Posted: Thursday, 20 September 2012
Years of dedicated work by the CLC, unions, federations of labour, labour councils, health and safety advocates, the medical community and thousands of individual citizens has resulted in a win for workers around the world, with the announcement by the federal government that it would no longer block the international listing of asbestos as a hazardous substance.
We commend the government's announcement of $50 million for economic diversification in the asbestos mining communities in Quebec affected by the announcement. However we urge the government to ensure that sufficient funds are used for transition programs for the affected workers in the industry – such as compensation, retraining, re-employment and relocation.
Canada was one of just a handful of countries that, until last week, refused to allow chrysotile asbestos to be listed as a hazardous substance in the Rotterdam Convention. The Convention ensures countries importing the hazardous material will now receive a warning through the open exchange of information on restrictions, bans and safe handling.
This change of heart is a victory for workers around the world but it has not come without a price. It is estimated by the World Health Organization that one hundred thousand people annually die from asbestos-related illness and disease, and annual deaths could reach one million by 2020 or soon after due to the fact that the disease doesn’t appear for decades.
The job, however, is not yet done. We urge the Canadian government to press other asbestos-producing nations like Russia and China to follow the same path and to stop opposing the listing of chrysotile asbestos in the International Rotterdam Convention. It's time to ban asbestos exports, build a national asbestos-related disease registry, and protect the health of workers everywhere.