Kathleen Ruff, RightOnCanada.ca
In a letter sent on October 19, 2016, Canada’s Minister of the Environment, Catherine McKenna, says “Canada will review its position regarding the listing of chrysotile asbestos” as a hazardous substance under the Rotterdam Convention and “will be seeking stakeholder comments to help inform this country’s position”.
In a response to Minister McKenna, Kathleen Ruff, Founder and Co-Coordinator of ROCA (Rotterdam Convention Alliance) says she does not understand why the Government of Canada is undecided on whether chrysotile asbestos should be put on the Convention’s list of hazardous substances when chrysotile asbestos is listed as a hazardous substance in Canada by the Canadian government.
“How can chrysotile asbestos be hazardous for Canadians and not hazardous for populations overseas?” asks Ruff. “This is a double standard that smacks of discrimination and racism.”
In her letter, Ruff asked that Minister McKenna please note the following points:
- The Rotterdam Convention’s expert scientific committee has repeatedly recommended for the past decade that chrysotile asbestos should be put on the Convention’s list of hazardous substances.
- The specific purpose of the Rotterdam Convention is to end the double standard whereby populations in the global South have less protection and are specially subjected to harm from hazardous substances.
- The previous Harper government admitted that the listing of chrysotile asbestos met all the requirements of the Convention.
- Health Canada officials recommended to the previous Harper government that it support the listing of chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention (information obtained through Access to Information).
- Canadian “stakeholders”, such as Canada’s leading health and environmental organisations, asbestos victims and trade unions, have repeatedly over the past many years called on the Canadian government to support the listing of chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention without further delay.
- Canada has played the lead role in preventing the listing of chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention and therefore has a special duty to take a leadership role to undo the harm it has caused.
- Emergency efforts are currently under way to save the Rotterdam Convention. Canada’s support and leadership is needed NOW with no further delay.
- The international asbestos lobby (International Chrysotile Association), an organisation based in Quebec, is aggressively working to prevent the listing of chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention.
- As your government well knows, the position of “stakeholders” is very clear and has been clear and unchanged for many years.
It is inexplicable and deeply troubling that the Trudeau government is failing to take clear action on the asbestos issue both at home and internationally. The only clear statement has come from the office of Health Minister Jane Philpott, in which a policy adviser stated that the Trudeau government is “committed to moving forward with a ban on asbestos in Canada and will announce an updated government strategy in the coming months.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Trudeau’s office issues ambiguous statements, such as “the Government of Canada has committed to taking action on asbestos. The overall approach to managing asbestos is being reviewed, including the import, manufacture and use of asbestos-containing products in Canada, to identify actions that can be taken using a government-wide approach.”
No minister has been appointed as lead minister responsible for the asbestos issue. Ministers pass the issue from one to the other, refusing to answer questions and delegating media spokespeople to issue ambiguous statements, such as “we are examining a series of potential science-based actions to further strengthen management and controls, including a ban on the import, manufacture and use of asbestos-containing products.”
What is going on? Why is the Trudeau government failing, both in Canada and at the United Nations, to take action to finally end Canada’s terrible asbestos history? Why is the government waiting for more people to die from asbestos?