Canada’s unions celebrate federal asbestos ban

"While many lives have been lost by being exposed to asbestos, going forward this legislation will help protect others from suffering the same fate ." — Elisabeth Ballermann, NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer

Ottawa (15 Dec. 2016) — The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) is celebrating the announcement that the federal government is banning the manufacture, import, export and use of asbestos.

Ban on asbestos will help workers and the public

“We can all breathe easier,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the CLC. “This is good public health policy that will, without question, save lives for generations to come.”

“Canada’s unions, along with survivors and health advocates, have been working hard for this ban for decades. We know this will strengthen occupational health and safety protections for workers and make workplaces and public spaces safer for everyone,” said Yussuff.

This year, Canada’s unions redoubled their efforts to win a ban on asbestos, releasing a powerful video on Labour Day, and staging a captivating holographic installation at West Edmonton Mall in October to raise awareness of the need for a ban.

"This ban is the result of years of hard work by unions and their members and the partnerships we've made with those suffering the consequences of working or living with asbestos exposure," said Elisabeth Ballermann, Secretary-Treasurere of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

Provinces and territories need to step up with legislation banning asbestos

"We've waited a long time for the government to acknowledge how dangerous asbestos is," said Ballermann. "While many lives have been lost by being exposed to asbestos, going forward this legislation will help others from suffering the same fate."

More than 2,000 Canadians die every year from diseases caused by asbestos exposure such as mesothelioma and lung cancer. Experts estimate that 150,000 Canadians are exposed to asbestos at work, particularly in industries like construction, automobile maintenance, shipbuilding, various trades and waste management.

“Because these diseases have a long latency period, the danger is not over, but this is the beginning of the end,” said Yussuff. “Now we need the provinces and territories to show the same leadership that the federal government has shown and move quickly to take stock of where asbestos is, harmonize regulation around disposal and remediation, and ensure a comprehensive health response,” he added.

Yussuff also emphasized the need for governments to work with First Nations to address high levels of friable asbestos in on-reserve housing.

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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