caker way to get around this is cheap, quick, and stupid. And cheap, quick, and stupid is what Canadian miners got, because fuck medical supervision, consent, or sense. If it’s cheap it’s in here at Cakers ‘R’ Us.
Armed with a cheap (and totally absurd) solution, the radium, gold, and uranium mines of Northern Ontario (among others – these were the worst offenders) forced their workers to breathe in aluminium powder at the start of their shifts and cough it up at the end. Wait, seriously? That sounds retarded to anyone who has figured out how to put on and wear pants. Indeed it was so, because from 1943 to 1979 miners were forced to regularly intake a substance that causes – wait for it – severe neurological damage! Of course the government has valiantly stepped to the rescue by doing its usual shitty job. Were you seriously expecting anything else?
Now Canada wasn’t the only one to pull the primitive-nerve-gas technique. It also appeared in Western Australia and in the United States. But in Canada the conversation has taken place before. And there’s another hint of trouble in the video there. Starting at 2:23 in the video, let’s take a listen to the number of businesses in Schumacher, ON that had a single family name associated to them. McIntyre Road, McIntyre Community Building, McIntyre Arena, the McIntyre Coffee Shop, and the McIntyre Curling Club. Enough McIntyres for you? There’s one more – the mine itself. Can’t find much more evidence for a single-industry town than that, folks. The whole thing is named for caker business!
McIntyre Powder and the story of disability and illness that comes with it isn’t a story that’s unique to Canada. But the importance of caker business in Canada’s one-industry towns and the earth-shattering stupidity of most of those businesses combine poorly with a government that can’t be bothered to help in the face of damning evidence. McIntyre Powder is a story deeply rooted to Canadian history and the silence around the stuff despite occasional coverage is a testament to Canada’s neglect and contempt for Canadian labor and towards the elderly who suffer from the consequences. Just as government and business in the past failed so many, so those forces continue to screw up and neglect labor because hurr durr short-term profits you guys.
It’s hard enough to learn about events in rural Ontario and the suffering wrought by uncautious caker business only to be confirmed by uncaring Toronto beetlecrats. Lord only knows the horrors that lurk in towns and communities that are too distant for Canada to even pretend to care about. We can only hope for more Charlie Anguses-
Oh, wait. We voted the useful people out because #RealChange. Oops.