Saturday, January 16, 2010

Christian Paradis: A Threatening Appointment

Canada's story on asbestos is a troubling one, but whenever the topic is broached, politicians run scared.

Michael Ignatieff has condemned the exporting of this dangerous product, but was forced to withdraw his comments.

Even members of Harper's caucus spoke out ever so briefly.

But Christian Paradis is the MP of the only riding where asbestos is still mined, and he's not going to stop the practice anytime soon. In fact his appointment to public works raised new concerns over asbestos.

Christian Paradis: Threat or menace?
by Kady O'Malley
June 25, 2008

OTTAWA – The Green Party is expressing concern today over the appointment of Christian Paradis to the Public Works portfolio. Mr. Paradis has made comments supporting asbestos use and has previously served as President of the Asbestos Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Secretary of the Asbestos Chapter of the Management Club of Canada.

“Mr. Paradis’ history of supporting ‘safe use’ of chrysotile asbestos is very worrying,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May. “Many Canadians are not aware that asbestos is still legal and in use in Canada, even though ‘safe use’ of asbestos is like drinking anti-freeze safely – neither is possible.

The Green Party is concerned that Mr. Paradis’ appointment may mean increased asbestos content in the construction of public buildings. Will Mr. Paradis commit to eliminating all asbestos in public projects or will he increase asbestos content in new construction?”

Asbestos has been called the ‘perfect carcinogen’ and no level of exposure can eliminate the risk of developing asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. No one who uses public buildings is safe from exposure, including workers in office buildings, students in schools and patients in hospitals. Workers engaged in renovating, maintaining and cleaning buildings are at an elevated risk.

“According to the Worker’s Compensation Board, nearly a third of workplace-related fatalities are due to asbestos exposure,” (my brother-in-law was one of them who died from asbestosis) said Ms. May. “This is why virtually every labour union in the country opposes asbestos. Asbestos exposure is a serious occupational health issue.

“The Green Party has long called for an asbestos ban in Canada, safe removal of asbestos from existing buildings and an end to mining and export with a just transition strategy for workers. The federal government’s continued subsidization of the asbestos industry and funding for industry associations is a disgrace.”

Ms. May added that Canada’s work to block UN efforts to place chrysotile asbestos on the list of the world’s most toxic substances are deplorable.

Minister Paradis misrepresenting Expert Panel’s asbestos report, says Panel Chair
MAY 4, 2009

Ottawa, ON – Public Works Minister, Christian Paradis, is misrepresenting the report of an International Panel of Experts on asbestos, says the Panel Chair, Dr. Trevor Ogden.

Speaking on a recent national CBC program, The Current, Ogden said that the Minister “is wrong” in telling media that he Panel did not agree. In fact, all Panel members agreed that “exposure to commercial chrysotile causes cancer,” said Ogden.

Dr Ogden described as “particularly objectionable” the minister’s statements suggesting some panel members endorsed the possibility of “safe use” while others said “not to touch it”. Ogden said “The panel did not discuss whether controlled use was a satisfactory policy – this was totally outside the panel’s brief.”

In an interview with the Globe & Mail, Ogden stated that he thought the reason the government suppressed the report for so long was that “there were interests in continuing Canadian production of chrysotile and they saw the report as a threat.”

Ogden, who is editor-in-chief of the U.K. scientific publication, The Annals of Occupational Hygiene, criticized Health Canada, who commissioned the report, for not publishing it more than one year after they received it. “It is inexcusable that the Minister is going around talking about the policy implications of the report, when the report has not been published,” he said.

The report was obtained through Access to Information by Montreal journalist, André Noël. Contrary to its normal practice, Health Canada has not posted the report on its website. The Rideau Institute on International Affairs has posted the report on its website,

“We have known about the hazards of asbestos exposure for nearly 70 years, and the evidence today that exposure to asbestos of all forms causes cancer and asbestosis is incontrovertible,” said Panel member Dr. Leslie Stayner, Director of the University of Illinois School of Public Health. “Governments that attempt to suppress science and scientists do so at the peril of damaging their credibility in the international community. I call on the Canadian government to ban asbestos, as the World Health Organization has urged.”

“The tragedy of disease from the use and production of asbestos in the West is now being repeated in parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America,” said Kathleen Ruff, Senior advisor on human rights to the Rideau Institute and author of Exporting Harm: How Canada Markets Asbestos to the Developing World.

Ruff, who has been monitoring the Health Canada asbestos report for the past year and a half also noted that, “Canada’s reputation has been tarnished around the world because it has repeatedly stood in the way of ensuring asbestos is labelled as a hazardous material.”

Back to - The Christian Paradis Story: Maybe There's a Scandal and Maybe there Isn't

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