Canada’s asbestos ban hailed as a union victory

In a major victory for Canada’s trade union movement, the country’s federal government has announced a ban on the import, export, manufacture and use of asbestos.

While Canada banned asbestos mining in 2012, imports of asbestos-containing products have been increasing over the past five years, and some asbestos-containing products have also been exported from Canada.

Speaking after the 15 December 2016 announcement, Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the global union confederation ITUC, said “we congratulate the Canadian trade union movement for this success, and the government’s move will increase pressure on other countries which still have not implemented a ban. Tens of millions of people are exposed to asbestos, and all governments need to act as Canada now has to stem the appalling toll of death and disease.”

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), said: “Canada’s unions, along with survivors and health advocates, have been working hard for this ban for decades. We know this will strengthen occupational health and safety protections for workers and make workplaces and public spaces safer for everyone”.

CLC is continuing to press the government for a national registry of people affected by asbestos-related diseases, the implementation of a comprehensive health response covering early detection and treatment as well as measures to protect workers in situations where asbestos is present such as building renovations.

The CLC has also called for the government to support demands at the United Nations that chrysotile asbestos be added to the list of especially hazardous materials regulated under the Rotterdam Convention.

Further information: IBAS news release.

One thought on “Canada’s asbestos ban hailed as a union victory”

  1. Thanks for noting this Rory. Yes, Canadian workers have fought against asbestos exposures and for a ban on asbestos for many decades. Many of our national and provincial unions and their federations have called for a ban since 1986, and our exposed members campaigned against the asbestos industry since the building trades call in 1974. Before that, asbestos miners and their families fought for basic protections and staged long strikes against the likes of John-Mansville in Baie Vert Newfound , and Cassiar Asbestos in Cassiar BC.
    It is no secret that many of our osh activists had to confront and deal with difficult debates over jobs vs worker rights to health. It was only by decades of patient work by rank and file members, their families and communities, their unions and union health and safety reps, that we managed to get this government to finally move. Once it became more politically expedient to ban asbestos than to support it, the Liberals moved. The lessons here have to to do with union solidarity,
    ( not union bashing), ongoing activism, and political struggle ….all are needed to succeed. Thanks to the efforts of the global unions, and the ngo movement in A-ban, for their leadership in this struggle.

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