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More about Canadian Asbestos in India

A week of protests and action meant to highlight the hypocrisy of Canada’s export of asbestos have marred Quebec Premier Charest’s trade visit to India.

Indian activists have woken up to the threat of asbestos. According to the Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), trade unions and activists have called upon Indian prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Mr. Charest to:

* Ban mining, manufacture, use and trade of asbestos in both India and Canada
* Let the health experts set the policy on asbestos
* Revise their stand and support the listing of chrysotile asbestos in the PIC list of the Rotterdam Convention
* Ratify the ILO Convention on Asbestos
* Close all asbestos mines and take concrete steps to address the occupational, safety and compensatory concerns of workers employed in asbestos related industries

Workers, unionists and health professionals also sent the following letter to Quebec Premier Charest:

Dear Premier Charest:

We urgently request your solidarity with workers in India and the Global South. We appeal to you to stop exporting asbestos to India and other countries where it is handled by desperately poor workers under dangerous conditions and is creating a public health tragedy of disease and death for decades to come.

Quebec’s export of asbestos brings dishonor to the international reputation of Quebec.

Prominent health experts in Quebec, as well as the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation and professors of health at nine universities across Canada, have all asked that Quebec’s indefensible export of asbestos stop.

Health professionals in Quebec and elsewhere have condemned the misleading and untruthful information disseminated by the asbestos industry, pointing out that this untruthful information is endangering public health, especially in the world’s emerging economies.

95% of all asbestos ever used is chrysotile asbestos and everywhere it has been used, it has left behind a tragic epidemic of disease and death, such as the epidemic of mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis happening today in Quebec and in other industrialized countries that, to their regret, used it in the past.

Consequently, Quebec and Western industrialized countries, such as the U.S., Europe and Australia, no longer use asbestos because they know from experience that it is impossible to use it safely. In fact, your government is spending millions of dollars to remove chrysotile and other forms of asbestos from Quebec’s schools, hospitals and buildings in order to protect the lives of the Quebec people.

We ask you not to practise a double standard: exporting chrysotile asbestos to people overseas while removing it from buildings in Quebec.

Your government’s own Quebec National Public Health Institute (INSPQ) has published fifteen reports, all of them documenting that it has proven impossible to handle chrysotile asbestos safely in Quebec itself, in spite of Quebec’s advanced technology and substantive regulatory regime. Consequently, your own Public Health Institute has recommended against your government’s policy of increased use of chrysotile asbestos.

We note that the Quebec government has asked the Canadian government to obstruct a U.N. environmental convention, the Rotterdam Convention. This Convention gives countries the right to be informed that chrysotile asbestos is hazardous, before it is exported to them. We consider it dishonours Quebec’s reputation to thus undermine human rights and to give greater priority to the interests of the asbestos industry than to the rights and the lives of people in developing countries.

We ask you to take this opportunity to show the international solidarity that the people of Quebec believe in. We ask you to put the health and lives of workers in India and the Global South ahead of short-sighted politics.

All the major trade unions of India and labour support groups have called for a ban on asbestos. Please listen to the voices of workers in India, as well as to your own Quebec health experts.

The government of South Africa, which was a major supplier of chrysotile asbestos, has now banned it. If the government of South Africa can put the lives of people ahead of the interests of the asbestos industry, we hope that you, representing the people of Quebec, will do the same.

We await your response with much hope.


Endorsed by:

[Name – Organisation/affiliation]
1) Ashim Roy – New Trade Union Initiative
2) Dr Rajeev Sharma – Building and Wood Workers’ International
3) Dunu Roy – Hazard Centre New Delhi
4) H Mahadevan – All India Trade Union Congress/World Federation of Trade Unions
5) Jagdish Patel – People’s Training and Research Centre
6) Gopal Krishna – Ban Asbestos Network India
7) Madhumita Dutta – Corporate Accountability Desk-The Other Media
8) Madhuresh Kumar – National Alliance for People’s Movement
9) Manshi Asher – Researcher, Himachal Pradesh
10) Mohit Gupta – Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India
11) Nityanand Jayaraman – Independent Journalist, Tamil Nadu
12) Pralhad Malwadkar – Occupational Health and Safety Centre
13) Raghunath Manwar – Occupational Health and Safety Association
14) Rana Sengupta – Mine Labour Protection Campaign
15) Ravi Mohite – Krantikari Kamgar Union
16) Sanjay Singhvi – Trade Union Centre of India
17) Shibayan Raha – Activist, New Delhi
18) Shweta Narayan – Community Environmental Monitoring, Tamil Nadu
19) SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitoring Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu
20) Sreedhar Ramamurthi – Environics Trust, New Delhi
21) Dr Annie Thebaud-Mony – Ban Asbestos France
22) Dr Arindam Basu – Senior Lecturer in Health Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
23) Dr Arthur Frank – School of Public Health, Drexel University, USA
24) Eliezer Jo&atiltde;o De Souza – ABREA – ASSOCIAÇÃO BRASILEIRA DOS EXPOSTOS AO AMIANTO (Brazilian Asbestos Victims)
25) Fernanda Giannasi – Rede Virtual-Cidadã Pelo Banimento Do Amianto Para A América Latina (Ban Asbestos Virtual-Citizen Network For Latin America)
26) Laurie Kazan-Allen – International Ban Asbestos Secretariat
27) Omana George – Asia Network for the Rights of Occupational Accident Victims
28) Sanjiv Pandita – Asia Monitor Resource Centre
29) Shalini Sharma – Student, UK
30) Sugio Furuya – Ban Asbestos Network Japan and JOSHRC-JAPAN
31) Yeyong Choi – Ban Asbestos Network Korea
32) Dr Barry Castleman – Environmental Consultant, US
33) Dr Sabu George – Researcher, India
34) Asia-Ban Asbestos Network
35) Dr Domyung Paek – Scientist, Korea
36) Dr Takehiko Murayama – Scientist, Japan

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