Canada: continuing human suffering, financial costs and risks to public health caused by asbestos

Wed, Dec 28, 2016


Kathleen Ruff,

A series of articles by Owen Munro published in the Vancouver Sun address the continuing human suffering, financial costs and risks to public health caused by the presence of asbestos in buildings and infrastructure in British Columbia and across Canada.

These problems will need to be addressed by the Canadian government as it moves forward to ban asbestos and unroll a national strategy to address the asbestos catastrophe in Canada that has resulted from past use of asbestos. Asbestos is the biggest occupational killer in Canada and the number of new cases and deaths continues to rise.

The asbestos articles published so far in the series are:

Contravention of Basel Convention

One of the articles addresses BC’s asbestos-laden ferry fleet. The BC government, exploiting a technicality claiming that the BC Ferry Authority operates independent of the provincial government, took no action to fulfil its obligations under the UN Basel Convention to prevent a decommissioned BC ferry, containing asbestos and other hazardous substances, from being sent to Mexico to be scrapped and for Mexican workers to be exposed to the hazardous materials.

” … Financial troubles forced its new owners to abandon their plan, and a court ended up awarding the ship to a Mexican company.

It was towed to Baja and scrapped. The asbestos became the problem of Mexican workers…..”

Government of Canada requiring reports on asbestos products

An article published in Cars Magazine reports that the Canadian government is requiring companies that manufacture, import and use asbestos to submit reports to Environment and Climate Change Canada by January 18, 2017.

The information collected from these mandatory reports will:

  • Inform government on the manufacture, import, export and use of asbestos and products containing asbestos for the 2013, 2014 and 2015 calendar years.
  • Gather socio-economic information from companies, including the size of companies involved (number of employees and revenue), the availability of alternatives to asbestos and whether a phase out strategy is in place or in consideration.
  • Help to inform the cost-benefit analysis of any future regulatory instrument.

It will be important to monitor and ensure that the Government of Canada implements in an effective and thorough manner its announced ban on asbestos and asbestos products.


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