Breast Cancer Action Quebec’s Annual General Meeting and September AGM

2021-2022 marked not only BCAQ’s 30th Anniversary, but our biggest year to date. 
Two wonderful new colleagues, intense work for the reform of toxics regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, a new program on prevention though healthy communities, major webinars, workshops and training sessions, our best fundraising year to date and so much more. 
So it’s time for us to celebrate together! 

The misadventure of Patricia on Friday 13th

I am writing to you from my bed at St.Mary’s hospital. 

What a thing! Friday, May 13th I had a bad fall while wheeling my bike up an outdoor ramp after having brought it to the repair shop to fix a flat.

Losing my balance, I fell backward, down the cement stairs (the ramp runs up the middle of the stairs). When I landed, I heard the crack of my helmet, tightly secured on my noggin, as it hit the stairs. I can only say how thankful I am that I had securely put on my brand-new helmut when I did! Prevention is an excellent principle to live by. 

Anyway, the pain of my broken hip was immediate and intense. Staff from inside the bike shop, Dumoulin were there in a flash. I was in such pain and I could not move. I asked them to call the ambulance and Moira. She arrived very soon after and we waited 90 mins. for the ambulance. I was not bleeding out or having a heart attack.

Our open letter published in La Presse

Read here the full letter signed by 54 groups and over 200 individuals

On International Women’s rights Day, researchers, women’s groups, health groups, local neighborhood groups, citizens of all origins are writing to you to say we have had enough with the proliferation of toxics, in our air - indoor and outdoor, our furnitures and some interior finishes in homes and offices, our clothes, our food, and in a range of personal care products that we use daily.

To curb or better stop this contamination, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which regulates toxic substances, must be reviewed.

Looking Ahead in 2022

Dear Friends,

Finally, it’s 2022. We really hoped we’d be turning a corner on the pandemic with the new year, especially after last summer gave us a lovely impression of normality. Then Omicron -the game changer- arrived and now we find ourselves confined, again, with need of another vaccine dose and our own feelings of isolation. As a cancer group, we are anxious about the strain on our health care system and particularly worried about the postponement of surgeries and a whole range of important treatments. The huge impact of Omicron on all healthcare workers, everyone from specialists to cleaners is foremost in our thoughts.

In the face of all this, I, like many people, have been working on gratitude as an antidote to my feelings of weariness. There is so much at Breast Cancer Action Quebec that I am profoundly grateful for; I thought I would share some of it with you.

Challenging the System

On December 9th we held a celebration of 30 years of uncompromising breast cancer prevention, of fighting toxics and of asking the tough questions.

What a night it was! We started with a virtual panel simply called Challenging the System. Our fabulous line up of guests wowed the audience with their presentations and Q&A, animated by the one and only Maguy Métellus whose presence made this special event even better than we had hoped for.

Listen to it here

Working harder than ever for prevention. Please donate today.

By Patricia Kearns

Dear friend,

In October, I had my annual mammogram and appointment with my breast surgeon and the experience got me thinking. It’s been six years since my lumpectomy that preceded weeks of chemo and radiation, treatments for Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.

Now, once again, the waiting room is full of anxious looking patients, young and older, wearing blue hospital gowns. Some women scroll through their phones, others watch YouTube and some just stare blankly ahead.

Our Bodies, Our Environment

This spring we experimented by hosting three workshops on Zoom. A wide range of people from across Quebec, Canada and internationally participated in our interactive introduction to environmental health, Our Bodies, Our Environment: Women, Toxic Substances and the much-needed reform the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Participants included union activists, scientists, members and workers from women’s centres, environmental activists and more.

Feedback included: "Congratulations on the very high quality of your presentations." "I'm glad to see other people are interested in this long overdue reform of the laws that protect our part of our biosphere." "It gave me a good overview of the landscape and opened my eyes." 

Curious to know where our participants joined us from? Find the map here!

Think adverse environmental effects affect people equally? Ask these women

By Dr. Jane E. McArthur and Jennifer Beeman
This editorial was originally published in The Hill Times. It is reproduced here with permission.

Although the passage of time this past year sometimes felt like a stopped clock, the conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic have provided us with a timely history lesson and an opportunity to shape the future. 

