At the Rotterdam Convention in Geneva last week, Canada “won” the great asbestos debate. The Harper government successfully blocked asbestos from appearing on the international list of hazardous chemicals, meaning the country can continue exporting the carcinogenic fibres to developing nations.
The conference hit a stalemate. Even though Canada believes in asbestos removal, it still wants to export it, and the Rotterdam Convention requires a consensus on a given hazardous material before placing it on “the list.”
Canada was one of just a few countries – and the only western country – objecting to asbestos’ inclusion. While the government had reserved passing official judgement on asbestos for months, even after being attacked by The Daily Show, the decision to speak out in favor of asbestos at the conference drew a line in the sand.
“Harper has been outed from the asbestos closet,” said Kathleen Ruff, a senior human rights adviser to the Rideau Institute.
For at least two more years, Canada will export asbestos to unsuspecting countries with no mandatory warnings about the health hazards associated with it, which include lung cancer and permanent lung scarring.
It’s an embarrassment in the eyes of many (most?) Canadians. Detect the fibre on our soil and the government supports a full asbestos remediation. Threaten to cut off the revenue stream provided by exporting it and asbestos is suddenly “fine” if handled properly.
Well, at least we finally know where our federal government stands, even it that stance is shameful.
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