Robert Keyserlingk was a professor of history at the University of Ottawa. Like so many people today, he was looking forward to a long and active retirement. But such was not to be. Soon after retirement he died of mesothelioma, attributed by doctors to his exposure to asbestos while serving on ships in the Canadian navy many years before.
His grieving wife put up a website, http://www.canadianasbestosexports.ca explaining her husband’s story and expressing, in perfectly reasonably terms, her frustration over her husband’s death and the fact that Canada still exports asbestos to countries around the world. Within the website is a section Where our four Canadian federal parties stand on the asbestos issue.
Ms. Keyserlingk illustrated the position of Prime Minister Harper with the logo of the Conservative Party of Canada, a blue letter C with a red maple leaf inside the loop. CPC staff jumped on this affront, sending an email threatening “further action” for “unauthorized use of trademark”.
If ever there were something stupid for a corporation to do when faced with a trivial misuse of trademark by a person who feels that the organization is committing an offense to her family, the response of the CPC is the most egregious. Now thousands of websites and newsmedia all over the world are publishing articles pointing out that Canada still exports asbestos and is issuing threats against a citizen who, in the completely understandable circumstances of the death of a family member most likely as a result of exposure to asbestos, has chosen to criticize the corporation and its position on export of asbestos.
If Prime Minister Harper has any understanding of intelligent public relations he will immediately apologize to Robert Keyserlingk’s widow and will censure Party Executive Director Dan Hilton, a person whose lack of understanding of intelligent public relations has done much more harm to the Canadian asbestos industry and to the pro-asbestos position of the Government of Canada than the heartfelt but somewhat amateur Canadian Asbestos Exports website could ever have done, had he not weighed in on the issue from a very hazardous perspective!