Time for a firm stand against asbestos, Canada – by Kathleen Ruff (Ottawa Citizen – July 4, 2016)


Kathleen Ruff is founder and co-cordinator of the Rotterdam Convention Allliance, which represents civil society organizations around the world. She was recently awarded the medal of the Quebec National Assembly for her work to stop asbestos mining and ban asbestos.

One of the key promises made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is that his government will restore Canada’s badly tarnished image on the international stage. Canada is back, says the prime minister. Canada will support global policies based on evidence and play a positive role at the United Nations. Trudeau’s pledge has been welcomed by most Canadians and by the international community.

But when it comes to asbestos, Trudeau is breaking that pledge. Asbestos is the biggest killer of Canadian workers. The Trudeau government has prohibited use of asbestos at Public Works and Government Services Canada workplaces and indicated that it will join 55 other countries in banning asbestos.

So it is inexplicable that at UN meetings, the Trudeau government’s position is that it has not made up its mind whether chrysotile asbestos should be put on the Rotterdam Convention’s list of hazardous substances.

How can chrysotile asbestos be hazardous for Canadians and not be hazardous for people overseas?

For 10 years, the convention’s expert scientific committee has called for chrysotile asbestos to be put on the convention’s list of hazardous substances. In 2006, when the recommendation was first made, Canada opposed it in order to protect Canada’s asbestos trade. In 2011, when all other countries had agreed to list chrysotile asbestos, Canada alone opposed the listing.

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