Another blow to Quebec's Struggling Asbestos Industry

Ramsey Hart Canada Program Coordinator 2008-2014

The past week has left Quebec's asbestos industry in an increasingly precarious position as two long-time supporters of the province's struggling industry began to change their tune.

The Conseil des syndicats nationaux (CSN) has proposed a resolution against the expansion of the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Quebec, recommending that the Quebec government withdraw support from any new projects seeking to expand the province's widely-condemned asbestos industry. It also called on the Canadian government to support the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in the Rotterdam Convention's list of hazardous substances, as well as to support a transition and reconversion program for people working in the industry. The CSN's resolution will be voted on later this week.

Many states, as well as the International Labour Organization, the World Health Organization and the International Trade Union Confederation, to which the CSN is affiliated, have taken a position in favour of banning asbestos due to serious concern over its negative long-term impact on human health.

"This would honour those who fought and died for health and safety, and point out that the life of an Indian worker, just like that of a Quebecer, cannot be blindly sacrificed in the name of a job." said CSN president Claudette Carbonneau.

The majority of asbestos mined in Quebec is exported to developing countries, including India, that tend to have lower health and safety standards with regards to construction materials and worker conditions.

In addition, after years of criticism from Canadian and international health and social justice organizations, the federal government has finally withdrawn its funding from the Chrysotile Institute, an asbestos lobby group. With a minimum of $250,000 in annual funding from the federal government, the Chrysotile Institute has received an estimated $20 million over the last 20 years. While the funding cut is a step in the right direction, the government has decided to continue the group's funding for the remainder of the fiscal year. This may be a question of conservatives trying to maintain political leverage in the Thetford Mines and Asbestos area which is Natural Resource Minister Christian Paradis' riding.