La Tribune, January 7, 2010
Appeal to Québec trade unions: We ask you to support the international trade union campaign for a global ban on asbestos
We are very disappointed that Mr Vaudreuil, president the Centrale des syndicats démocratiques, and Mr Chartier, president of theSyndicat national de l'amiante d'Asbestos, refuse to support the international trade union movement in its campaign for a global ban on asbestos.
The International Trade Union Confederations represents 160 million workers in 155 countries. It has seen too many of its members die from asbestos-related disease, particularly construction workers. It supports the clear scientific consensus that chrysotile asbestos causes a variety of cancers and asbestosis, that it has proven impossible to use it safely anywhere in the world and that use of it should be banned everywhere.
It is important to note that of the 181 million tonnes of asbestos used in the world between 1900 and 2003, 173 million tonnes were chrysotile asbestos. In other words, chrysotile asbestos represents 95% of all the asbestos ever sold in the world.
Since the late 1990s, chrysotile asbestos has represented 100 percent of the global asbestos trade.
It is regrettable that Mr Vaudreuil and Mr Chartier, in their statement published in La Tribune on Dec. 17, put forward the misinformation that if Québec stops exporting asbestos, then amphibole asbestos will be used instead. This is completely untrue.
It is understandable that Mr Vaudreuil and Mr Chartier wish to support jobs for the town of Asbestos. We also support jobs for the town of Asbestos. But not jobs that, as the Canadian Cancer Society has said, “will help spread the global epidemic of asbestos-related cancers and damage Canada's reputation as a global leader in public health.”
We have asked the Québec government to invest the $58 million in creating sustainable jobs for the future in Asbestos, not in a bankrupt, dying and deadly industry.
On one side, we have leading, reputable medical authorities – the Canadian and Québec Medical Associations, the Canadian and the Quebec Cancer Societies, the Canadian and the Quebec Public Health Associations, The Lancet, the Association des médecins spécialistes en santé communautaire du Québec, the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, the National Speciality Society for Community Medicine.
On the other side we have organisations that have an economic interest in asbestos but have no scientific credibility whatsoever, such as the registered lobby group for Jeffrey Mine Inc and for LAB Chrysotile Inc., namely the Chrysotile Institute, and the Pro-Chrysotile Movement.
This is exactly the situation with regard to tobacco a couple of decades ago, with the campaigns of misinformation and promotion of doubt about tobacco harm, carried out by the Tobacco Institute, on which the Chrysotile Institute is modelled.
The scientific debate on chrysotile asbestos is over. The overwhelming scientific consensus is clear: chrysotile asbestos causes serious harm to human health, cannot be handled safely and should be banned.
That is why the global trade union movement is working with the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization to end use of all asbestos. That is why over 50 countries have banned all asbestos and why countries like Canada and the U.S. have likewise virtually banned it.
The Québec asbestos industry works closely with the Russian asbestos lobby and, by disseminating deceptive information that asbestos can be safely used, greatly assists Russia in its export of asbestos. Québec is, in fact, seen as one of the biggest global obstacles to public health efforts to end the use of asbestos.
Instead of listening to those who work for and are paid by the Chrysotile Institute, such as Dr Dunnigan and Dr Bernstein, whose views are completely repudiated by reputable scientific organizations, Mr Vaudreuil and Mr Chartier would do well to listen to Québec’s health authorities and to their 160 million trade union brothers and sisters.
We would like to repeat our call to the mayor of Asbestos, Hughes Grimard, that he apologize for his offensive conduct. He did have the courtesy to respond to our two letters in which we politely asked for a meeting with the citizens of Asbestos. Instead, he made unfounded and insulting accusations in La Tribune, alleging that we are being paid by some unnamed vested interests.
Our delegation consists of highly respected public health activists, a leading trade unionist, victims of asbestos and a Canadian human rights leader. International and Canadian trade unions, victims organisations, ban asbestos organisations and health activists contributed to cover the travel costs of the delegation because they thought it was essential that voices from Asia be heard, since all the asbestos would be sent to Asia.
(NOTE: The newspaper removed this final paragraph)
This information was provided to the journalist and to Mayor Grimard, but they ignored it. Using ugly slurs is a tactic used by those who are unable or unwilling to address inconvenient facts. It is a tactic that brings dishonour on Mayor Grimard and the town of Asbestos. He owes us an apology.
Sugio Furuya, leader, Asian Solidarity Delegation to Québec
Kathleen Ruff, spokesperson, Asian Solidarity Delegation to Québec
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