The Canadian Cancer Society called for a ban on the use and export of asbestos.
In 2004, Canada produced 220,000 tonnes of asbestos, about one-tenth of global production, federal statistics show. Russia is the world leader, producing 900,000 tonnes a year.
Asbestos industry in Canada consists of two companies with 800 workers at three mines in the towns of Asbestos and Thetford Mines, which is exported to countries like India, where it's used in cement, pipes and sheeting etc।
In September, 2004 there was a conference on "Asbestos Exposure in India" in New Delhi. Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) who were also invited gave the presentation on the Canadian perspective, on why and how they banned the use of asbestos in the automobile plants; how they dealt with the removal of asbestos from their workplaces. CAW supported the ban to stop the mining and the export of this deadly substance chrysotile (white asbestos) to India and other countries.
Dr. Jacques Dunnigan was a surprise speaker at the conference. He was previously employed by the Canadian Asbestos Institute (now Chrysotile Institute) before his retirement and is now a consultant. He argued that there is a need to make people literate about safe use of Chrysotile asbestos but failed to convince the ILO representative and others.
As a speaker at the conference Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) representative had asked Dr Dunnigan as to whether he was representing the Canadian Government or the Canadian Asbestos Industry. He was asked as to why is it that Canada wants to be proven wrong in country after country. Although the myth of Canadian “safe use” has been demolished, with the defeat of Canadian argument at WTO it continues to propagate contrary to incontrovertibly established facts. He did not have any answer.
It was soon noted that the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers' Association (ACPMA) had deputed Dr Dunnigan to defend the killer fiber. In fact, the asbestos industry got all the national dailies in India to carry his interviews as advertisements and paid features.
ACPMA claims to be a non-profit organization registered with the Registrar of Societies under Indian Societies Act formed with an objective to aid, stimulate and advise promotion of Chrysotile Asbestos Cement Products (Sheets and Pipes) in India.
The conference called for an international ban on asbestos, warning automobile mechanics about the hazards of asbestos, drawing attention to Canadian asbestos as a global concern, and highlighting asbestos related illness and deaths in India. Canadian government’s effort to exclude chrysotile asbestos from Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent list was severely criticized.
Canada promotes the sale of Chrysotile Asbestos through Chrysotile Institute. Asbestos Information Centre (AIC), which has mastered the art of misinformation in India works to spread its message.
According to information provided by the Information Commissioner of Canada, “Canada is working with other countries to promote chrysotile asbestos. The Indian government has worked diligently in cooperation with the Indian AIC and the Canadian Asbestos Institute. AIC is a member of the Asbestos International Association which represents the interests of the asbestos industry worldwide and has been very active in promoting asbestos in India.”
Martin Barratt, Second Secretary (Commercial), Canadian High Commission in India says, “AIC is of the belief that problems with safe use of asbestos will arise in the unorganised sector. These include small manufacturers who cannot afford to either install the equipment necessary to safely use asbestos or invest in the health needs of their workers.” AIC accepts that “unorganised sector does use imported products that they acquire through agents.” Further “A ruling which states that subjecting a worker to asbestos is a violation of human rights could have far reaching consequences whether or not it is binding,” adds Barratt.
The profound tragedy of the asbestos epidemic is that all illnesses and deaths related to asbestos were entirely preventable by not using asbestos. The threat to health was known and alternative viable substitutes were available.
It is possible to eliminate the use of asbestos by redesigning the job or product, or by using another safer material. Lust for profit and the lack of political will is letting the unpardonable criminal act of exposing humans to the killer fiber goes on and yet Canada calls itself a civilized country. Indian National Congress led coalition Government that is supported by Communist Parties too remains a collaborator in the ongoing acts of barbarism.