Ottawa (September 26, 2012): The World Sikh Organization of Canada has written to Industry Ministry Christian Paradis, calling on the Government of Canada to impose an immediate ban on the mining and export of asbestos and to offer assistance to the victims of asbestos-related cancer.
Asbestos is used as a fire-retardant building material but is a carcinogenic substance that has been linked to cancer of the lung, larynx and ovary. Asbestos exposure is also considered the cause of asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs), pleural plaques, thickening and effusions.
Earlier this month Federal government announced that it will no longer object to having asbestos listed as a hazardous material under the Conference of Parties of the UN”s Rotterdam Convention. The move followed an announcement by recently elected Quebec Premier Pauline Marois that her government would rescind a $58 million loan to the asbestos industry.
Although asbestos is banned as a building material domestically, Canada remains a leading exporter of asbestos to developing countries including India. Studies have shown that construction workers handling asbestos in developing states are often not provided protective gear and are not aware of the health risks involved with asbestos exposure. Protests against asbestos factories have however recently taken place in the Indian states of Bihar and Odisha.
WSO President Prem Singh Vinning wrote in his letter to Minister Paradis,
“We know and accept that the use of asbestos is dangerous to Canadians. We must now stop the export of this material to developing states where uninformed workers are being subjected to prolonged exposure leading to illness and death. It is also incumbent on us to provide support to those individuals and families who are either afflicted by asbestos-related cancer or have lost a family member due to asbestos exposure. The continued export of asbestos is not in the spirit of our Canadian values and is morally unjustifiable.”
WSO Senior Policy Advisor Gian Singh Sandhu added, “While the Federal Government’s recent decision to no longer object to the listing of asbestos as a hazardous material is a positive step, much more needs to be done. Canada must now join the more than 50 other countries across the world that have banned the mining, use and export of asbestos.”
The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status