Kathleen Ruff, RightOnCanada.ca
The International Asbestos Association established itself in Quebec in 1997. In 2005 it changed its name to the International Chrysotile Association (ICA) to try to avoid the word “asbestos”. The ICA works on behalf of global asbestos interests and is funded by asbestos producers and asbestos importing associations.
The President of the ICA, long-time Quebec asbestos industrialist Jean-Marc Leblond, says now the Canadian government has announced it will ban asbestos, he expects the ICA head office in Quebec will move abroad.
If the Canadian government bans asbestos, “That would be the end of it,” says Leblond.
Asbestos is like mushrooms
“Chrysotile asbestos can be used safely,” says Leblond, comparing asbestos to mushrooms. “Some mushrooms are deadly,” Leblond stated in an interview with the Quebec newspaper, La Presse. “Should we, for that reason, ban them all?”
According to Leblond, chrysotile asbestos is like a safe mushroom. All ICA positions are based on the most recent scientific findings, says Leblond.
ICA entirely funded by foreign interests
Russia, Kazahkhstan and Brazil – the three major asbestos exporting countries – each have two asbestos industry representatives on the ICA Board of Directors. India, Mexico, the USA and Quebec each have one. It seems likely that the majority of the ICA’s funding comes from Russia and Kazakhstan, who together represent over 80% of world asbestos exports.
Leblond was asked by some ICA directors if the ICA would intervene and try to persuade the Canadian government not to ban asbestos. In the La Presse interview Leblond stated “I told them that it would be inappropriate for an organization entirely funded by foreign interests to intervene on that matter.” (translation)
Leblond is also the owner and director of a company called Polyser, which provides consulting services and international representation for asbestos interests. Polyser and the ICA operate out of the same office in Thetford Mines, Quebec, the location of the now-closed LAB Chrysotile mine for which Leblond worked for decades.
The ICA has an annual budget of “less than one million dollars”, says Leblond. Polyser, a for-profit company of which he is President, bills the ICA, a non-profit organisation of which he is President, for its services.
A piece posted on the ICA website on December 20, 2016 – THE ICA PRESIDENT SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT – provides a link to an English translation of Leblond’s interview with La Presse journalist, Marc Thibodeau.
Where will the International Chrysotile Association move next?
The International Asbestos Association moved to Quebec from France in 1997 after France introduced a ban on chrysotile asbestos in 1996 and was no longer a friendly place for the international asbestos lobby.
Now that Canada is banning asbestos, where will the renamed International Chrysotile Association find a home?
Russia or Kazakhstan seem to be among the dwindling number of asbestos-friendly locations that would welcome the asbestos lobby organisation.
Around the world those, who have suffered grievous harm and lost loved ones because of the decades-old campaign of the asbestos lobby to sell asbestos and deny its harm, long for the day when the asbestos lobby is forced to finally close its doors permanently and asbestos is banned globally.
That day cannot come too soon.