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The Council calls on Trudeau to support listing asbestos in Rotterdam Convention

The Council of Canadians welcomes a ban on the “manufacture, use, import and export of asbestos-containing products”, but insists that the Trudeau government also agree to listing asbestos in the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.

The Globe and Mail reports, “Canada will ban asbestos use by 2018, in what many health advocates hail as a victory for public health, albeit one that is long overdue. The decision brings Canada in line with more than 50 other countries, that have banned the known carcinogen and comes after decades of lobbying from health experts, labour unions and those who have lost family members to asbestos-related diseases. For years, both provincial and federal governments had staunchly supported the country’s asbestos-mining industry, despite mounting evidence of the health risks the mineral poses.”

Our ally Kathleen Ruff, a longtime anti-asbestos activist, says, “All those who have been and continue to be involved in the struggle to end the asbestos tragedy in Canada and around the world will rejoice that Canada will now, at long last, join the over fifty countries who have banned asbestos.”

However, The Globe and Mail also notes, “On the global stage, the federal government plans to ‘review its position’ on the listing of asbestos as a hazardous material before next year’s meeting of parties to the Rotterdam Convention, which is an international treaty. For years, Canada had opposed such a listing. The government didn’t clarify whether it will now support a listing.”

The Council of Canadians has opposed the Canadian government’s support of the asbestos industry for more than sixteen years:

  • In September 2000, national chairperson Maude Barlow wrote then-Liberal trade minister Pierre Pettigrew stating, “Canada’s aggressive support of the asbestos industry and the pursuit of markets, in spite of the estimated and projected death toll from asbestos, is a disgraceful indication that Canada values trade in toxic materials above the health of its own citizens and the health of workers around the world.” We also released a report that that called on the federal government to “plan for the global elimination of the asbestos industry and initiate a ‘just transition’ strategy for the industry and its workers.”

  • In June 2009, we joined with the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Canadian Auto Workers (now Unifor), the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, MiningWatch Canada, and others to demand that Canadian parliamentarians heed the call to ban Canadian asbestos.

  • In July 2010, Political Director Brent Patterson and Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan met with Stephen Hughes, a British Member of the European Parliament, in Brussels to discuss asbestos and the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Hughes highlighted that the European Union had banned all use of asbestos and extraction, manufacture and processing of asbestos products in 2005.

  • In November 2010, we signed on to a full-page ad that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen. The RightOnCanada.ca ad said, “All asbestos kills. That’s why over 50 countries have banned it, and why the World Health Organization has called for an end to its use. That’s why no industrialized country, including Canada, uses it. That’s why we spend millions of dollars removing it from our schools, hospitals and homes. But Canada still exports asbestos to developing countries. Prime Minister Harper, stop exporting asbestos disease to the developing world.”

  • In April 2011, we highlighted media reports during the federal election that, “Harper has declared that Canada will not ban the export of asbestos – despite calls from health groups – because to do so would hurt Canadian industry. …He flatly said his government will not ban the sale of the product, which he preferred to call ‘chrysotile’ instead of asbestos.”

  • In June 2011, we encouraged our supporters to respond to an online action alert – in the critical days leading up to a meeting on the Rotterdam Convention – that called on Harper to, “Join the United Nations in banning the production and exporting of asbestos worldwide.” Unfortunately, at that June 2011 meeting, Canada opposed listing asbestos as a hazardous chemical.

  • In December 2016, The Council of Canadians – along with the Montreal, Prince Albert and Quill Plains (Wynyard) chapters – and about 60 other groups signed a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau supporting a comprehensive ban on asbestos in Canada and proposing to establish an expert panel to review an Asbestos Management Regime in Canada.

The Toronto Star has reported, “Listing asbestos on Annex III of the convention would force exporters such as Canada to warn recipient countries of any health hazards. Those countries could also then refuse asbestos imports if they didn’t think they could handle the product safely. Canada has twice before played a lead role in blocking the inclusion of asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention, which operates by consensus.”

The Rotterdam Convention Conference of Parties meeting will take place May 3-4, 2017 in Geneva, Swtizerland.