Just a couple of weeks after Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper found himself in hot water because of the Conservative’s Party’s support of asbestos exports, the issue has been exposed on major American television.
The comedy news program The Daily Show, featuring Jon Stewart, ambushed asbestos mining officials in the Quebec town of Asbestos. Despite the fact that asbestos removal sampling has clearly revealed that the fibres are carcinogenic and responsible for 100,000 deaths a year, Quebec continues to export it to countries like India. Even though the government doesn’t let Quebec – and mining towns like Asbestos – distribute asbestos within Canada, Harper still supports the exports. The Daily Show had heard enough and went on the attack during an episode last week.
Daily Show Reporter Aasif Mandvi was born in India, which receives many of Quebec’s asbestos exports; he interviewed asbestos executive Bernard Coulombe. He started with a tongue-and-cheek tone, asking, “Does Asbestos mean something different in French than it does in English? Because in English it means slow, hacking, death.”
But Mandvi didn’t let Coulombe off for long. After the segment explained to viewers that there’s little evidence to suggest asbestos is handled safely in India, Mandvi asked Coulombe, “Have you ever been to India? Do you think in India people are following the regulations?”
Coulombe gave an answer that would infuriate any asbestos removal company: “Maybe [Indian workers] are used to the pollution. It’s like antibiotics. They have natural antibodies.”
Mandvi snapped at that point, and deservedly so, responding: “That’s really [expletive] up, man. I mean, selling them things that are going to kill them. I mean, that’s my family over there.”
Kudos to The Daily Show for using humor – and its audience of a million-plus viewers per night – to get the message out about the dangers of asbestos. From another country’s perspective, it’s absurd to see that parts of Canada aren’t committing to asbestos remediation and removal.
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