End Deadly Asbestos Industry, Experts Urge Canadian Government

May 13, 2010, 10:45 AM EST


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The Canadian government must ban the production and export of asbestos, a broad coalition of politicians, world renowned experts, asbestos victims, labour leaders, researchers and health care providers is demanding.

The group is also calling for just transition policies for communities relying on the asbestos industry. The call came at an Ottawa press conference on May 12, organized through Ban Asbestos Canada, followed by a rally at Parliament Hill.

"Asbestos is the greatest Industrial killer the world has ever known," said NDP MP Pat Martin. "More Canadians die from asbestos than all other industrial causes combined yet Canada continues to be one of the world's leading producers and exporters of asbestos. We are exporting human misery on a monumental scale and it is an international disgrace." MP for Winnipeg centre and former asbestos miner, Martin has been leading the charge in the House of Commons to have asbestos production and export banned.

NDP MP for Outremont Thomas Mulcair also spoke at the press conference, making him the first Quebec MP to ever speak out against asbestos mining, which now exists only in Quebec.

"To persist in ignorance and contempt for research that has shown just how devastating asbestos is to human health is despicable," said Dr. Fernand Turcotte, professor emeritus of preventive medicine and public health at the medical school of Université Laval. "It dishonours our country and its citizens in the eyes of the world, particularly since this infamous enterprise is funded by the government." Dr. Turcotte spoke about the numerous presentations made to the federal and Quebec provincial governments on the danger of the asbestos industry, all of which have been ignored, to the peril of workers in Canada and abroad.

Dr. Tushar Kant Joshi, occupational and environmental health physician, Fellow at Collegium Ramazzini in Italy, said that preventing this occupational hazard is a long term investment. Dr. Joshi, who is originally from India, spoke about the rapid growth in the asbestos industry in India, coinciding with the drop in asbestos consumption in the West. This has been due to poor controls and enforcement in India, Dr. Joshi said.

Canadian Labour Congress Secretary-Treasurer Hassan Yussuff spoke about the growing momentum around the push to ban the production and sale of asbestos. Yussuff said that although it may take time, the government will have to change its policy.

Other speakers included Dr. Kapil Khatter, family physician in Ottawa, President of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment; Mike Bradley, Mayor of Sarnia; Dr. Barry Castleman, chemical engineer, environmentalist and asbestos substitutes consultant to the World Health Organization and the World Bank; and Sandra Kinart, Community Health Care worker and community activist whose husband Blayne died of Mesothelioma.

The CAW is a member organization of Ban Asbestos Canada. For more information, please visit: http://www.bacanada.org/.

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