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Health minister showing criminal negligence on asbestos: activist

Canada’s Minister of Health is guilty of criminal negligence on the asbestos file, says veteran anti-asbestos campaigner Kathleen Ruff. Writing on her website Right On Canada on August 19, Ruff says that in Italy, industry magnates have been prosecuted for their criminal negligence around exposing workers to the known carcinogen, and cites recent statements from Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq that Ruff calls “callous” to support the suggestion the Tory minister ought to face the same legal consequences.

Aglukkaq recently declined an invitation to attend a memorial event organized by citizens of Sarnia, Ontario, who have lost family members to the cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

Leah Nielsen and her sister, Stacy Cattran, are organizing the 2nd annual Walk to Remember Victims of Asbestos in Sarnia on September 29, 2012. They are also calling for a public inquiry into the tens of thousands of Canadian asbestos deaths, many of which they say have have not even been properly tracked. Both women lost their fathers to asbestos related disease.

Minister Aglukkaq declined the invitation, saying that asbestos was not her concern and suggesting the women should direct their concerns to Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver, whose ministry has been a proponent of ongoing Canadian asbestos mining and export.

While unmoved by the health dangers of asbestos, Ruff notes, Minister Aglukkaq has recently announced she will order an investigation into the health dangers she suspects may be associated with wind turbines.

Asbestos is a toxic and carcinogenic substance that is very little used these days in the developed world, and Canadian involvement in shipping it to Third World countries has been condemned by the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Labour Congress, the World Health Organization and many other international bodies. The Canadian government came under fire last year for helping to block a move under the UN sponsored Rotterdam Convention to require that asbestos producers fully inform customers of the health risks entailed in asbestos use.

The Quebec government recently provided a mining company with a $58 million loan to allow the firm to re-open the Jeffrey mine in that province, thus renewing the prospect of Canada exporting the toxic substance to third world countries, where critics say it will continue to cause millions of deaths among unprotected workers.

Tom Sandborn welcomes your feedback and story tips at [email protected].

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