Last week, Sheri Benson, NDP MP for Saskatoon West, introduced a private member's bill that would prohibit the manufacture, use, sale, offer for sale or import of certain toxic substances that cause significant danger to the environment or to human life or health.
"This is a non-partisan issue and I am open to working with the government to end asbestos use in Canada," said Benson. “But any delay means more lives will be affected. The epidemic of asbestos-related deaths must stop.”
Asbestos is already the leading cause of workplace-related death in Canada, according to an investigation by the Globe and Mail. More than 2,000 Canadians die every year from diseases caused by asbestos exposure, such as mesothelioma and lung cancer. Death from mesothelioma increased 60 per cent between 2000-12, according to Statistics Canada.
Canadian asbestos imports grew from $4.7 million in 2011 to $8.2 million in 2015, putting more and more Canadians at risk, said the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
Canada's unions are supporting the private member's bill, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (prohibition of asbestos).
“Canada’s unions have been calling for a comprehensive ban on asbestos for many years and we hope the federal government moves quickly to pass legislation that would make this ban a reality,” said Canada Labour Council president Hassan Yussuff. “A comprehensive ban will save lives, it’s that simple. This is about making public spaces and workplaces safer for all Canadians, and there is no need to delay any longer. We need to ban asbestos now.”
But PSAC says a ban is only the first step. It said a comprehensive approach to asbestos includes other necessary measures, such as:
• a public pan-Canadian registry of cases of asbestos-related diseases and a comprehensive health response to these diseases
• a national registry of buildings used by the public that contain asbestos
• a ban on the use of asbestos-containing materials in all federally-funded infrastructure projects
• harmonized standards for asbestos disposal across the country
• transitional support for businesses, workers and communities affected by a ban on asbestos.