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Pro-asbestos group closure hailed by labour advocate, NDP

An asbestos industry lobby group partially funded in the past by the Quebec and federal governments has indicated it will cease its operations.

The Montreal based Chrysotile Institute, which posted a statement about its impending shut down in the April 28 issue of the Canada Gazette has, as the Tyee reported last year, long been the target of anti-asbestos campaigners, who charged that the Institute had consistently soft pedalled the health dangers associated with mining and using asbestos of all kinds.

Many public health bodies, including the Canadian Medical Association, have called for a total end to asbestos production and export from Canada.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that most asbestos use has ceased in Canada, the fatalities continue as people exposed during the time that asbestos was more widely used here sicken and die.

Last year, asbestos was the single largest cause of work-related deaths in our country, and critics say that continued exports of Canadian asbestos will create a huge new roster of casualties around the world.

News of the Institute’s decision to fold up has been hailed as a step forward by the Canadian Labour Congress and by Pat Martin, an NDP MLA who once worked as an asbestos miner himself.

Martin told the Ottawa Citizen the closing of the institute signals the "death knell" of asbestos mining in Canada.

"I see it as a real tipping point in the movement to get Canada out of the asbestos industry," Martin said. "It's just another demonstration of the death rattle of the asbestos industry in this country."

The Canadian Labour Congress, which has previously supported calls for a ban on asbestos and for just job transition help for former asbestos miners, hailed the news the Chrysotile Institute is shutting down.

In a statement posted on its web site May 2, the central labour body says:

“The Canadian Labour Congress welcomes news that the Chrysotile Institute, a pro-asbestos lobby group, that has received funding from the federal and Quebec governments, will dissolve and cease operation. The Institute, which was created in 1984, insisted on behalf of the industry that the use of chrysotile asbestos poses little risk to workers if handled safely. In fact, overwhelming expert evidence indicates that asbestos is a well-known carcinogen and that no safe use exists. Canada is a major producer of asbestos and all of this country’s exports go to developing countries, including Bangladesh, India and Indonesia. This consumption will lead to a pandemic of asbestos related diseases in developing countries.”

Tom Sandborn covers health policy and labour beats for the Tyee. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at [email protected].

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