Hassan Yussuff is the president of the Canadian Labour Congress.
In my 20s and 30s, I worked as a mechanic in tight spaces under vehicles, handling clutches and brake pads without any protective gear. That meant I was exposed to asbestos, placing me among the more than 150,000 Canadians estimated to have come into contact with this deadly substance at work, many of whom work in construction, auto maintenance, ship building, waste management and remediation.
I have been lucky that it has not yet impacted my health. But for far too long, thousands of families have been shattered by the death of a loved one from asbestos-related diseases. It is estimated that 100,000 people worldwide die from such illnesses and that there are 2,000 new asbestos-related cancer cases each year in Canada, most of them fatal.
The enactment of a federal ban of asbestos and asbestos-containing products in December – the product of a hard fight by Canada’s unions, health advocates and affected families – is a significant step in the right direction. So too was the accompanying endorsement for listing chrysotile asbestos in the Rotterdam Convention, a multilateral treaty around the trade of hazardous materials. Continue Reading →