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News Media Releases Canada says NO to asbestos talks
Canada says NO to asbestos talks
Wednesday, 26 October 2011 14:28

Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is refusing to speak with trade unions and asbestos disease experts while in Perth for CHOGM.

UnionsWA and the Asbestos Diseases Society had asked for the meeting to discuss the expansion of the one of the world’s biggest asbestos mine near the town of Asbestos in Canada.

“There are so many Australians who are living and dying proof that asbestos mining should be stopped,” said UnionsWA Secretary Simone McGurk.

“Just today, a 42-year-old West Australian man was awarded $2 million in the Supreme Court, after developing mesothelioma from being exposed to dumped asbestos waste as a child. He never worked in a mine, but he is truly a victim of the deadly trade.”

“Mr Harper needs to take note. He will end up being responsible for the deaths of workers not only in Canada, but in the countries where the asbestos will be processed.”

At a lunchtime meeting today, Secretary of UnionsWA Simone McGurk asked Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to raise the issue of this deadly trade with her Canadian counterpart.

The Canadian government, earlier this year, underwrote a $57 million loan to Indian investors to open up the Jeffrey Mine. It did this despite protests from health professionals, unions, lobbyists and the Canadian public.

UnionsWA has written to all Commonwealth leaders to raise the dangers of Canada’s expanding asbestos trade with Mr Harper.

It wants the leaders of the Commonwealth nations to use CHOGM as an opportunity tell Canada to stop mining asbestos now.

“There is no safe asbestos. Even one fibre is dangerous,” Ms McGurk said.

“The asbestos from this mine in Canada will be exported to nations where stringent rules are less likely to be enforced.

“Australian workers and their representatives are all too familiar with the deadly effects of asbestos,” Ms McGurk said.

“We have the highest level of asbestos related diseases in the world despite a total ban on the import, use and sale of products containing asbestos.

“It will take generations before Australia will see an end to the legacy of this deadly fibre.”

The Canadian government has been behind a global push to keep the asbestos trade alive. The United Nations confirmed earlier this year that Canada blocked listing of chrysotile asbestos, the type mined at Jeffrey, as a hazardous chemical. (Rotterdam Convention)

In 1999, the Canadian Government failed when it went to the World Trade Organisation to challenge the ban on asbestos in France.
“It’s beyond reason that any government would want to expose not only its own citizens, but people with less rights, to a deadly trade,” said Ms McGurk.

“It’s not only the miners whose lives are put at risk but that of their families, their communities, and anyone who is exposed the product at any stage.

“The leaders of the Commonwealth nations cannot sit back and let one of its members play God with the lives of so many.”

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