In an extraordinary and dramatic turn of events, the Canadian government today announced that it will no longer oppose the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance under the Rotterdam Convention. Canada’s Minister of Industry, Christian Paradis, made the announcement in his constituency of Thetford Mines today. Paradis also promised that Ottawa will provide $50 million to enable workers to retrain in other fields of work.
Christian Paradis has for years been a leading cheer leader of the asbestos industry.
The asbestos industry has been completely closed down in Quebec since September 2011. The asbestos mine at Thetford Mines, after operating for 130 years, shut down last year after a landslide from its tailings piles damaged the mine, rendering it inoperable, and destroyed a road close to the mine. LAB Chrysotile, the company that operated the mine, then declared bankruptcy.
The other last asbestos mine in Quebec, the Jeffrey mine, ceased operation two year ago. The new Quebec government of Pauline Marois has stated that it will cancel the $58 million loan, given by the previous Charest government to three investors who wish to open the Jeffrey underground mine and export millions of tons of asbestos to Asia.
At the 2011 Rotterdam Convention Conference, Canada was the only country that refused to allow chrysotile asbestos to be put on the Convention’s list of hazardous substances, after a tiny handful of countries, that earlier opposed the listing, dropped their opposition.
It is excellent news that the Harper government in Ottawa will stop opposing the listing of chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention and will provide transition assistance to former asbestos miners to transition into other work.
Prime Minister Harper is notorious for his dictatorial style of government. He has rarely backed down on any issue. It is a true victory that Harper has been forced to drop his government’s opposition to listing chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention.
Kathleen Ruff, founder, RightOnCanada.ca