Covid-19 has made clear how environments are connected to health by showing how individual actions cannot address all the conditions around us. The pandemic has also revealed the health effects of government policies and that specific populations of people disproportionately experience environmental health effects. Seniors, Black, Brown and Indigenous peoples, workers and children are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, illustrating health is nested in our living and working conditions. (Continue reading)

BCAQ in the News

Environmental groups applaud Loblaw's commitment to phase out receipts with phenol

"Jennifer Beeman, executive director of Breast Cancer Action Quebec, says bisphenols used in thermal paper are known endocrine disruptors and can be a significant source of exposure for women." Read the article by CTV News

Preventing Breast Cancer by Decarbonizing Our Lives

How can applying the lens of decarbonization illuminate the complex links between climate change and profoundly serious health impacts, including breast cancer, that can be traced back to fossil fuels? People use the term “decarbonizing the economy” to refer to the process by which we can systemically remove fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal) from the myriad of roles they play in driving our economy. Fossil fuels are used for so much more than burning for energy or to fuel transport.

Rosanne Cohen (1957-2020)
photo by Patrizia Pino

Remembering ROSANNE COHEN 1957-2020

Tribute by Patricia Kearns

Research and Networking Advisor
Breast Cancer Action Quebec

It is with heavy hearts that we share with you the sad news that Rosanne Cohen died on July 16th, 2020. Rosanne was our friend, mentor, colleague and the first executive director of our organization. If you were lucky enough to meet her, you will not forget her.

Rosanne was a vivacious, insightful and truly warm person whose commitment to fighting toxics in our environment was deep. Her joyfulness was contagious, and it permeated all her work. No matter how serious the issue or tough the challenge, Rosanne infused the problem with her special brand of joie de vivre and the results were remarkable.

Rosanne began volunteering for Breast Cancer Action Montreal (BCAM) in 2008, joining the Speakers’ Bureau after she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and received treatment for the first time.

She was soon invited to join the Board of Directors and, in 2010, was named our first Executive Director. She left a fulfilling career in film and television to advocate for women with breast cancer and join the fight for prevention. 

Many salient BCAM moments happened under Rosanne’s leadership. A fierce advocate for young women’s voices in the safe cosmetics movement, Rosanne championed our youth project FemmeToxic alongside our then administrator, Janice Melanson.

Toxic Substances. Great Q & A.

Our online TOXIC BEAUTY panel discussion generated a lot of interest. The questions that the public asked and the answers that our panelists gave went straight to the heart of the issues raised in the film.

If you missed it, it is not too late. Here is the recording of the event.

Watch the recording of the panel

Why transform education at Breast Cancer Action Quebec

The International Youth Day approved and decreed on 17 December 1999 by the United Nations General Assembly is celebrated to highlight and show the importance of young people in each community particularly and at the global level. Considered as the spearhead and the next generation of humanity, this category, which has a considerable demographic weight, deserves special attention.

Presentation of the annual theme:

The theme of International Youth Day 2019, "Transforming Education", is thus designated to highlight efforts to make education more relevant, equitable and inclusive for all young people, including the efforts of young people themselves. This theme is anchored in objective 4 of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development - "to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all".

Why transform education at Breast Cancer Action Quebec?

Education in the formal sense, as we have always known it, with all the changes we are currently experiencing, therefore needs to be constantly reviewed so that it can keep pace with the frenetic pace of these many changes.

As part of its Youth Program through the training project "Become an Environmental Leader in Your Community" and its other public education activities, Breast Cancer Action Quebec is fully involved in this movement of educational transformation. This work is done by promoting the acquisition of knowledge, awareness of communities through the youth's engagement, competence and commitment to actions aimed towards changing how we treat the environment.

Breast Cancer Action Quebec has therefore chosen this aspect of the transformation of education to help and encourage youth who are capable of taking a stand for the protection of the environment and their health.

Have a good International Youth Day 2019!

A Story You Will Want to Read

We received an email mid March from a woman in a difficult situation. She had been diagnosed with grade II Ductal Carcinoma in situ (DCIS) under unusual circumstances. She reached out to us because she hoped to find medical professionals in Ontario who were open to providing Active Surveillance of her condition. We asked her if she would be willing to share her story and what has developed is a compelling 4-part series which we will publish with two installments in May and two in June.

Meet Nancy Riopel...

Nancy Riopel

We’re feeling the love from Greenfield Park.

For the last 22 years the Girl Guides of Greenfield Park have held a walk at the beginning of May for beast cancer prevention while donating to Breast Cancer Action Quebec. The Ladies Auxiliary, Branch 94 added its support by holding a BINGO whose proceeds also come to us annually. We always have a great time even if the weather does not cooperate and this year was no different, though we all agreed it was probably the coldest march in May we remember!

