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Government moving to ban asbestos, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Chrysotile asbestos mining operations in Black Lake QC are pictured on December 13, 2010.
Chrysotile asbestos mining operations in Black Lake QC are pictured on December 13, 2010. CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

A nation-wide ban on asbestos is coming, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed this week.

Speaking at Canada’s building trades union policy conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, the prime minister was asked by a union representative if Ottawa was moving to ban the toxic fibre, which is still imported to Canada from international manufacturers.

Fred Clare of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers asked Trudeau point-blank where his government stands.

“We’ve actually made a commitment that we’re moving forward on a ban here in Canada,” Trudeau replied.  “We are moving to ban asbestos. We know that its impact on workers far outweighs any benefit that it might provide.”

Clare replied: “I knew I could count on you.”

Trudeau also stated on Tuesday that Ottawa is “making sure we’re putting forward a registry of all buildings that have asbestos in them.”

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WATCH: Negative health impacts from asbestos still felt today

Click to play video: 'Negative health impacts from asbestos still felt today'
Negative health impacts from asbestos still felt today

Asbestos production in Canada was once a major industry, but we no longer export the material, which the World Health Organization has classified as a carcinogen. Asbestos fibres are resistant to extreme heat and chemicals, and do not conduct electricity, which led to them being widely used in construction and for other purposes.

Many government buildings have contained asbestos, and in April, Ottawa officially banned asbestos use in new construction and renovation projects at buildings operated by the government.

Asbestos “abatement” contracts will also occasionally appear on the government’s main procurement website.

Labour and health groups in Canada have been calling for a blanket ban for years, similar to ones already in place in Europe and Australia. The Canadian Labour Congress, which represents 3.3 million Canadian workers, is calling on the Trudeau government to implement a ban before the House rises for the summer.

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