Canada’s unions pleased to see asbestos ban regulations come into force

"We've waited a long time for the government to acknowledge how dangerous asbestos is. Now, we need the federal government to ensure the regulations have some teeth."  — Elisabeth Ballermann, NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer

Ottawa (22 Oct. 2018) — Canada’s unions are pleased to see that the federal government regulations to ban the import, export, manufacture, sale and use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products will come into force on December 30, 2018.  The regulations were announced in December 2016.

“This is a critical step on the long road to banning asbestos, and will, without a doubt, save lives for generations to come,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. 

"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-Treasurer of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

Ban on asbestos regulations sets course for healthier workplaces, needs to extend further

The new regulations, under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999 (CEPA), prohibit the import, sale and use of asbestos, the manufacture, import, sale and use of products containing asbestos, as well as the export of asbestos and asbestos-containing products, with a limited number of exceptions. Combined, this is a historic step to protect the health of Canadian workers and the public, and to address Canada’s history as an exporter of this deadly substance. With these regulations, Canada now joins 55 countries that have banned the use of asbestos. 

Yussuff said that it will be crucial for protection from exposure to extend to everyone living in Canada, including those living in First Nations housing filled with asbestos-ridden vermiculite insulation. 

“We know that these regulations will save lives in Canada, and by prohibiting the export of asbestos, we will not be applying a double standard by sending Canadian asbestos to kill workers in other countries, especially those in the developing world where workplace safety is still a concept more often than a reality," said Ballermann. 

Enforcement of regulations key to change

“Because these diseases have a long latency period, the danger is not over, but this is the beginning of the end. 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 response,” Yussuff said.

A robust enforcement strategy to ensure compliance with these new regulations will be important to a successful implementation and to addressing the legacy of asbestos-contaminated workplaces.

"We've waited a long time for the government to acknowledge how dangerous asbestos is," said Ballermann. "Now, we need the federal government to ensure the regulations have some teeth."

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 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