Asbestos lobby rejoices that Canadian government is financing asbestos wastes project

Fri, Oct 26, 2018


Kathleen Ruff,

The International Chrysotile Association and the Pro-Chrysotile Movement are rejoicing that the Canadian and Quebec governments are financing a project to extract magnesium from the millions of tons of asbestos mining wastes near the town of Asbestos, Quebec.

The Quebec government has given Alliance Magnesium Inc. a loan of $17.5 million and bought equity shares of $13.4 million in the company; the Canadian government has given the company $12 million for its project.

It appears that no independent environmental assessment has been carried out. Public health experts have been excluded and a deaf ear turned to their concerns by both the Quebec and the federal governments.

The International Chrysotile Association and the Pro-Chrysotile Movement deny the science on asbestos and oppose banning chrysotile asbestos, claiming that it is virtually harmless.

Currently, Quebec’s exposure standard is the one that was written by the asbestos industry and permits workers to be exposed to ten times higher amounts of chrysotile asbestos than is permitted by the federal government or by other Canadian provinces. Numerous lobbyists worked to ensure the federal government excluded asbestos wastes from its regulations and to stop Quebec strengthening its safety regulations, since both could jeopardize the financial viability of the projects.

Says Dr. Louise Soulière, Vice-President of the Quebec Public Health Association: “We believe that the resistance of the Quebec government to making the asbestos exposure standard stricter comes from the owners of the asbestos wastes who want to make a profit from them. It is certain that when standards are made stricter, that costs more in protective equipment.”(translation)

“Every time you increase safety measures, it makes things complicated,”says the Vice-President of Alliance Magnesium Inc. (translation)

Decision by Quebec’s Commission on Occupational Standards, Equity, Health and Safety is awaited

Asbestos is the biggest killer of Quebec workers. Quebec’s Commission on Occupational Standards, Equity, Health and Safety has called for “zero tolerance” for exposure to asbestos because it is so deadly. However, after holding public consultations, the Commission (which is made up of representatives of employers, unions and the government) has delayed for over a year in announcing its decision as to whether it supports the unanimous recommendation of all Quebec’s health authorities that the exposure standard must be made more strict, as at the federal level and in the rest of Canada, or whether it supports the position of the asbestos lobby that exposing workers to high levels of chrysotile asbestos fibres causes no harm to health.

The Commission is expected to announce its decision shortly.

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