Our placards got an update/refresh thanks to Ana Lorcencova who used her artistic talents and school volunteer hours for a great cause! A big thanks to all the Sparks, Guides, Pathfinders, Rangers, their leaders and parents who walked with us.  And thanks to everyone who made donations, we are thrilled.

Working with young women to become environmental leaders

Over the past two years I had an amazing and challenging opportunity to work in local public high schools through our program on environmental health. I discovered a lot of things about this younger generation: They are very smart, even those who don’t do well academically.

They are far more informed about the environment than their parents’ generation. They had no trouble understanding the complex issues I was teaching, particularly on toxic substances and hormone disrupting chemicals and their effect on human health and the environment. And they are good at making connections. 

I also learned that gender dynamics have not changed much since I was in high school. The boys in the classes I was in talk much, much more than girls, act out more, jump up to be team captains during competitions, call out their answers, and generally dominate classroom interactions. Now don’t get me wrong, I really liked these guys. They came from very disadvantaged backgrounds about which they could talk clearly and with honesty. We talked a lot about health justice and environmental racism and they had a lot to say. And even now, I can remember their faces and voices as well as their points of view.

But the girls. I had to really work to try and create space for them. It was difficult and I had real trouble with this, despite understanding class dynamics and being committed to their taking their place. Most of the boys took any space as easily as they breathed. And the girls seemed accustomed to this and weren’t going to fight it.

In fact, it seemed easier for them to just keep their heads down and stay quiet. 

Café rencontre

Telling it Like it Is: the Financial Impact of a Serious Illness

When a serious illness interrupts life, the consequences, including the financial consequences, can be devastating.

We are developing tools to help people protect themselves before they land in a dire situation or to help them navigate the financial questions they'd have if diagnosed with a serious, chronic disease.

One of my favorite people has breast cancer. Again.

Deena (left) as panelist at our October Event 2018

Breast Cancer Action Quebec is filled with extraordinary people. But even in this group, Deena Dlusy-Apel stands out. She attended the first open meeting of BCAM as it was called back then and quickly became an integral part of the organization and continues to support our aims to this day. She is one of the most generous and committed people a group like ours could want.

This year, Deena was diagnosed with breast cancer. Again. Not a recurrence, a new case. 
Deena finds it strange that people are not angry that one person in two will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. She finds the extent to which people just acquiesce to this new normal frustrating and discouraging.
For Deena, "We need more research on environmental links to cancer. We need to talk about the everyday exposures that increase our risks. It is kind of depressing that there aren't more studies being done in this area."

Reflections on My Treatment

Patricia Kearns, Research and Networking Advisor, Breast Cancer Action Quebec

I wanted to tell you about my experience because I think there are important aspects that can be helpful for all women.

Following one of my bi-yearly mammograms, in 2013 I needed to have a follow up biopsy as some irregularity had shown up. To meet the breast specialist assigned to my case and find out the results, I brought along my partner Moira and my good friend and colleague Rosanne who had gone through breast cancer.  I most often have someone accompany to appointments like this one. Better having more that one pair of ears listening. On meeting Dr Lutfi, who was not phased by my posse, I learned I had DCIS or Ductal Carcinoma in Situ in my left breast. This was an early stage, non-invasive, slow growing, form of breast cancer. I knew that it did not pose an immediate health threat because I was familiar with DCIS from my work with Breast Cancer Action Quebec.

BCAQc on Radio Noon Montreal show with Shawn Apel

BCAQ Executive Director, Jennifer Beeman, and Dr Tarek Hijal, radiation oncologist and Director of the Division of Radiation Oncology at the MUHC were happy to answer your questions during Radio Noon Montreal, CBC's English language call in show with Shawn Apel on October 24th.

If you missed the show, you can listen to the broadcast here

Toxic Exposures are a Feminist Issue!
Canadian Women against Toxic Substances

Gender, biology and determinants of health, such as socio-economic status, employment, belonging to racialized groups and Indigenous communities, all play important roles affecting Canadian women’s health in relation to exposures to toxic substances. Canadian Women against Toxic Substances are concerned that the present-day laws which oversee the regulation and control of toxic substances do not adequately account for these factors, leaving women and the next generation vulnerable to a wide range of long-term negative health effects.

The foundation of our environmental regulations - The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) - is currently under review by the federal government. A serious reform of this legislation is of vital importance to Canadian women, as workers, mothers, caregivers and for all the other essential roles they play in our communities and in all their diverse realities. It is a question of the most fundamental environmental health justice.

Read further and see how exposure to toxic substances is a feminist issue. You may be surprised to learn among other things, that despite fundamental differences in biology between men and women, animal studies that too frequently relied on male-only models still dominate the scientific evidence.

