SmartVote: Stop playing politics with asbestos, union and health groups tell Harper

For immediate release: April 26, 2011

Groups make toxic mineral an election issue
Health Organizations, Unions push Harper on Asbestos Ban

“Put people’s lives ahead of politics, Mr Harper,” groups urge.

In an open letter sent today, over twenty health, union and environmental organisations call on Prime Minister Harper to end his support for the asbestos trade.

Harper is today holding his second rally in Asbestos, Quebec (population around 7,000 in a country of 33 million), seeking votes by promoting himself as the political leader most dedicated to the asbestos industry.

“We call on you to put people’s lives ahead of politics,” said Dr Kapil Khatter of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. “Canada’s leading medical authorities have all told you that the export of asbestos is medically and morally indefensible and will lead to an epidemic of asbestos-related disease and death overseas.”

Canada was the world’s biggest asbestos exporter in the last century, but the asbestos industry is now bankrupt and about to die out. The last operating asbestos mine in Canada is in Thetford Mines, Quebec. It is under bankruptcy protection and is laying off some of its 350 workers because its asbestos deposit will soon be exhausted.

“Public policy should be based on science, not on politics,” said Christian Simard, executive director, Nature Québec. “The science is indisputable that all forms of asbestos are deadly. Not a single reputable authority supports P.M. Harper’s policy that asbestos can be safely used.“

“Canada is becoming known as an immoral asbestos pusher and as an enemy of global public health,” said Kathleen Ruff, senior human rights adviser to the Rideau Institute. “This is not the role Canadians want to play in the world.”

Harper has promised to block an upcoming meeting of the U.N. Environmental Convention (Rotterdam Convention) so as to prevent chrysotile asbestos being listed as a hazardous substance. Chrysotile asbestos represents 100% of the global asbestos trade.

“P.M. Harper is the only national leader in Canada and in the Western world to promote asbestos,” said Dr Khatter. “This election is about trust and integrity. We are urgently pleading with P.M. Harper: Show integrity by respecting the science and put human life ahead of partisan political interests. We hope he will listen.”


Dr Kapil Khatter,, 613-864-9591
Kathleen Ruff,, 250-847-1848
Christian Simard,, (418) 931-1131


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

Download there letter here (PDF)

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