Winning a ban on asbestos.

For Canada’s unions, it’s a labour of love.

Asbestos: Are you at risk?

Asbestos is the leading cause of work-related death in Canada, but it isn’t just workers who are at risk. Many of the buildings we live, work, and play in contain asbestos. Until a ban is implemented, it will continue  to be imported in building materials, cement pipe, and brake pads.

When asbestos is disturbed and becomes airborne, anyone around it without specialized protection is at risk. Workers may not even know they’re exposed, and unwittingly bring the deadly fibres home to their families on their clothing.

Canada’s unions have long worked to expose the danger posed by asbestos and to win a comprehensive ban. Unions have also campaigned for better tracking through registries of contaminated buildings and people with asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos – fast facts

  • Asbestos kills more than 2,000 Canadians a year, and asbestos-related cancer costs Canada $1.7 billion a year.
  • Imports to Canada grew from $4.7 million in 2011 to $8.2 million in 2015.
  • As of December 2016, Canada still imports replacement brake pads and linings containing asbestos, despite the fact that Canadian-made, non-asbestos alternatives exist. Unions hope a ban will put an end to this.
  • Before Canada announced its ban, many countries had already banned asbestos, including France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Singapore, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, and South Africa.

Asbestos banned

In April 2016, Public Services and Procurement Canada banned the use of asbestos in its new construction and renovation projects. On April 28, the official day of mourning for workers killed or injured on the job, unions renewed calls for a comprehensive ban.

On Labour Day, unions released a new video about the dangers of asbestos and the need for a ban (scroll down to watch). Then, in the fall, we set up a captivating holographic exhibit at West Edmonton Mall to raise further awareness. Throughout, unions kept working with our allies in the medical, research, and legal community to advocate for a ban.

In December 2016, the government of Canada announced a ban on asbestos.

Michelle Côté lost her father, Clem, to mesothelioma in July. She said: “My father’s dying wish was that some day we’d win a ban on asbestos and fewer and fewer families would have to endure what we have. Thanks to Canada’s unions and all the others who worked so hard for this.”

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