Canada’s asbestos exports immoral

Asbestos is one of the most widely recognized carcinogens and has been outlawed by 40 nations—Canada excluded.

According to an article in Saturday’s Globe and Mail, two mining operations in Quebec continue to extract asbestos and export it to developing countries. If used improperly, this material can have potentially lethal effects. It’s estimated that up to 90,000 people die each year from exposure to asbestos. Even with these statistics, the Quebec and federal governments continue to actively promote asbestos as a viable import to developing states.

There’s really no justification for the Canadian government’s ongoing promotion of their deadly export. Defenders of the state-sponsored industry cite its $93-million dollar revenue as one reason to uphold its production—an unsound argument especially for a federal government that has recorded a budgetary surplus each year for the last decade.

This assertion makes the government look like it has one thing in mind—money—and will employ unjust means to achieve it. The profit-incentive nature of the operation is alarming, and Canada is guilty of aiding companies in danger of closing if a global anti-asbestos policy were to be implemented. Luckily for Canada, it succeeded in voting down such a policy when the U.N. tried to implement it.

Quebec and the Department of Natural Resources defend the program on the basis that asbestos is harmless to countries purchasing it as long as they use it cautiously, implying Canada can’t be held accountable if they don’t. It’s unrealistic to assume that these countries have the infrastructure necessary to ensure its effects are harmless, especially because it’s evident major importers such as India can’t implement adequate safety measures for workers or consumers who come in contact with asbestos.

The situation’s hypocrisy is obvious—the carcinogenic material is hardly used in Canada anymore. Yet the government has no qualms about shipping asbestos to countries they can’t guarantee are using the requisite “controlled-use approach.” If the measures necessary to ensure its safe usage aren’t considered worth the effort in our own country, what indicates that less developed countries would be inclined to employ them, either?

It’s within the Quebec and federal government’s capacity to reasonably foresee the damaging effects that asbestos may have in the import countries. The fact that they’re not only allowing its extraction to continue, but spending tens of millions of dollars over the last two decades to promote it isn’t just deplorable—it’s downright immoral.

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