Rotterdam Convention: Canadian Dirty Tricks Fail
In the run-up to a September 18, 2004 United Nations vote on restricting global sales of chrysotile (white asbestos), the Canadian Government has been trying to nobble grass-roots opposition. Since Canada blocked the UN's first attempt to place chrysotile on a list of dangerous chemicals, awareness has been growing of the deadly impact of the asbestos industry in Canada and abroad.
In an attempt to neutralize public opinion, Environment Canada (EC) created the position of observer to the Canadian delegation at the upcoming UN meeting; the Canadian Environmental Network was asked to nominate a candidate. The day after Roch Lanthier, spokesperson for the Montreal-based Association of Quebec Asbestos Victims (AVAQ), was designated, EC withdrew the offer. Roch was told he could attend the Geneva hearing but only as an official member of the Canadian delegation; such participation would have been under strict conditions of confidentiality. Seeking clarification of the terms, Roch was told that until he signed the confidentiality agreement he would not be informed of the Government's position on the inclusion of chrysotile on the UN list. Under such conditions, Roch had no choice but to decline.
This incident is evidence of the federal government's burgeoning realization that the national asbestos agenda is no longer under the control of the chrysotile industry and its supporters. The fact that such an offer was made, even if it was intended as mere window-dressing, shows that a new strategy is being pursued to limit the political fall-out from Canada's increasingly unpopular pro-asbestos position.
At the September 14 AVAQ Press Conference, additional details about this and other aspects of the Canadian asbestos situation will be revealed. For more information contact AVAQ by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
September 13, 2004