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Ottawa – Today, a broad coalition of politicians, world renowned experts, asbestos victims, labour leaders, researchers and health care providers issued a joint call to the Canadian government to ban the production and export of asbestos.
The group is also calling for just transition policies for communities relying on the asbestos industry.
“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.
Dr. Fernand Turcotte, professor emeritus of preventive medicine and public health at the medical school of Université Laval, said that “to persist in ignorance and contempt for research that has shown just how devastating asbestos is to human health is despicable. 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.
“An investment in preventing occupational hazards is a long-term, rewarding investment,” said Dr. Tushar Kant Joshi, occupational and environmental health physician, Fellow at Collegium Ramazzini in Italy. Dr. Joshi 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, according to Dr. Joshi.
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; Hassan Yussuff, Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress; and Sandra Kinart, Community Health Care worker and community activist whose husband Blayne has been diagnosed with Mesothelioma.