The Asbestos Frontline
In December 2010 I had the opportunity to take part with Asian colleagues in a mission to Canada; our purpose was to share the asbestos reality in our countries with ordinary people so that they could understand the consequences of their government's pro-asbestos policies. Coming from Indonesia, a country which imports a lot of Canadian asbestos, I had much information to share. In fact, I had something to return. I took with me an empty sack of Canadian chrysotile which I had found at a dumpsite in West Java. Of course, although it was empty, it still contained minute asbestos fibres. None of the authorities seemed interested in accepting this gift from Indonesia.
It was a valuable experience to visit Quebec. I could feel the cold snow, something I had never seen before. Admiring the architecture, it was good to know that the beautiful public buildings are asbestos-free. Watching politicians debate in Parliament was very impressive, a true lesson in real democracy; in Indonesia, I would not be allowed such access to the political process. In Indonesia, I certainly could not find snow, but we could easily find asbestos roofs on houses, schools, factories and even hospitals. The popularity of asbestos-cement products has increased due to the favourable political climate many politicians in Indonesia prioritize their business interests over occupational and public health.
My impression of the Government of Canada is tinged with irony. I believe that asbestos is harmful to human health as does the Canadian Government. Because the Canadian Government recognizes the asbestos health hazard, it has decontaminated federal buildings. But even knowing the danger of asbestos, Canada does not stop mining and exporting it to Asian countries, including Indonesia.
My impression from my participation in the Asian Solidarity Mission to Canada is that the Canadian government is a farce. Only its citizens need to be protected from fatal asbestos exposures, but not people in Asia. The Government of Canada is joyfully sending a deadly poison to the workers and the poor in Asia. They are encouraged to do this by those who profit from this deadly trade the Canadian producers, Canadian middlemen and Asian businessmen like those in Indonesia who operate the asbestos-cement factories which contaminate their workers and pollute their local areas with clouds of toxic dust.
I believe that the Canadian Government has violated human rights by exporting asbestos to Asian countries and thereby causing the deaths of thousands and even millions of people in countries like my own.
December 9, 2011