Not Everyone Loves Canada!
July 1, 2009 marked Canada's 142nd anniversary. The day was celebrated by Canadians from every province and territory, overseas, and even beyond Earth's atmosphere with parties and parades. In the capital, Prime Minister Stephen Harper boasted we celebrate the most peaceful, prosperous, and enduring democracy the world has ever known. Reading press reports of the day's events, it seems that the majority of his countrymen spent the day in a self-satisfied haze of admiration of all things Canadian.1 Had they taken the time and/or trouble to raise their heads above the parapet they might have seen that there are some people who don't share their love of Canada not even a little.
This situation arises because Canada continues to produce and export asbestos. Even more disgraceful is its collaboration with other regimes who seek to profit from the supply of this deadly toxin (asbestos is classified as a class 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and many other international agencies and associations). Canadians should be ashamed of the behavior of successive governments and in addition to counting their blessings on Canada Day, should remember those whose lives have been sacrificed to increase the wealth of a minority of Canadian citizens who already enjoy the benefits of living in a prosperous, well-fed and self-satisfied country.
On July 1, I was in Birmingham (England) to mark Canada Day with asbestos sufferers and groups representing them. Many UK asbestos victims have been fatally poisoned by Canadian asbestos, the same asbestos which contaminates the Canadian Prime Minister's residence, the same asbestos which Canada happily sells to consumers in countries like India, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam. The protest in front of the old Canadian Consulate in Colmore Row, Birmingham was led by three asbestos campaigners who were embarked on a 1,200 mile cycle ride visiting UK asbestos hotspots to raise awareness of the national asbestos epidemic.
Organizer Doug Jewell, representing Asbestos Support West Midlands, summed up the feelings of the demonstrators:
The misery that asbestos causes has been called a silent epidemic; well things like this epic bike ride show that people are no longer staying silent. It's an outrage that the victims of asbestos in this country still have to fight for justice and it's an outrage that the international trade continues. We call on all Canadians to demand that their Government end its support for and leadership of the global asbestos lobby.
Across the English Channel, the French Asbestos Victims Group (ANDEVA), which was sued by the (Canadian) Chrysotile Institute in 2008,2 held a protest outside the Canadian Embassy. Their opinion of Canada's pro-asbestos stance was made clear in the posters they held aloft:
The demonstration attracted the notice of the police and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) which filmed the event and interviewed some of the participants. A letter submitted to the Canadian Ambassador expressed ANDEVA's outrage with respect to the politics of your government concerning chrysotile asbestos. Points raised included: the Canadian case brought at the World Trade Organization against the French asbestos ban, Canada's interference with the inclusions of chrysotile asbestos on the Prior Informed Consent List of the Rotterdam Convention, Canadian pressure on international agencies such as the WHO over chrysotile and the defamation lawsuit mounted by the Canadian Government-backed Chrysotile Institute against ANDVEA.
CBC reporters also attended demonstrations on July 1 in front of the Canadian Embassies in Sydney and Washington D.C. The reasons for the Australian rally were made clear in a letter written by Paul Bastian, the State Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, to Tony MacDonald, the Consul General of Canada:
While Canada can proudly claim to be at the forefront in many areas of social and economic responsibility, it is certainly a very dark stain on your country's reputation that the Canadian asbestos industry, supported by your Government, has been aggressively targeting the world's most vulnerable people for your poisonous (asbestos) products.3
In the U.S. capital, invited guests enjoyed a Canada Day buffet on the raised embassy patio, while concerned scientists and citizens stood resolutely on the sidewalk with signs, small Canadian flags and leaflets drawing attention to Canada's role in the global asbestos conspiracy.
Complimenting the activities described above were urgent appeals made to the Canadian Prime Minister by asbestos victims groups and trade unions in Japan and the Philippines which urged Canada to stop exporting asbestos.4
July 3, 2009
1 Why Canada is the best place on earth to live.
2 Kazan-Allen L. Victory for French Victims' Group. March 13, 2009.