Government silent as questions mount about asbestos danger – by Gloria Galloway (Globe and Mail – June 18, 2014)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

OTTAWA — The federal Conservative government is refusing to join the rest of the developed world in declaring that there are no safe uses for asbestos, even though the material is the top workplace killer in Canada and deaths from exposure are expected to rise.

While such countries as Australia, Japan, Sweden and Britain have imposed a ban on the flame-retardant mineral once widely employed in construction and still used in other applications including brake pads, Canada continues to allow asbestos to be both imported and exported.

The government would not respond directly on Tuesday to a question from the opposition about why the policy has not changed despite overwhelming evidence of the health risks.

A Globe and Mail report on Saturday said the federal government has dragged its feet in protecting this country’s citizens from asbestos’s deadly effects, and that more than 1,200 successful claims for fatality benefits were made in Canada between 2007 and 2012.

Health Canada’s website plays down the causal relationship between asbestos and some types of cancer, while asserting that it is a problem only when its fibres become airborne and “significant quantities” are inhaled.

Pat Martin, a New Democrat MP who worked in asbestos mines when he was young and has been campaigning to have the substance banned in Canada since he was elected 17 years ago, demanded to know why the government is not wavering from its position.

Mr. Martin rose during the daily Question Period in the House of Commons to ask how Labour Minister Kellie Leitch, a medical doctor who has received many letters from people who have lost family members to asbestos-related diseases, could “in all good conscience defend her government’s reprehensible policy on asbestos?”

Ms. Leitch did not respond.

In her place, Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford told the House that the government will not oppose the listing of chrysotile under the Rotterdam Convention, a United Nations-sponsored treaty that requires the exporters of hazardous substances to disclose the risks.

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