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Canada uses "shameful tactics" to oppose listing of asbestos, wins cancer culprit award

When asked earlier this week whether Canada would support listing asbestos in annex III of the Rotterdam Convention, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said “the question is moot”.

22.06.2011 | Joint Press Release Civil Society COP 5



Canada uses "shameful tactics" to oppose listing of asbestos, wins cancer culprit award

GENEVA- June 22, 2011 – When asked earlier this week whether Canada would support listing asbestos in annex III of the Rotterdam Convention, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said “the question is moot”. While continuing to keep quiet on Canada’s stance, he pointed out that other countries were opposing the listing, and given the consensus procedure of the convention, this would block the listing anyways.


 
All this changed on day 3 of the convention. Ukraine, Kazakhstan, India, Vietnam, and Kyrgzstan, had spoken up in the early days of the conference against listing asbestos, questioning the science behind the danger of chrysotile asbestos. It was with great fanfare that India, a major importer of Canadian asbestos, announced it had changed its position and was endorsing the listing of asbestos. India then joined with other countries, including Australia, to encourage the remaining dissenters to cross the floor and support the basic tenet that asbestos should be better regulated so that at the very least importers and users are aware of the danger. As the proceedings of the day were finishing, it seemed likely that after 4 years of obstruction by a handful of countries, asbestos would finally be listed. It was only after all other countries had consented that Canada spoke up and with little elaboration announced that  “CANADA IS NOT IN THE POSITION OF SUPPORTING THE LISTING OF CHRYSOTILE ASBESTOS IN ANNEX 3, IT IS UNABLE TO DO SO”. Madhu Dutta, an Indian citizen also part of the ROCA delegation, noted that “all hell broke loose” after the announcement, as countries were shocked by the unscrupulous move.
 
Soon after, Canada was awarded with a ‘Cancer Culprit Award’ from the anti-asbestos group CancerCulprits.org, identifying Canada as a “rogue nation in the company of an unprincipled few”.
 
Kazakhstan, Vietnam, and Kyrgzstan have all changed their position to be in favour of listing asbestos, leaving Canada as the only dissenting voice and single handedly blocking the convention’s effectiveness.

WECF's Alexandra Caterbow, and member of the ROCA (Rotterdam Alliance) delegation, which represents civil society at the conference, was shocked by Canada’s behavior. “These are shameful tactics” remarked Caterbow. “It is general UN procedure to put your position on the table when it is on the agenda – that was yesterday morning. Only when we were about to reach consensus did Canada break its silence”.

 
Back in Canada, many have expressed their disbelief with the Harper government’s move. Kathleen Ruff, a Senior Human Rights advisor with the Rideau Institute, exclaimed, “It is beyond belief that the Harper government not only wants to continue exporting asbestos but wants to do so irresponsibly and is refusing this basic right of prior informed consent.” The listing of asbestos does not restrict international trade, but regulates increased labeling to ensure that importers have “prior informed consent” of the dangers. Ruff continued to say “The government says it supports “controlled use” of asbestos, but in practice, it is the country that is most hindering controlled trade of asbestos.”

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Read more on WECF's work as part of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance (ROCA) here
 
Read more here about the UN vote:
Rotterdam Convention by the Conference of the Parties’ Fifth Meeting (COP5)
 
For more information about the Cancer Culprits Awards, please contact:

Aneil Jaswal
British Columbia, Canada
Director, Cancer Culprit Awards
+1-250-307-9076
director@cancerculprits.org
www.cancerculprits.org