London Protest at House of Death
On September 9, 2005, there was a demonstration outside Canada House, the London base of the Canadian High Commission, against Canada's leadership of the global asbestos lobby. With the use of a loud hailer an impassioned trade unionist explained that whilst asbestos has been deemed too hazardous to be used in Canada, it is, nevertheless, exported to industrializing countries throughout Asia and Latin America. Dubbing Canada House the House of Death, the speaker expressed solidarity with action being taken today by trade unionists in many countries who are united in their condemnation of the Canadian trade policy which puts dollars before lives. Demonstrators distributed leaflets and lobbied workers, Canadians and other tourists who were enjoying the delights of a sunny day in downtown London.
The London protest was organized by the Southeast Region of the UK Construction Union UCATT and was supported by other trade unions and public health and environmental NGOs. Jim Swain, UCATT's Regional Secretary for London and the Southeast, noted:
The Canadian Government sees nothing wrong with continuing to produce and export the killer fibre. The Canadian Government is also seeking to block the addition of chrysotile (white) asbestos to the UN list of highly dangerous substances that cannot be exported to developing countries without their agreement. This betrays a callous disregard for the lives of workers in poorer countries who do not have the protection of strong health and safety laws. It is time the Canadian Government banned this killer substance.
Our lobby is calling for the ratification of the UN Rotterdam Convention, listing chrysotile as a toxic product which cannot be exported to developing countries without their prior consent. We believe the Canadians must cease to promote chrysotile asbestos as safe for 'controlled use.'
The Canadian High Commissioner to Great Britain declined to comment on today's demonstration.
In Australia, demonstrations against Canada's pro-asbestos stance were scheduled in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. Australian John Sutton of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union was categorical in his condemnation of the Canadian Government's double standards: Most of Canada's exports go to developing countries, Sutton said. He added:
We have witnessed first hand the carnage and misery these products cause and will oppose any government that allows the trade to continue Australian workers will be joining workers and their trade unions on the Indian subcontinent, in Africa, Asia and South America as well as across Europe.
September 9, 2005