Federal government rejects health experts and funds project to exploit asbestos mining wastes

Fri, Oct 19, 2018

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Kathleen Ruff, RightOnCanada.ca

Quebec’s regulations permit workers to be exposed to 100 times greater amounts of asbestos fibres than is permitted in France, Switzerland and the Netherlands and ten times higher levels than permitted by the federal government, other Canadian provinces, the United States and Europe.

The Canadian government will announce at a press conference to be held at Danville, near the town of Asbestos, Quebec on October 19, 2018 that it will be providing funding to the company Alliance Magnesium Inc. for its $100 million project to extract magnesium from the asbestos mining wastes. The company has already received $30.9 million from the Quebec government.

All seventeen regional directors of public health for the Quebec government submitted a written brief to the federal government expressing their grave concerns regarding the health risks of these projects to exploit the asbestos wastes, which contain up to 40% asbestos. The public health directors and Quebec’s National Public Health Institute (INSPQ) note that Quebec’s regulations permit workers to be exposed to 100 times greater amounts of asbestos fibres than is permitted in France, Switzerland and the Netherlands and ten times higher levels than permitted by the federal government, other Canadian provinces, the United States and Europe.

The Minister of the Environment, Catherine McKenna, has rejected their concerns, stating: “I am also satisfied that these proposed regulations, along with existing provincial controls, will address the health risks associated with asbestos mining residues.”

The Minister’s statement is in contradiction with the facts:

  1. The Minister rejected the recommendation of the public health directors and Quebec’s National Public Health Institute to include the asbestos mining wastes in the federal regulations.
  2. Quebec’s “existing provincial controls” for asbestos exposure, that the Minister approves as satisfactory, are the worst in the western world and have been condemned as dangerous and indefensible by all of Quebec’s health authorities.

Radio-Canada has reported how, according to the Quebec lobbyists registry, eleven lobbyists have worked on behalf of Alliance Magnesium since 2016 and have also carried out lobbying on the federal government to exclude asbestos mining wastes from its new regulations.

Dr. Louise Soulière, of the Quebec Public Health Association, states angrily “Once again, the lobby won.”

“If they want to exploit the asbestos wastes, they must enact a stricter standard for asbestos exposure,” says Dr. Soulière. “We believe that the resistance of the Quebec government to making the exposure standard more strict comes from the owners of the asbestos wastes who want to make a profit out of them.” (translation)

The Quebec government has refused to change its asbestos exposure standard, despite the pleas of health experts and the Quebec Association of Asbestos Victims.

Now the Canadian government is also turning a deaf ear to those pleas.

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