Warning message

Please note that this page is from our archives. There may be more up-to-date content about this topic on our website. Use our search engine to find out.

Please take a minute to sign the petition at CanadaCausesCancer.com, calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to end Canada’s production and export of asbestos.

This article was originally featured in Health and Safety Update, a CUPE National publication. For more articles and information on health and safety topics, check out past issues or subscribe to the email edition.

There is a great deal of confusion about the state of asbestos in our country. Many CUPE members are unaware that even though asbestos has been banned as a building material in Canada for decades, the Canadian government still supports the mining and export of this dangerous material to other parts of the world.

On May 12, a broad coalition of labour leaders and union activists, politicians, world renowned experts, asbestos victims, researchers and health care providers rallied on Parliament Hill and issued a joint call to the Canadian government to ban the production and export of asbestos, and the development of transitional policies for communities relying on the asbestos mining 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.

Canada is the world’s second largest exporter of asbestos after Russia.

On the eve of the National Ban Asbestos Campaign rally at Parliament Hill, the world-renowned activist Dr. Tushar Kant Joshi visited CUPE National headquarters in Ottawa. Dr. Joshi travelled to Canada to help illuminate the continued support that the Canadian government provides to the mining and export of ‘Canadian brand’ asbestos to developing countries. Meeting with CUPE Health and Safety staff at the national office, Dr. Joshi told the story of how he is fighting an uphill battle in his country to have the import and use of asbestos banned.

43 per cent of asbestos mined in Canada goes to India. Asbestos fibers cause mesothelioma, cancerous growths in the lungs, and lung lining, but can take 20 years or more to develop.

Because of the long latency period, there is a great difficulty in convincing the media in developing countries to report on these dangers. The result is that workers in India are often given little or no protective equipment when working with asbestos material.

CUPE’s position is that there is no safe form of asbestos, and that the only safe level of asbestos exposure is no exposure.

CUPE‘s National Health and Safety Branch has been fighting for a complete ban on the use of asbestos, a transition for workers and communities affected by a ban, and for the removal of asbestos in public buildings since the early 1980s.

For more information, read CUPE’s fact sheet on Asbestos.