Canada implicated in efforts to sabotage proposed asbestos ban in Malaysia, say health advocates

Fri, Sep 30, 2011


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 30, 2011

Canada is implicated in sabotaging a proposal to ban asbestos, put forward by health professionals in Malaysia, say a number of medical doctors and health advocates in letters to Prime Minister Harper and Quebec Premier Charest, released today.

The ban proposal was put forward by the Malaysian Department of Occupational Safety & Health and received strong support. However, a powerful public relations company, APCO Worldwide, was hired to intervene to block the proposed ban.

“We are scandalized to discover that APCO’s undisclosed client is the International Chrysotile Association and to learn that this Association is incorporated in Quebec and linked to the Chrysotile Institute, the registered lobby group for the Quebec asbestos industry, which your government endorses and has funded with over a million dollars over the past six years,” state the health advocates in their letter to Harper.

According to the Chrysotile Institute, representatives of the Quebec and the Canadian government sit on its Board of Directors.

“APCO is notorious for its work for the tobacco industry, having been hired by Philip Morris to set up a front group, the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, to prevent action on second-hand tobacco smoke,” said Dr Fernand Turcotte, Professor Emeritus of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Laval University, Quebec. “Now they are seeking to prevent a proposal to protect people from asbestos.”

“What chance do public health professionals in developing countries have in their efforts to protect their people from asbestos harm, when faced by a powerful public relations company, such as APCO Worldwide, hired by the global asbestos lobby?” said Kathleen Ruff, who was recently given a prestigious National Public Health Hero award by the Canadian Public Health Association for her work in opposing the asbestos industry.

“It is, in our opinion, indefensible that your government has funded and endorses an organization that is covertly implicated in undermining the right to health and the democratic process in Malaysia and in crushing the efforts of public health professionals in Malaysia to ban asbestos,” say the letters to Harper and Charest.

The administrators of the International Chrysotile Association, listed by the Quebec government’s directory of Quebec companies, are asbestos industry representatives from Canada, Indonesia, Bolivia, Peru, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Vietnam, Brazil, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, China, India and Senegal.

In their letters, the health advocates ask Harper and Charest to:

– End governmental support and funding for the Chrysotile Institute

– Apologize to the Malaysian Department of Occupational Safety & Health for the covert, improper interference in Malaysian public health policy by a global asbestos lobby organization, located in Canada and linked to the government-supported Chrysotile Institute.

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