By 2018, the federal government hopes to ban asbestos in Canada and change rules and regulations about the deadly material, which contaminates tens of thousands homes and buildings across the country and kills thousands every year.
“Today I am pleased to announce our government is taking the first step to ban asbestos,” Science Minister Kirsty Duncan said at a news conference at the Ottawa Hospital’s General campus on Thursday morning.
Included in the government’s asbestos announcement is the creation of new regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), new workplace health and safety rules intended to limit drastically the risk of people coming into contact with asbestos on the job.
National building codes will be changed to prohibit the use of asbestos in new construction and renovation projects across Canada and “new actions to ban the import of asbestos-containing products such as certain construction materials and brake pads.”
Beth and Sharon Porter found out under cruel circumstances the potential effects of asbestos exposure. Beth’s husband and Sharon’s father, Bob Porter, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in June and the disease caused him to suffocate by August.
“I didn’t realize it could happen so long after you’re exposed, and he didn’t really know that either,” said Beth Porter, who now understands that asbestos diseases can strike 10 to 40 years after exposure.
Also included in the government’s plan is an expansion of the current online list of asbestos-containing buildings owned or leased by Public Services and Procurement Canada to include all federal buildings that have the substance.
The CBC developed the only national listing and interactive map of federal buildings earlier this year.
Jesse Todd, chair of the Saskatchewan Asbestos Awareness Organization, wants to see the federal government put pressure on provinces and municipalities to also track contaminated public buildings, including hospitals, schools, and hockey arenas.
“We haven’t seen a lot of progress yet from other provincial governments, and we hope that with the federal government leading the way, others will fall in line,” said Todd, whose stepfather, Howard Willems, died of mesothelioma after being unknowingly exposed in a federal building, then lobbied for a registry.
Saskatchewan is currently the only jurisdiction with a searchable, user-friendly database of public buildings that contain asbestos, which can be used by contractors, labourers, workers or members of the public who may be working in those buildings.
The Canadian Labour Congress would also like to see the federal government track victims and potential victims of asbestos exposure through a different kind of registry.
“So somebody like myself could go and register,” said Yussuff. “There are thousands and thousands of Canadians exposed to asbestos, some are dying of it right now, and I think it would be very useful for developing public policy.”
Asbestos mines operated in Canada from the late 1800s until 2011.
“If we were a world leader in the production and the export and even the promotion of asbestos, we have a moral obligation to be a world leader in diagnosis and treatment of asbestos-related disease.”