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NEWS: NDP, European Parliament concerned about asbestos exports

Council of Canadians meets with MEP Stephen Hughes in Brussels
Council of Canadians meets with MEP Stephen Hughes in Brussels

The Canadian Press reports this hour, “The party representing the vast majority of Quebec MPs in the House of Commons is urging the Conservative government to stop supporting Canada’s Quebec-based asbestos industry. The NDP wants Canada to drop its long-standing objection to chrysotile asbestos being listed under an international convention on hazardous substances.”

“Member countries of the Rotterdam Convention, including Canada, meet next week (starting on Monday) in Geneva to discuss the issue. The scientific panel of the Rotterdam Convention has consistently recommended that chrysotile be included on its list — which allows importing countries to make informed decisions about the safe handling of chemicals. The NDP — which elected 59 MPs in Quebec last month — has documents that show Health Canada officials also recommended that chrysotile asbestos go on the Rotterdam list, but were overruled.”

Just last week, Postmedia News reported, “The (736-member, directly-elected) European Parliament took shots (on June 8) at Canada over the oilsands industry’s environmental record, ongoing asbestos exports and the sealing industry… (The European Parliament expressed concern about the) serious harm to the health of workers mining asbestos, the processing and use of which is already banned in the EU (since 2005).” Their expression of concern is significant because the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement – if signed by January 2012 as Prime Minister Stephen Harper promises – would eventually go to the European Parliament for further debate and a vote on approval or rejection of the deal.

In June 2010, a Public Citizen media release noted that, “European Union parliamentarian Stephen Hughes (United Kingdom) recently tabled an inquiry calling for a WTO challenge of a proposed Canadian subsidy (to the asbestos industry).”

In July 2010, the Council of Canadians, members of the Trade Justice Network and European allies met with Mr. Hughes in Brussels and he suggested an export ban on asbestos could be made a condition for completion of the ongoing CETA talks.