Cassiar, a Jewel in the Wilderness


210 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-920576-99-0
DDC 971.1'85





Reviewed by Joan A. Lovisek

Joan Lovisek, Ph.D., is a consulting anthropologist and ethnohistorian
in British Columbia.


Cassiar is now a ghost town. Like many such towns, factual or fictional,
it evokes images of dust storms; in this case, however, the dust is
asbestos. Sociologist Suzanne LeBlanc chronicles the 40-year existence
of Cassiar, a small, one-resource town in northern British Columbia. She
documents the town’s birth in 1952, when it was created by the Cassiar
Asbestos Corporation, and its death in 1992, when it was auctioned to
buyers from North America, Brazil, and Australia. As they are replaced
by fly-in operations that are not economically burdened by the cost of
unions and infrastructure, towns like Cassiar are considered a rarity

Without glossing over cabin fever, marital stress, and the difficulties
associated with medical care, LeBlanc provides a microscopic social
history of Cassiar as both a workplace and a community. She also
provides some tantalizing historical tidbits about asbestos, such as its
use 2000 years ago by early Egyptians who wove asbestos into cloth to
wrap the mummified remains of pharaohs. The health risk associated with
inhaling asbestos dust, she notes, was known to the ancient Romans, who
provided respirators to their slaves to extend their lives.

Part sociological study and part local history, Cassiar, a Jewel in the
Wilderness is written in a non-academic style that should make the book
accessible to a wide audience.


LeBlanc, Suzanne., “Cassiar, a Jewel in the Wilderness,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024,