Asbestos Double Standard

On May 12 Canada once again earned mention on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It is one occasion, however, that Canadian’s should not be proud of. Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi traveled to Asbestos, Quebec to report on the Jeffrey mine which recently received a $58 million loan guarantee from the Quebec government to keep open the asbestos mine.

Asbestos is an incredibly durable fibre that is used in construction materials, but it is banned for use in Canada and the majority of developed countries. Exposure to it has been proven to cause incurable lung cancer and it is responsible for 90,000 deaths a year. Despite this, there continue to be many countries around the world, particularly developing ones, that still use asbestos and the governments of Canada and Quebec have no moral dilemma with shipping tons of this deadly material to these countries.

Remove materials containing some asbestosAt the same time that the Canadian federal government defends its continued ban of asbestos within Canada, they support export of asbestos, fund an asbestos lobby group, and fight international efforts to place a global ban on asbestos.

The president of the Asbestos Jeffrey Mine, Bernard Coulombe, said that India, who purchases 400,000 tons of the product a year, will be a major customer. When Mandvi questioned the safety of “his people” Coulombe actually said India is “used to pollution,” adding that the country’s population has “a natural antibiotic.”

Once the new mine is built it will employ 450 people, boosting the town’s economy in the process. One has to question why the Prime Minister and everyone else involved in this hypocrisy think this town in Quebec and its residents are so much more valuable than the countries around the world and their millions of residents who they are choosing to poison.

Thankfully, despite provincial and federal political support, the mine has not reopened. One of the conditions of the $58 million loan guarantee was that investors must come up with $20 million of their own funding — so far they have been unsuccessful. July 1 is the deadline date the government has set for investors to submit their financial plan and their $20 million in funds.  Hopefully, with continued public opposition this will not happen.

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Alison Wheatley

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