Media Release

Canada's position on asbestos at international meeting unveiled

CELA disappointed in Canada opposing prior informed consent on cancer causing substance, chrysotile asbestos

Jun 23 2011

Toronto - Canada’s decision to oppose the listing of chrysotile asbestos, a known carcinogen, under the Rotterdam Convention at the meeting of the Parties in Geneva this week drew strong negative reaction today from the Canadian Environmental Law Association.  Canada maintains its opposition to listing the substance despite repeated recommendations by the Rotterdam Convention’s expert committee to list chrysotile asbestos.  CELA has repeatedly called on the Canadian government to support adding the substance to the Convention’s list of substances which require prior notification of their toxicity before export or importing.

On the third day of negotiations, Canada’s position to oppose the listing of chrysotile under the Rotterdam Convention has finally been revealed.  In the lead up to today’s session, Canada had been silent on its position as to whether or not chrysotile asbestos should be listed under the Convention, leaving other exporting countries, such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, to voice their opposition to listing.  Canada’s continued opposition was revealed shortly after several countries, including India and Ukraine, expressed their support for listing.  The position taken by India is the first signal of a change in position by a country that has opposed listing of chrysotile at previous meetings of Rotterdam.  Other exporting countries, such as Brazil, have also been silent.  Canada’s refusal to change its position and support listing is very disappointing to CELA and many others who have been working to ensure that it is included under the Convention.

“Canada’s explicit opposition at this point in the negotiations to listing the deadly carcinogen chrysotile asbestos is a sad moment for the international community negotiating for better protection of workers and people,” states Fe de Leon, Researcher at the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “However, with two days left in the negotiations, we hope Canada’s position will still take a dramatic shift as we saw today in the case of India.  Without an international obligation to share information on the hazards of this chemical, workers, their family members and communities in countries that receive this material will continue to be damaged from on-going mining, exporting and importing of chrysotile asbestos for decades to come.”  The listing to Annex III of the Convention triggers requirements to exchange information on the toxicity of hazardous substances between countries and establishes a mechanism for countries to refuse entry of hazard substances for the protection of people.

The lead up to the negotiations on the Rotterdam Convention has been blanketed with secrecy from the Canadian government on its position to list chrysotile asbestos. Letters to the Canadian government from organizations and individuals within Canada and worldwide expressed the need to support listing of chrysotile asbestos to the Rotterdam Convention because of the health impacts associated with this substance. 

“Canada’s position at these meetings undermines the cornerstone of the Rotterdam Convention to exchange information and seek prior informed consent between countries before importing and exporting these substances” states de Leon.  “Canada has radically reduced the use of this substance in Canada and it is treated as a hazardous substance here, but Canada continues to market it to unsuspecting countries. These countries will not have the ability to keep their people safe from exposure to chrysotile asbestos unless there is an international commitment to exchange critical information on these substances.”



Contact information:


Fe de Leon, Researcher, 416-960-2284 ext. 223


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