Canada’s stance on asbestos disgraceful – by Ruth Farquhar (Sudbury Star – July 4, 2011)

The Sudbury Star, the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

Our government has once again given Canada a black eye internationally, refusing to put chrysotile asbestos on the hazardous list at the Rotterdam Convention two weeks ago.

At a time when work is being done to remove all traces of asbestos in the Parliament buildings and the official residence of our Prime Minister, we say it’s OK to export it without any kind of warning.

Actually, we stayed quiet at the convention and even when the United Nations confirmed our position, Environment Canada sent this email to the Toronto Star, “with regards to your question on Rotterdam, our previous response that our position at Rotterdam will be the same as our position in Canada, which is we promote the safe and controlled use of chrysalides still stands.”

I wonder if staff at environment Canada choked over that one. Given that Health Canada since 2006 has recommended that asbestos be put on the hazardous list, it’s unbelievable that we can’t put a warning label outlining the risks when we sell this deadly substance to countries such as India.

What has become extremely obvious is the government is protecting the asbestos industry in Quebec. During a campaign stop in Asbestos, Que., Stephen Harper said the only party that defends the chrysotile industry is our party, the Conservative Party.”

He actually sounded like he was proud of that. So why am I writing about this two weeks later? Well, the Quebec government has approved expanding the Jeffry mine in April and has guaranteed $58 million in loans as long as they can drum up additional financing by July 1.

Happy Canada Day people.

Perhaps the reason the mine is so cash-strapped is because the asbestos industry is dying and so it should be. Why in the world can’t the Quebec government use funds for job retraining of the miners and diversifying the communities that are supported by this industry.

Last week on CBC former Conservative MP Chuck Strahl, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma six years ago, was speaking out about the need to put information out there about the risks involved when dealing with asbestos.

Strahl is a self-described “anomaly” given that this type of cancer is typically “fast and deadly.” In the interview Strahl said, “crysotile is not as statistically as hazardous, but how can you protect yourself if you don’t know about it.”

He supported the listing of asbestos at the Rotterdam Convention on hazardous material.

Kathleen Ruff, who is the international co-coordinator of the Rotterdam Convention alliance said, “there’s no question that we’re the ones that are legitimizing this appalling practice and refusing to listen to the scientific evidence.”

According to the World Health Organization 125 million people around the world are exposed to asbestos in their work environments and many millions more workers exposed from years past. Many scientists are predicting a pandemic of asbestos-related cancers in the years to come.

So why are being a part of what is clearly a danger to others?

For the rest of this column, please go to the Sudbury Star website: