Quebec Inquiry completes public hearings into asbestos and asbestos mining wastes

Sun, Mar 1, 2020


Kathleen Ruff,

In October 2019 Quebec’s Minister of the Environment mandated an independent Commission of Inquiry to look into and make recommendations regarding the health risks of asbestos and whether the government should approve projects to extract magnesium and other minerals from the 800 million tons of wastes left by asbestos mining companies. The projects are estimated to be worth more than $400 billion. The mining wastes contain from 20 to 40% asbestos.

The Commission has now completed eight days of public hearings in the towns of Asbestos and Thetford Mines and five days of meetings with special sectors – 1) government resource people 2) Quebec, Canadian and international scientists and researchers 3) municipal and citizen representatives 4) employers 5) workers. The Commission will now work on writing its report and recommendations to submit to the Quebec government by July 24, 2020.

The Commission invited individuals and organisations to submit written briefs. The Quebec Asbestos Victims Association, individual asbestos victims and environmental organisations submitted briefs, as did Quebec government ministries, health officials, municipal and federal political representatives and organisations, the companies pursuing the projects, the Pro-Chrysotile Movement, and business and mining organisations. Over 400 submissions, presentations, reports, responses to questions, background documents, as well as transcripts and videos of meetings held by the Commission, are available on the Commission’s website.

Here is the brief submitted by RightOnCanada in English and in French.

Misinformation of asbestos industry continues

The Commission is making strong efforts to carry out its work in an impartial, transparent, and evidence-based manner. Key questions the Commission is examining are what the asbestos exposure standard should be for workers and what the populational exposure standard should be for the nearby communities. Currently, Quebec’s asbestos exposure standard allows workers to be exposed to ten times higher levels of asbestos in the air than is permitted elsewhere in Canada and a hundred times greater than permitted by some European countries. Currently no populational exposure standard exists.

The social and political climate in the region will influence how the government responds to the Commission’s report and recommendations. For decades the Quebec and Canadian governments funded and promoted misinformation put out by asbestos industry claiming that chrysotile asbestos is virtually harmless and can be safely used. This misinformation continues to be supported by the communities and their political representatives, who have been lobbying the Quebec and Canadian governments strongly for the projects to go ahead.

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