Jean Zigby, MD
Family Physician, Palliative Care Specialist
President, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
Growing up in a less wealthy community in rural Quebec, the swamps, hills, and forests around our home allowed my brothers and me to avoid many of the dangers of struggling communities that our fellow young boys fell victim to. The dragonflies, snapping turtles, falcons, and berry bushes were good company in the protective woods when the motorcycle gangs were active! My immigrant parents took it for granted that harvesting your own food from farms and gardens was normal and ideal, so we often picked our food in the fields as children. In elementary school, we were blessed to have eco-minded teachers who creatively attempted to explain biological interdependence to groups of rowdy preadolescents.
Decades later, as a palliative care physician in metropolitan Montreal, many of my patients ask why they were struck with terminal cancer when they were previously so health-conscious and have no identifiable risk factors. I answer that many known causes are environmental exposures that they may not control (like air pollution, pesticides, and radon), and that these exposures may have occurred when they were children, fetuses, or even to their parents before they were conceived! After explaining this often enough, I crave a way to make a difference, to prevent people from needing to ask such questions.
As president of CAPE, I have had the honour of seeing my efforts and financial contributions rapidly and efficiently transformed into campaigns to directly reduce the risk to citizens of many toxins at their source.
And I have never been happier to give.