Canadian Asbestos Legislation
Health Canada Report
Health Canada commissioned a six-member panel of experts which met in November of 2007 regarding the connection of chrysotile asbestos exposure and diseases related to asbestos, including lung cancer, peritoneal mesothelioma and pleural mesothelioma. In March 2008, the chair of that panel turned over two reports to Health Canada. More than a year passed before the reports were released, and only after an Access to Information request was filed with Health Canada. The author of the reports, the chairman of the expert panel, was critical of the delay by the Canadian government and stated concerns that economical and political interests were being disguised as scientific decisions.
Suppressing the detailed report of the effects of exposure to asbestos has brought the government and the country into the line of fire. The government and the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper suppressed the report compiled by the Health Canada panel that discussed dangerous asbestos exposure, according to three or more renowned medical journals. Canada’s continuing exportation of the toxic asbestos to Vietnam, Pakistan, Indonesia and India was also mentioned in the report.
The Canadian Medical Association Journal called Canada’s policy on exportation a charade dealing in death. Asbestos is exported from Canada to countries that cannot use the substance safely or oversee its regulation properly, according to the article’s authors. The editorial stated that the Canadian government seems to have decided that the country’s asbestos industry is better served by doing under-the-radar business similar to arms trading, while disregarding deadly consequences. Because of the alleged secrecy, the journalists concluded that the Canadian government must know that its activities are wrong and shameful.
At the Rotterdam Convention in October of 2008, Canada elected not to vote to add asbestos to the Watch List of the United Nations. Barry Castleman, a United States consultant to the Rotterdam Convention, stated it was indefensible of Canada to continue selling asbestos without the willingness to get prior informed consent from the countries to which it is exporting the asbestos mineral.
Castleman, as well as many other representatives to the Rotterdam Convention, believe that not adding asbestos to the Watch List by some countries has caused damage to the Rotterdam Convention’s reputation. They also state that this reluctance has placed thousands of people at risk in countries to which the asbestos is exported. A proposal was made to lower the requirement to put new chemicals on the Watch List, but Canada helped to veto the proposal.