Canada Powerfully Leads with the First National Asbestos Strategy Meeting on May 2nd

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Posted on May 15, 2018

Asbestos Victims Unite at Canada’s First National Asbestos Strategy Meeting


On May 2 President/CEO and Co-Founder Linda Reinstein was able to participate in the first Canadian National Asbestos Strategy Meeting with more than 50 people who represented asbestos victims/family representatives, labor movements, researchers and health professionals, public health and environmental groups, and asbestos activists from Australia, Canada, and the United States.

Alec Farquhar, Office of the Worker Adviser shared, “As a lawyer, I have been sharing for many years the journey of many workers and their families following the dreaded diagnosis of mesothelioma.  This is a cancer which only comes from asbestos exposure.  So all of this suffering was preventable.  My own country, Canada, contributed greatly to that suffering.  We continued supporting the asbestos industry for many years after other countries banned it.  I am so pleased that the current Canadian government has taken the vital step of implementing a ban.  This puts us finally on the right side of history.  There is lots of work left to do to make Canada asbestos free, but we can feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction that we have reached this important moment.” 

Arlene Dunn, Canada’s Building Trades Unions, said, “Thousands of our members have suffered terribly as a result of exposure to asbestos. The most dreaded of asbestos diseases is mesothelioma.  It’s only cause is asbestos exposure.  We are now at the peak of incidence of mesothelioma in Canada, with more than 500 cases annually.  Many of them are building trades workers and unfortunately their family members as well – those who have suffered secondary exposures such as asbestos dust from work clothes.  A mesothelioma diagnosis used to be a death sentence.  But medical research and innovative treatments are starting to bring hope to the victims and their families.  Some of the best and most promising work is actually being done right here in Canada! It has been and, will continue to be the building trades unions who have been at the forefront of efforts to eliminate asbestos in Canada, bring justice to affected workers and, protect workers and the public from exposures to the large amount of asbestos still found in our built environment. I am very proud of the role that the building trades have played in convincing the Trudeau government to agree to ban asbestos.  Our challenge now is to deal comprehensively with the legacy of asbestos.  This includes addressing compensation for the many victims; registries and careful regulation of all asbestos exposure locations, to ensure no further worker exposures; funding for effective remediation of the most hazardous exposures; and a national mesothelioma health care network. During the meeting the main focus was to focus on a review of of the draft Canadian asbestos strategy; and develop an action plan for moving forward. We gathered with asbestos victim/family representatives, labour movement, researchers and health professionals, public health and environmental groups, and asbestos activists.”

“I met with Canadian Asbestos activists, victims groups and labour today, half away around the world from Australia. We discussed a strategy roadmap for all Canadians to cement in place their Asbestos Ban, what a committed gathering, their enthusiasm gives me hope that will achieve our collective goal of an Asbestos free world.” said Peter Tighe, CEO, Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), Australia.

The proposal for a comprehensive asbestos strategy for Canada was as follows:

  1. Pass legislation/regulation officially banning the use, export and import of asbestos and asbestos containing products
  2. Remove the exclusions for asbestos-containing materials in WHMIS 2015 (GHS).
  3. Commit to a leadership role by Canada at the Rotterdam Convention for the listing of chrysotile asbestos.
  4. Establish registries across Canada of asbestos exposure locations and asbestos diseases and exposed people
  5. Substitute for safer alternatives to asbestos
  6. Provide support for transition for affected businesses, workers and communities.
  7. Ensure the protection of the public and workers in asbestos remediation.
  8. Develop a national strategy on asbestos disposal.
  9. Support a comprehensive health response to asbestos diseases including a national mesothelioma health care network.
  10. Ensure fair compensation to victims of asbestos disease.

“For far too long Canada has been part of the problem; we are looking forward to being part of the solution. Now we have to keep our eye on the prize, stay disciplined and united, and help guide government through the final steps to a full and comprehensive ban.” said Pat Martin, former Member of Parliament.

The strategy meeting was very important for the U.S. as we work with our Canadian allies to make certain that the EPA does not grant any further asbestos exemptions to the Chlor-Alkali industry.

As the meeting concluded, the success was felt by all attendees.  As Eudice Goldberg said, “We had a great Asbestos Strategy meeting today, bringing together people from many sectors in Canada and internationally who are all dedicated to our country achieving a total ban and are committed to having a clear strategy as to how to deal with the asbestos in our communities moving forward. Our breakout group specifically discussed the need for a comprehensive mesothelioma health network and presented the objectives for the network that we see as priorities. It was great to all work together at such a critical time in our struggle to ban asbestos in Canada!!”

Special thanks to the talented Kathleen McDonnell for writing and performing her new song, “Asbestos Blues.”  You can view her performance below.

ADAO looks forward to the continued North American collaborative efforts to finally ban this deadly carcinogen, once and for all.

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