Quebec government about to ban asbestos?

Wed, Mar 27, 2013

Asbestos, Misc.

Kathleen Ruff,

According to today’s Le Soleil newspaper, the Quebec Minister of Health, Réjean Hébert, stated to a Le Soleil journalist that the new Parti Québécois government of Pauline Marois is preparing to ban the use of asbestos. The minister noted that during the recent election campaign in Quebec, “Our government took a position against the mining, export and use of asbestos.”

In the past few days, Radio-Canada released a report, obtained via an Access to Information request, which showed that more than a hundred hospitals and youth centres in Quebec contain asbestos.

The Quebec asbestos lobby is asking for an urgent meeting with the minister, saying that the use of asbestos-containing products, such as asbestos-cement construction materials, should be encouraged and that “scientists” say that asbestos can be safely used. They do not mention that these “scientists” are all financed by the asbestos industry.

Public opinion in Quebec is no longer on the asbestos industry’s side. The Quebec medical community, including the Quebec government’s own health experts, have shown courage and integrity over the past several years in publicly opposing the deadly propaganda of the Quebec asbestos industry and in challenging the previous Charest government’s policy of promoting the mining and export of asbestos. These public health leaders have demonstrated true commitment to defending public health.

An enormous contrast can be seen  between the way Quebec’s health authorities have fulfilled their medical obligations and spoken out clearly and strongly on asbestos harm, whereas all the Canadian government’s health authorities have been gagged and silent and have not dared to challenge their government’s policy. The Canadian government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper continues today to support the sordid, deadly propaganda of the asbestos industry and refuses to consider banning asbestos or to pass regulations to provide proper protection to federal workers at risk of being exposed to asbestos.

On December 9, 2010, Dr. Amir Khadir, leader of Québec Solidaire and member of the Quebec National Assembly, introduced a Bill to ban the mining and export of asbestos. He paid tribute to the Asia-Quebec Solidarity delegation, representing asbestos victims and ban asbestos activists from Asia, who were in attendance in the public gallery of the National Assembly, as he introduced the Bill.

Dr. Khadir was alone at that time in calling for Quebec to ban asbestos. It was a very courageous act. He and Québec Solidaire deserve enormous respect and gratitude for the courage, leadership and solidarity they demonstrated to the world.

Dr. Khadir and Québec Solidaire are no longer alone in calling for Quebec to ban asbestos. In the past few years, a dramatic and difficult battle has been fought to end Quebec’s asbestos trade. A few years ago, the Quebec asbestos industry enjoyed the total support of all the Quebec political parties and it was taboo in the media or elsewhere to challenge the industry.

Today, the situation has completely changed. Only the Quebec Liberal Party of former Premier Jean Charest continues to support asbestos. The three other Quebec political parties all support ending the mining and export of asbestos.

And now, finally, it seems that Quebec may lead the way for the rest of Canada by banning asbestos.


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