Washington DC Protest Says Canada Asbestos Policy "Crime Against Humanity"

A protest against Canada's continued export of asbestos was held at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., on Workers' Memorial Day, Saturday, April 28, 2007. April 28th is the international day of action on work-related injuries and deaths.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 125 million people throughout the world are exposed to asbestos in the course of their work, while an estimated 100,000 die each year from asbestos-related diseases. Despite international efforts to block Canada's export of asbestos, the Canadian federal government continues to defend the economic interests of the asbestos industry. Virtually all of Canada's asbestos is exported to developing countries, led by India, Indonesia, and Thailand.

Estimates are that one national asbestos-related death occurs for each 170 tonnes produced. In 126 years of asbestos mining, dating back to 1880, Canada has produced in excess of 65 million tonnes of asbestos. Ironically, Canadian asbestos miners, mill workers, and those engaged in a wide range of other occupations such as building trade workers, continue to suffer from asbestos-related disease and premature death often without even receiving worker compensation benefits.

Mr. Pat Martin, Member of Parliament of Canada, former Business Manager for the Carpenters' Union, addressed the gathering. The protesters want Canada to join over 40 other countries in banning asbestos and closing its asbestos mines, providing just transition for the 800 miners. This is consistent with recent pleas from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) for all countries to ban the use of asbestos products.

The following Canadian organizations supported the protest in Washington: MiningWatch Canada, Canadian Union of Public Employees, BC Federation of Labour, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, Canadian Auto Workers, United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1518, United Association Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 170, BC Gov't Employees Union, BC & Yukon Building Trades Council, Ban Asbestos Saskatchewan, Canadian Association of University Teachers and Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers.

For further information, please contact Dr. James Brophy, Executive Director of the Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers in Sarnia, Ontario: office 1-519-337-4627 or cell 1-519- 331-7558. In the United States, information can be obtained from Dr. Barry Castleman. His cell phone number is 1- 301-752-8070.

Below are the PDFs of the statement from Ban Asbestos Canada, the Open Letter to the Prime Minister and the signatories to the Open Letter.