The Politics of Asbestos: Canada’s Ugly Secret
“It will be remembered as an act of barbarism in the history of industrial development where asbestos was knowingly allowed to be used, and where workers were knowingly subjected to it.” (Indian workers rebuke Quebec over asbestos)
In 2009, prior to any business relationship with Got Mold?, I watched a documentary by Mellissa Fung of CBC, called “Canada’s Ugly Secret”. I encourage you to watch this, it looks at the asbestos industry from the view of Indian workers.
This documentary shook me up for three key reasons:
1. Canada opposes the world-wide ban on the trade in asbestos. Over 40 countries have banned the use or trade in asbestos. Canada is the only developed country to oppose this ban.
2. Canada stopped using asbestos because of the health hazards, yet actively promotes the export of this product to developing countries, India is one of the biggest customers. Ironically, our Government is spending millions to remove asbestos from the Parliament buildings…not safe for our politicians but safe for developing countries…really?
3. Canada’s trade missions actively market and promote asbestos in developing countries. In fact, tax dollars are used to fund a Quebec lobby group that promotes asbestos trade.
I was so outraged by this documentary that this was the first time in my life that I actually sent a letter to my Member of Parliament, Peter Milliken. I felt a need to do something. I sent an e-mail, and because we live in a digital world, I searched my inbox and found the letter I wrote on June 10, 2009:
Dear Mr. Milliken,
I just had the displeasure of viewing the documentary on CBC on Canada’s role in exporting asbestos to developing nations.
I am disgusted and dismayed by this. What is your position? How can the Government of Canada continue to support this industry? If asbestos exposure is not safe in Canada, why can we justify exposing this toxic substance to India, Pakistan, and Indonesia? Why are our embassy staff involved in the promotion of this product?
As far as I am concerned you and all MPs that do not do something about this issue are none other than “Merchants of Death.”
I want this issue brought up in the House of Commons and the sale of asbestos banned, period. As a Canadian, I feel strongly that we should be promoting life and not exporting a product that kills people.
Asbestos was an issue in 2009 and it has become an issue again today in 2012 with the recent loan announcement by the Quebec government.
What is most troublesome is that this mine will only create 400 to 500 jobs! Is this job creation really worth the misery it will cause? Why would the Quebec government even approve such a loan?
“The simple answer is politics. The federal Conservatives hold just five seats in Quebec and are loath to offend any more voters…..Yet even in a profession as cynical as politics, you rarely come across such a naked refusal to acknowledge health and safety considerations in pursuing short-term partisan benefits. If Quebec continued to produce and market thalidomide, a drug that produced catastrophic consequences when it was briefly available in the 1960s, would [Quebec Premier] Mr. Charest and [Canadian Prime Minister] Mr. Harper be offering such ardent support? Is death OK when it happens in another country? And why are they so fixated on placating the town of Asbestos when B.C. lumber towns were left largely to their own devices when mills began closing?…Mr. Harper and Mr. Charest have been struck by a bad case of willful blindness. In their desperation for a few thousand Quebec votes, they simply refuse to see that they are endangering lives.” (Kelly McParland, Quebec asbestos loan throws health threats to the wind)
Considering the minor economic gain to one town in Quebec, I think that if the government of Quebec and Canada receive enough complaints, then maybe they will need to re-consider their decision.
I plan to express my outrage over this issue to both the Federal and Quebec government. This situation is particularly troublesome because our government knows that asbestos is a carcinogen, but chooses to ignore these risks and continue to market and sell it to developing countries.
I encourage you to express your concerns as well. We need to make ourselves heard.
Here are links for you to contact the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, and the Québec Premier, Jean Charest.
1. Contact the Prime Minister of Canada
Take action, join me and express your discontent with this decision!
If you want to learn more about the asbestos issue in Canada, check out these recent news articles:
Chris Selley: Asbestos isn’t the lightning rod the Tories seem to think it is
Ottawa ignored known asbestos risks
Editorial: Quebec’s moral obligation: toughen asbestos controls
Quebec asbestos loans throws health threats to the wind
Locals applaud asbestos rebirth
— Got #Mold? (@gotmoldglobal) July 5, 2012