A Nanaimo-based union president is calling the announcement by the Trudeau government to ban asbestos a good first step.The federal government announced Thursday morning that it will completely ban the manufacture, use, import and export of asbestos in Canada by 2018. The federal Liberals also intend to create new federal workplace rules and guidelines on asbestos, updating its online list of asbestos-containing buildings owned or leased by the federal government, and ban the use of asbestos in all construction and renovation projects.Graeme Johnston, B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union president, said the announcement is a good move in the right direction.”It’s a good first step to a long-standing problem,” he said. Johnston had been somewhat skeptical of any kind of ban coming relatively soon and was surprised at the speed of the announcement. However, he said there are still some unanswered questions, including what a ban means for vessels and products that currently contain asbestos.
“I don’t believe that this will force any employer to remove asbestos from the worksite,” he said. “That raises the question of what happens in the marine industry with all these vessels that do asbestos.” Meanwhile, Ellen Oxman, president of the Canadian Labour Congress’s Nanaimo chapter, was pleased to hear the announcement and said the ban will benefit Canadians.
“It’s absolutely reassuring after a long time and a lot of lobbying and a lot of work on the CLC and other Canadian unions,” she said. “This is going to save lives in the end.”
For years, the labour congress had been pushing hard for a ban on the dangerous mineral. It recently announced a nationwide media campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos. Oxman said her organization is planning to continue with the campaign, adding that asbestos can still be found in plenty of places.
“We do live with asbestos in our homes, schools, workplaces, products that we buy, especially in our cars, that we’re not aware of,” she said.The Canadian Labour Congress estimates that around 2,000 Canadians die every year from diseases caused by asbestos exposure.