Betrayal of Commonwealth Principles 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



As the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) gets under way in Perth, Western Australia, Canada stands accused of betraying the Commonwealth ethos for its export of a deadly carcinogen – asbestos – to developing Commonwealth countries. Over the last three years up to 60% of Canadian asbestos exports have gone to the Commonwealth Member States of India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, most of which have few, if any, enforceable regulations for protecting people from hazardous exposures.

Attempts by the United Nations to implement a modicum of regulation on the global asbestos trade under the Rotterdam Convention in June 2011 were stonewalled by one country – Canada. So even as Canada shipped an annual average of 90,422 tonnes of asbestos to Commonwealth States from 2008-2010, it was working to block attempts to introduce Right to Know guidelines for this deadly trade.

The fact that Canada's asbestos trade is not part of the CHOGM agenda makes the Commonwealth complicit in the global asbestos scandal. Amidst the pomp, fancy dinners and back slapping which no doubt will characterize many of the CHOGM interactions, no one wants to engage in a discussion about how one Commonwealth member can knowingly and profitably dump an acknowledged carcinogen on other Member States. Stephan Harper will be feted in Perth as one of the great and the good, when in fact, as the Prime Minister of Canada, he should be facing a criminal court for his role in exposing vulnerable individuals to deadly asbestos.

October 28, 2011



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