Growing Opposition to Asbestos in Canada

Quebec health officials recently sent a letter to Canada’s federal Health Minister, Leona Aglukkaq, calling for an end to the government’s support of asbestos mining in the country.

Within the letter, which was penned and backed by members of Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and Rideau Institute, health officials make known their concern of asbestos materials that provide “misleading, inadequate and, at times, false information” of the health risks of asbestos made available on government websites.

The letter is just the latest in a growing groundswell to limit or ban asbestos mining in Canada. Epidemiologists at Quebec’s Institute of Public Health have previously voiced their concern for the unusually high number of malignant mesothelioma and asbestos cancer cases present in the province of Quebec. Similarly, Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff has expressed his unhappiness with Canada’s asbestos industry.

Presently, there is only one active asbestos mine in Canada. Located in Thetford Mines, Quebec, the mine currently employs a little more than 300 workers. Though the industry remains small and localized, asbestos lobbyists remain appalled at the apparent skewed and biased portrayal of the industry to the public.

For example, in response to a recent broadcast of the radio program Telejournal that discussed asbestos mining in Canada, Julie Miville-Dechne, Ombudsman of Radio-Canada publicly opines that the report lacked balance and was deliberately skewed in favor of the asbestos industry. During the 5-minute portion of the program, the only experts offering insight into the subject were from pro-asbestos industry stakeholders.

Despite the historically biased public portrayal of asbestos in Canada, the scientific and impartial health community continues to call for the ban of the hazardous material.