Historic Mission to Canada 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



One year ago, a formidable band of intrepid campaigners ventured into the history books when they took the ban asbestos campaign into the Canadian asbestos heartland. The Asian Solidarity Mission to Canada has been termed one of the ten most significant events in the history of the global ban asbestos movement.1 The one year anniversary of the events which took place in Quebec City, Ottawa and Montreal from December 7 to 10, 2010 is an appropriate time to reflect on the significance of the mission, its achievements and developments in Canada's asbestos dialogue in the last twelve months.

The members of the delegation included asbestos victims Jeong-rim Lee (Korea; Ms. Lee is also known as Rachel) and Kazumi Yoshizaki (Japan), ban asbestos campaigners Sugio Furuya (Japan), Ye-yong Choi (Korea), Omana George (India) and Muchamad Darisman (Indonesia) and trade unionist Anup Srivastava (India); Canadian Kathleen Ruff was the delegation's liaison officer.  


Sugio Furuya

Ye-yong Choi

Kazumi Yoshizaki

Muchamad Darisman

Omana George

Anup Srivasta

Jeong-rim Lee

Kathleen Ruff

The mission was timed to take place as the Quebec government was considering proposals to provide a $58 million loan guarantee so that asbestos businessmen could finish work on a new underground mine. Should this government support not be forthcoming the project would fail and Canada would run out of asbestos; should this support materialize, then millions of tonnes of Canadian asbestos would be exported to Asia in the coming decades. The stakes were high.

As the mission proceeded, with meetings, events, press conferences taking place every day, demonstrations of support were orgainized in Mumbai, Manila, London, Paris, Delhi, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul.2 News of these events were widely circulated with a particularly important piece being featured in The Lancet, the world's oldest and most prestigious medical journal, which on December 9 condemned the Canadian Government's pro-asbestos policy and supported the medically and scientifically-based call to ban asbestos.

The warm reception the mission members had from their Quebec supporters and the assistance they provided are described by Kathleen Ruff in her article Asian Solidarity Mission to Canada – One Year On, uploaded today on this website. Ms. Ruff also details the boorish behaviour of asbestos lobbyists and politicians who made “ugly remarks” about the motivation and condition of mission participants going so far as to imply that “a member of the delegation who was has mesothelioma (asbestos cancer) was not really ill.” The Asian Solidarity Mission to Canada, Ms. Ruff writes, “helped break down barriers (in Quebec). Instead of an abstract, distant issue, the asbestos question became an issue with a human face. It was a milestone in the asbestos struggle.”

Reflecting on his trip to Canada, delegation member Anup Srivastava highlights the “huge amount of media coverage and publicity in Canada and abroad” generated by the mission and the impact it had on the “intense public debate within Canada itself on the morality of the nation's asbestos policy and the potential harm posed by asbestos exports to the developing world.” In a piece entitled The Asbestos Frontline, M. Darisman, another member of the delegation, describes his desire to share with Canadian citizens Indonesia's asbestos reality and his attempt to bring a gift to Canadian politicians, a gift which was not accepted for it was a plastic Canadian asbestos sack which had been found on a dumpsite in West Java. “Of course, although it was empty,” Darisman writes “it still contained asbestos fibres. None of the authorities seemed interested in accepting this gift from Indonesia.”


One year after members of the Solidarity Delegation returned home, the issue of government support for the new Quebec asbestos mine is still unresolved. Previous deadlines have come and gone with no decision being taken. The sticking point seems to be the government's requirement that the international consortium backing the mine secure $25 million in private financing. So far as we are aware, this stipulation has not been satisfied. The latest deadline set by the Quebec Government for an announcement regarding its decision on the mine is “by Christmas.”3

There is no doubt that in the last twelve months Canada's debate on asbestos has intensified. It seems that not a day goes by without another professional body, trade union, politician, municipality or victims' group denouncing Canada's double standards on asbestos. News that Canada is negotiating a bilateral agreement with India that could eliminate trade tariffs on Canadian asbestos exports to India has been condemned by health and safety campaigners as “racist and hateful.” 4 Commenting on the proposed deal, a joint press statement issued on December 6 asked whether “only light-skinned people [are] entitled to breathe clean air and drink clean water.” To commemorate the 2010 landmark mission, a petition has today been uploaded calling on the Indian Government to ban the use of asbestos by 2014 and setting out precise measures to minimize hazardous exposures and quantify the country's asbestos challenges while the transition is being made to asbestos-free technologies.5

The debate will continue.

December 10, 2011


1 Information, news and photographs collected during and after the mission can be viewed at:

2 http://ibasecretariat.org/quebec_mission_2010_arch_demos.php

3 Kazan-Allen L. Chrysotile Institute – Mountebanks and Liars! December 1, 2011.

4 Kazan-Allen L. Activists Condemn Canadian Racism. December 7, 2011.

5 http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/petititon-to-indian-govt-%E2%80%93-national-asbestos-ban.html



       Home   |    Site Info   |    Site Map   |    About   |    Top↑