Canada reverses position on asbestos

Tue, Sep 18, 2012

Asbestos, In the media, Misc.

Radio Canada International, 17 september, 2012

The Jeffrey mine in Quebec had mostly shut down but was to be revived with a $58-million loan from the Quebec government. It is looking more and more likely that Canada’s last remaining asbestos operation will never resume.

Canada has will stop defending asbestos internationally. The federal government announced it will no longer block international efforts to add the cancer-causing mineral to a United Nations list of hazardous substances. In addition, the provincial government in the province of Quebec will cancel a multi-million dollar loan it promised to revive an asbestos mine there. RCI’s Lynn Desjardins spoke with jubilant activists.

“I was extremely pleased by this decision that the Canadian government will no longer be an enemy of public health around the world on the asbestos issue,” said Kathleen Ruff. She has, for years, lobbied to get the Canadian government to stop promoting asbestos, most lately in her role as human rights advisor to the Rideau Institute, an independent research and advocacy group.

“After 130 years of Canada being the major propagandist pushing the lies that asbestos is safe when we know it kills,” said Ms. Ruff, “Canada’s role as asbestos propagandist seems finally to be ended.”

“We were surprised and very pleased with the decision,” said Jim Chauvin, director of policy at the Canadian Public Health Association. His association has for several years been lobbying the Canadian government to stop blocking the listing of chrysotile asbestos in the Rotterdam Convention list of hazardous materials. “What it means is that countries that import Canadian asbestos, for instance, will be informed prior to the importation that they are importing a hazardous product and that they have to take means to ensure the protection of people who will be handling it.”

There’s more Canada should be doing at home and abroad to reduce the risk that people will be exposed to asbestos, believe both activists. “We would like to see the asbestos industry shut down period,” said Mr. Chauvin. That is likely to happen but not by any government decree. Three asbestos mines in the province of Quebec have closed over the years. The previous Quebec government offered a $58 million dollar loan to help revive the Jeffrey mine. However a new government was elected earlier this month which has vowed to withdraw the loan and the mine is not likely to re-open.

This development was cited as the reason the federal government decided to stop blocking the listing of asbestos as a hazardous material. The government may also have come under pressure from the European Union with which it is negotiating a free-trade agreement. Whatever its motivation, the Canadian government appears to have yielded only grudgingly and it’s not clear whether it plans to take any further action on asbestos.

“Canada should ban asbestos,” said Kathleen Ruff. “It should create a registry of all the buildings that contain asbestos across Canada. It should provide help and support to asbestos victims and it should play a role on the world stage to let people know about the hazards of asbestos and to stop the use of asbestos.”

More work needs to be done on asbestos, agrees Mr. Chauvin but he calls this step a small victory from which Canada can move forward.

LISTEN 4:28 minute interview at


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One Response to “Canada reverses position on asbestos”

  1. James Mullins Says:

    The Canadian government continues to deny its own employees with access to information concerning exposure risk in its own buildings. As an employee I was refused access by the union health and safety representative and the employer themselves. I was only given a link five months after I left, to a network I did not have access to.
    I was repeatedly told if I had concerns I “would know asbestos when I breath it”. That was the safety procedure at Industry Canada 2014.

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