On April 28, the Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job, CUPE is renewing its call for a comprehensive ban on asbestos in Canada—the number one cause of occupational death in Canada.
It’s estimated that asbestos-related diseases kill more than 2,000 people ever year in Canada. Many Canadians, including CUPE members, go to work every day in hospitals, schools, and other buildings that contain the deadly substance. Despite these facts, Canada continues to import asbestos in products like brake pads and cement pipes. In fact, just last year before losing power the Harper government actually made it easier to import products containing asbestos.
“The Harper government showed a repeated disregard for the health and safety of Canadians. This Liberal government now has an opportunity to show that they do care—that the lives of countless workers across Canada matter to them,” said CUPE National President Mark Hancock. “It’s time to catch up with the rest of the world. On April 28, we’re calling on the Trudeau government to ban the import, export and use of asbestos in Canada.”
The federal government recently announced that they have banned the use of asbestos in the construction or renovation of federal buildings, but Hancock says if they’re serious, the government must go further.
“We’re happy to see progress on this issue, but unless they ban it completely, banning it in federal buildings alone just creates a sad double-standard,” said Hancock. “Banning asbestos isn’t hard! Fifty-six countries around the world have done it. All workers deserve this basic protection.”
Beyond failing to impose a domestic ban, Canada has long been one of a small handful of countries that opposed adding chrysotile asbestos to the hazardous chemical list covered by the United Nations Rotterdam Convention. Including asbestos in the convention would help protect workers both here in Canada and abroad by making it more difficult to import and export the deadly product.