Federal government won’t block efforts to limit asbestos exports – by Sarah Schmidt (Montreal Gazette – September 15, 2012)


OTTAWA — The Conservative government announced Friday it will no longer be a champion of asbestos on the world stage, effectively conceding the end of the asbestos industry in Quebec with a promise of up to $50 million to diversify the economy of the mining communities.
Industry Minister Christian Paradis, who represents a riding at the heart of Quebec’s asbestos mining region, said he didn’t want to abandon the industry, but said Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois left Ottawa no choice. During the summer campaign, Marois, who is now premier-designate of Quebec, promised to cancel an $58-million government loan to revive the Jeffrey Mine, signalling the end to Quebec’s long history of asbestos production.e
The federal government’s policy change of heart, unveiled in Thetford Mines by the government’s Quebec lieutenant, means Canada will no longer block international efforts, through the United Nations’ Rotterdam Convention, to place limits on the export of asbestos.
“It would be illogical for Canada to oppose the inclusion of chrysotile (asbestos) in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention when Quebec, the only province that produces chrysotile, will prohibit its exploitation,” Paradis told reporters, saying it was clear the decision Marois is final, so it wasn’t a time for “academic” consultations. 
“Our region will have to live with the consequences of Mrs. Marois’ decision, but we will continue to work together on the continued economic development of the community,” added Paradis.
Until now, the Canadian government, under both the Liberals and the Conservatives, has supported the industry by blocking the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous material on Annex III of the UN convention.
Materials listed on this annex require Prior Informed Consent (PIC) — meaning that before countries export the goods listed on it, they must inform importers of the risks and precautionary measures for safe handling, to which importers must consent. Because the convention operates by consensus, any one country can block a listing simply by objecting.
At the most recent international meeting in June 2011, the Canadian delegation remained silent during the proceedings until consensus was emerging to list the deadly fibre as hazardous. After India and Ukraine indicated they could support the listing, the Canadian delegation spoke up to say Canada objected.
The head of the delegation acknowledged that the guidance document of the UN’s scientific panel, which included its recommendation to list chrysotile asbestos on Annex III of the convention, was “appropriate and the criteria for listing was met.” But Canada was not in a position to support the listing, the delegation told the world.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Montreal Gazette website: http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Federal+government+block+efforts+limit+asbestos+exports/7244363/story.html

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