Nowhere to Run Nowhere to Hide
With articles and expressions of condemnation appearing at an incredible rate, Quebec's self-serving pro-asbestos policy has continually been in the spotlight in recent weeks. The latest initiative, government backing for a new asbestos mine, has set off a storm of international controversy which shows no sign of abating. Quebec's Premier, Ministers and asbestos businessmen stand naked in the full glare of public attention; what can be seen is not pretty
A few days after a stinging article appeared in the Lancet,1 another high-profile scientific journal, Nature, added its voice to the controversy surrounding the mine when it issued an editorial entitled: Asbestos Scandal.2 The headline Irresponsible policies could cause an epidemic of malignant lung disease, made the editorial board's criticism crystal clear:
Although Canada enforces strict guidelines on asbestos use at home to protect its own people, those in countries to which it sends the mineral have little or no protection The minerals industry had long tried to convince regulators that white asbestos or chrysotile is safe when handled properly To support this, industry advocates point to scientific data and studies. Yet although the relevant literature is a mire of conflicting results, this should not be seen as an endorsement of their position. Rather, it reflects a string of industry-sponsored studies designed only to cast doubt on the clear links between chrysotile and lung diseases.
Reporters have also been sniffing around the previously faceless Canadian businessmen who are profiting from their country's sale of asbestos to developing countries. An in-depth piece appeared on December 10, 2010 in the Canadian subscription publication: India Abroad.3 The 3-page feature provided businessman Baljit Chadha with more than enough rope to hang himself. In his interview with journalist Ajit Jain, Chadha provided false information, accused reputed international bodies and national organizations of "screaming, shouting and demonstrating," and attacked the moral integrity of members of an Asian delegation which went to Canada in December to make a personal appeal to the people of Quebec to stop the mine.4 Chadha is quoted as saying:
There's big money behind financing the Ban Asbestos movements Who is paying for travel and other expenses of several people to attend demonstrations around the world.
In reply to this slur, Kathleen Ruff, the liaison officer for the Asian Solidarity Delegation's Canadian mission, said:
I have worked on the asbestos issue as a volunteer. I have devoted my time and energy, not because I will gain anything I won't but because I cannot sit idly by while my government deliberately does harm, to vulnerable people in India and elsewhere.
In a letter sent on December 16, 2010 by the Delegation to Chadha, Delegation leader Sugio Furuya counters the vile accusation as follows:
Your insinuation that we are being paid by vested interests is offensive and utterly without foundation. It is a sordid tactic, reminiscent of the McCarthy era. To avoid a discussion of the inconvenient facts by seeking to discredit people with slurs.
We demand that you retract and apologize for your ugly, unfounded slurs. This is disgusting behaviour on the part of anyone. On the part of someone connected with Quebec universities, it is unconscionable.5
December 16, 2010
2 Asbestos scandal. December 16, 2010. Nature. Vol 468, page 868.