Before we could even publish our most recent post on the controversial asbestos industry in Canada, we began reading reports of some good news from our neighbors to the north.
The Canadian federal government has heard the collective voice of both national and international health organizations demanding that the country “Ban Asbestos Now!” and stop exporting the deadly material to developing countries such as India. As a result, the government has responded with a quiet retraction of federal funding for Canada’s largest asbestos lobby group, the Chrysotile Institute.
The federal government’s withdrawal of funding applies only to the 2011-12 fiscal year, which begins April 1. Until then, the Chrysotile Institute will continue receiving their usual national support for not only domestic use of the dangerous mineral linked to mesothelioma and other deadly diseases, but also to continue exporting asbestos to developing nations.
The government might have imagined that the funding cut would be met with cheers and a a global sigh of relief from activists, but The Canadian Cancer Society and other critics would be wise not to slump into their chairs with complacency. Some experts and activists believe that the government will continue to support the industry in other forms, leaving many BAN proponents wondering what will happen next.
NDP MP Pat Martin, a critic of the asbestos industry, questioned whether the government actually cut the funding at all, noting that they can later reinstate it through supplementary spending estimates. Martin went on to say the lobby group has received support through Canada’s trade missions, trade junkets and efforts to keep asbestos off an internationally agreed upon list of hazardous substances.
The federal government’s financial separation from the Chrysotile Institute is indeed something to celebrate. However, while it is a step forward in the cause to ban asbestos worldwide, it may not be the end of the government’s relationship with the Chrysotile Institute. As this story develops and critics’ concerns are addressed, be engaged, stay alert, and refuse to be silenced.
You can check out the full story from the Ottawa Citizen here.