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3 May 2012

Canada: Pro-asbestos advocacy group shuts its doors

A decades-old pro-asbestos lobby group, currently funded by the Quebec government, will be shutting its doors after notifying the federal government of its plan to dissolve. The Montreal-based Chrysotile Institute issued the notice in the Canada Gazette — the government's official publication for announcing new laws and other public information. The institute, first formed in 1984, promotes the safe use of chrysotile asbestos on behalf of Canada's asbestos mining industry.

The Chrysotile Institute has long countered scientific evidence by saying that as long as asbestos is handled in a safe and controlled manner, it causes little risk to workers.The propaganda initiatives mounted by the Chrysotile Institute, which was endowed with millions of taxpayers' dollars, were pivotal in creating commercial markets for asbestos throughout the developing world. Long after industrialized countries had banned asbestos, consumption was increased in many Asian countries, largely as a result of the Chrysotile Institute's efforts.

NDP MP Pat Martin — a longtime critic of the asbestos industry and former miner himself — said the closing of the institute signals the "death knell" of asbestos mining in Canada. Kathleen Ruff, senior human-rights adviser to the independent research group the Rideau Institute, said the closing of the lobby group sends a signal to the international community that the industry is collapsing in Canada."It will be noticed all around the world because the Chrysotile Institute has been the key leader in pushing the interests in the asbestos industry around the world," Ruff said.

The Canadian Labour Congress also welcomed the news. "The Canadian Labour Congress supports a total prohibition on Canada’s production and export of asbestos along with a just transition program for displaced workers in the industry", said the trade union in a press release.The Chysotile Institue was headed by Clément Godbout, who chaired the Quebec Workers Federation (Fédération des Travailleurs du Québec) from 1993 to 1998.

Canada's asbestos industry is centred on two mines in Thetford Mines and Asbestos, both in Quebec — and both currently out of production for the first time in 130 years.The majority of asbestos mined in Canada is exported abroad to developing countries where asbestos regulations are less stringent. More than 50 countries have banned asbestos use.The World Health Organization estimates that globally, more than 100,000 people die from asbestos-related illnesses, including cancer, every year.

Sources: http://www.montrealgazette.com, IBAS
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