Environmentalists, Health Groups and Unions Condemn Canada's Support of Deadly Asbestos Trade

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The Canadian government is paying millions to remove asbestos from the Prime Minister’s home, while he supports export of the same deadly material to third world countries

Open Letter to Prime Minister Harper

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

We urge you to put people’s lives ahead of politics. Please end your support for the deadly asbestos trade.

Canada’s leading medical authorities have all told you that Canada’s export of asbestos is medically and morally indefensible and will lead to an epidemic of asbestos-related disease and death overseas.

We are shocked and dismayed that you are denying the clear scientific evidence and instead are supporting a plan to revive Canada’s bankrupt, dying and deadly asbestos industry.

Public policy should be based on science, not politics. The science is indisputable that all asbestos is deadly. Not a single reputable authority supports your claim that chrysotile asbestos (which represents 100% of the global asbestos trade) can be safely used.

Canada is becoming known as an immoral asbestos pusher and as an enemy of global public health. This is not the role Canadians want to play in the world. This does not reflect Canadian values.

We are appalled that, in order to protect the asbestos industry, you have publicly promised to block the upcoming Conference of the U.N. Environmental Convention (Rotterdam Convention) so as to prevent chrysotile asbestos being listed as a hazardous substance. Chrysotile asbestos is a hazardous substance under Canadian law. It is, in our opinion, hypocritical and contemptuous of the lives of people in the developing world to prevent them from being provided with this critical information, as if their lives were less worthy of protection.

It is with sorrow and shame that we note that Canada is becoming a pariah on the international stage for its obstruction of global efforts to protect health, human rights and the environment. Prime Minister Harper, you are the only national leader in Canada and in the Western world to promote asbestos. At the same time, Canadian taxpayers are paying millions of dollars to remove asbestos from your official residence and your place of work, the Parliament Buildings, in order to protect you and other Canadian politicians from being harmed by exposure to asbestos.

This election is about trust and integrity. We urgently call on you to show integrity.

We ask you to:

  • Respect the science
  • Put human life ahead of partisan political interests
  • Support a ban on asbestos and the provision of transition assistance to the last remaining asbestos miners and their community
  • Support the listing of chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention
  • Adopt a comprehensive strategy to address Canada’s asbestos disease crisis

We request a response from you. Please do not, as usually happens, forward our letter to Christian Paradis, the Minister of Natural Resources, who is an avid supporter of the asbestos industry and simply puts forward its discredited position.

We urgently await your response on this critical ethical issue.


Kathleen Ruff,
Senior human rights adviser, Rideau Institute


  • Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
  • Nature Québec
  • International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Canada
  • Sierra Club Canada
  • International Longshore & Warehouse Union Canada
  • Maîtres chez nous-21e siècle, Québec
  • Syndicat des débardeurs de Montréal, SCFP Section locale 375
  • British Columbia & Yukon Territory Building & Construction Trades Council
  • Prevent Cancer Now
  • Atlantic Coast District, International Longshoremen’s Association
  • Canadian Society for Asbestos Victims
  • MiningWatch Canada
  • Asbestos-related Research, Education and Advocacy Fund
  • Boilermakers Lodge 359
  • Sheet Metal Local 280
  • International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Union Local #2 BC
  • BC Ferry & Marine Worker’s Union
  • IBEW Local 993, Northern B.C. & Yukon
  • I L A, Local 1657, Montréal
  • International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 115


1) Reputable Scientific Organisations that Oppose your position on chrysotile asbestos:

  • The Canadian Medical Association
  • The Canadian Cancer Society
  • The Lung Association of Canada
  • The Quebec Medical Association
  • The Canadian Public Health Association
  • The Quebec Association for Public Health
  • The Quebec Association of Physicians Specializing in Community Health
  • The Lung Association of Quebec
  • The National Specialty Society for Community Medicine
  • The National Public Health Institute of Quebec
  • The Quebec Association for Occupational Hygiene, Health & Safety
  • All the Quebec government’s sixteen regional Directors of Public Health
  • The Quebec College of Physicians
  • The College of Family Physicians of Canada
  • The Quebec College of Family Physicians
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • The International Social Security Association
  • The International Labour Organization
  • The International Commission on Occupational Health
  • The World Health Organization

2) Reputable Scientific Organisations that Support your position on chrysotile asbestos:

  • ZERO

1 Comment

  • There isn’t anything useful that I can add to the above well intentioned,caring and qualified statement written above. I too am appalled with the last government’s position on asbestos specifically and environmental issues in general. I am hoping for change May 2.