Click here to learn more

Quebec civil society takes a stand on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) calling on the federal government to protect human health and the environment.

Over 80 Quebec groups have signed onto a Declaration that was sent to the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change on March 19 with a letter by Jennifer Beeman . This alliance represents a wide swath of Quebec citizens that goes far beyond the traditional environmental movement. They include among others, well-respected research centres and scientists, peri-natality groups, women’s and workers’ groups, shelters and groups that work against violence, collective kitchens, daycares, student, literacy and cultural groups.

The allied groups have committed to supporting the Declaration underscoring important elements of CEPA that need reform, and pressuring the government to follow the recommendations of their own report and bring in reformed legislation.

Read more on how to get involved

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) is the foundation of our environmental regulations and it’s currently under review by the federal government. Along with other environmental groups we have monitored this weak legislation for many years. It is in bad need of reform.

It is up to concerned individuals and groups like ours to put pressure on the government to take action.

Click here to read more and get involved.

Why We Need to Reform the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA)

As many of you know, our chemical regulatory system allows chemicals to go into production and circulation without proof of their safety. We are then required to fight a reactive battle, toxic substance by toxic substance, to prove their harm and get them out of circulation and out of our environment. In many cases, our exposure to toxic substances continues for decades after bans go into effect.

read more

Health Advocacy Inc.: A reading with Sharon Batt at Concordia University

What happens when patient advocacy groups develop financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry? Sharon Batt investigates this in her new book, Health Advocacy, Inc.: How Pharmaceutical Funding Changed the Breast Cancer Movement.

Health Advocacy Inc.: A reading with Sharon Batt at Concordia University
BCAQc is excited to partner with Concordia University's Ageing + Communication + Technologies (ACT) and engAGE: Concordia's Centre for Research on Aging for this event.
Click here for details.

We Moved!

With our lease at the RCA building in St-Henri coming to an end, an  opportunity presented itself to rent offices in the wonderful Maison Parent-Roback, a stone's throw from Metro Parc. So we jumped at it!

We left St. Henri and the historic RCA building on January 12 where we were happy for almost five years and moved to a new home.

If you have tried to get in touch with us during the last month and we have not responded, please excuse us. Our email server was down for a short time over the holidays. Our telephone system will be up and running in a week or so. Luckily we can keep our original phone number: 514-483-1846, the one we have had for over 25 years. In the meantime you can now email us or message us on Facebook. Your patience is much appreciated.
La Maison Parent-Roback, located on rue Jean-Talon in the heart of Parc extension, is owned by a collective of 11 women's groups. Through its members, it reaches more than 1,200 local groups who, in turn, connect with hundreds of thousands of women across Quebec and Canada. So we knew we wanted to be here.

So here we are!

Your generosity continues to amaze us!

Sabrina Leclerc (our intern this year) draws the winning name

We want to say is a BIG THANK YOU! Your donations were incredibly generous this year and it is so encouraging to know that you like what we are doing and support us in our endeavors. Truly, our 2018 activities are going to be very exciting and it is YOU who allows us to do this work.  

And the winner is ...

We just drew the name of the recipient of the Green Beaver gift bag and it's Carolyn Badger. Congratulations Carolyn! Thanks to everyone who participated.

Listen to our inaugural podcast – an interview with Sharon Batt.
Jennifer Beeman asks her some great questions and her answers are passionate and revealing.

Wretched Pink Ribbons. Again.

So here we are again awash in these wretched pink ribbons. They must constitute the most successful marketing campaign ever.

And they are so pernicious. They make us feel touched by and involved in something significant by merely wearing them or buying something with their picture attached.

But what do they say? Nothing, except that thousands of women still go through breast cancer every year. And that is the problem. There is so much that needs to be said that gets buried under the ribbons.

What do we need to be saying?

We need to say that detection is not prevention. Actually bringing down incidence rates has been completely removed from all important discussions. We repeat to women for them to individually bring down their risk without a proper public health strategy to bring down breast cancer rates with a strong, public health program that incorporates environmental health as a central component. Also, in working to prevent breast cancer, we work to prevent a range of diseases.


read more

Overwhelmed by pink ribbon blues?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month—in case you haven’t noticed, despite pink things all around you demanding your dollars. Breast Cancer Action Quebec is very skeptical of pink ribbon campaigns and the commercialization of breast cancer.

