A year after the Liberals were elected with a promise to ban the use of asbestos in Canada, no such move has been made – inaction that is dismaying to health experts, labour groups and families affected by asbestos-related diseases.
“Our position, and the evidence, is as clear as it can be: that asbestos is a carcinogen that is a major cause of cancer, including lung cancers, that kill many Canadians,” said Gabriel Miller, director of public issues at the Canadian Cancer Society. A ban “should be an as-soon-as-possible priority for the federal government,” he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the federal government is “moving forward on a ban,” although he gave no timeline and it was not an official announcement. “We are moving to ban asbestos,” he told a conference of building trades unions on May 10. “Its impact on workers far outweighs any benefits that it might provide.”
Six months later, the government says it is “examining” a ban, but provides few details. Questions on asbestos policy were referred to the Minister of Science. But the office of Science Minister Kirsty Duncan declined a request to speak with her.
More than 50 countries around the world have banned asbestos, including Britain, Germany, Japan and, as of this month, New Zealand. Canada – which continues to allow imports and exports of the known carcinogen – was once one of the world’s largest exporters of asbestos, before closing its last mine in 2011. Asbestos was commonly used in such things as roofing shingles, insulation and fire blankets. It is still used in replacement brake pads for cars.
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