It is well known that companies try to reinforce their image and boost their bottom line by associating themselves with a good cause. But who really benefits, the cause or the company? What if the very products sold—through the promise of finding a cure—are actually contributing to the problem?

read more

Carly’s Reflection

After spending a year as a volunteer with Breast Cancer Action Quebec, the organization became the site of my practicum placement for my Masters of Public Health degree. I came to BCAQc with a background in exploring how the health of our environment impacts food security and our reproductive health.  I was interested in doing my practicum at BCAQc to learn how to apply my new public health skills to social-justice oriented work. BCAQc represented everything I hoped public health could embody: an empowering approach to holistically confronting some of the most compelling environmental and social issues of our time.

Most of my work centered around the Health Connections youth program, which I assisted in the development of and constructed a program logic model for. I also undertook an impact evaluation, creating a questionnaire to evaluate students before and after the program to assess the impacts we made.

We were interested in evaluating if Health Connections increased students’ environmental health literacy, which is embodied in the development of knowledge about environmental health, positive attitudes towards it, and the skills and capacity to take action to create environmentally healthy communities.

Fighting Endocrine Disruptors, One Lip Balm at a Time
A great article by Carly Welham, master's student in Public Health and intern at BCAQc, explains the politics of "Why We DIY"

Over the past few months, Breast Cancer Action Quebec interns have been holding DIY workshops across universities in Montreal, meeting with dozens of young people interested in creating body products free of toxic substances. We have been hosting conversations about how chemicals in products that we use every day affect our bodies, our health, and our environment.

Our reality is that everyday we are exposed to hundreds of chemicals that are harmful to us. As a women's health organization whose mission is to work for the prevention of breast cancer through the elimination of environmental toxicants linked to the disease, there are many reasons why we choose to create alternatives to body products with these toxic ingredients.

read more

Your Triclosan Actions and the UN on Pesticides

With the arrival of spring, we would like to share with you a round up of some of the environmental health news we are keeping on top of. In a few weeks we will be sending our information on our spring activities. It would be wonderful to see you at one of our events soon!


On March 8th 2017, the UN human rights council made public a scathing report which is very clear: pesticides, many of which contain endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), are harmful to human health and the environment and they are used in the service of industry profit, not to combat world hunger as agro-chemical business leads us to believe.

read more

Update on Action against Triclosan

Last year we informed you about the actions of environmental and health groups concerning Triclosan. This ubiquitous antibacterial agent is also an important EDC, is ecotoxic and implicated in antibacterial resistance. You told us you were happy to sign onto petitions asking the government to ban this toxic substance from household and personal care products. Here you will find the final statement, coordinated by the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), that we and 40 other like-minded organizations signed onto and sent to The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and The Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health on February 24, 2017.

read more

Breast Cancer Action Quebec is the recipient of a special gift!

To our delight, BCAQc has been chosen as the charity being honoured at this year’s spring concert of Montreal’s Yellow Door Choir on May 26 and 27, 2017.

Since 1983, this talented choir has been performing and partnering with local charities using their concerts to support and raise awareness for the good work these groups do. And what good company we are in! Take a look at the list of over 60 community organizations  that the Choir has supported throughout its three decades of singing.

Not only does the Yellow Door Choir donate the profits from the concert’s ticket sales to us but every penny that is made during the intermission bake sales is ours too! We will be posting information on how you can get involved by baking your favorite cookies, cupcakes or squares for the bake sale.

Jennifer Beeman, Director, Breast Cancer Action Quebec
Written in response to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October 2016

I am in a strange situation. I am director of a breast cancer organization and I really don’t know what “promoting awareness” of breast cancer means.

Does it mean repeating the fact that one in nine women in Canada will receive a diagnosis of breast cancer at some time in her life? Even when this tells us nothing of what is being done to bring down that statistic (very little)?

Repeating “early diagnosis saves lives”? Even though this doesn’t explain to women that early diagnosis leads to a serious problem of overdiagnosis, which women really don’t understand and about which we are doing very little?

Repeating that we should “run for the cure”? Though this does nothing to prevent our daughters and granddaughters getting the disease?

read more

BCAQ relies on membership dues and private donations to stay in operation. A stronger membership is a stronger voice. It also helps to substantiate our financial applications for government grants and private foundations. Please consider joining us today!

With your support BCAQc is working hard to get vital information about environmental and chemical links to breast cancer to the public, and we now know that our message is being heard.

There are many ways you can be involved: volunteer, write a letter to the editor, book an educational workshop for your school, community group or work place. Engage with us, follow us on social media, share your opinions and ideas – take BCAQ’s message to your community! Be a voice for a change!