Skip to main content

The trade name "Asbestos" comes from a Greek word meaning "unquenchable." So it was grimly appropriate for the most deadly killer in the Canadian workplace. At last, the use of this fire-retardant and insulation material will be quenched in Canada, though hardly soon enough.

The government of Canada is finally banning this dreadful carcinogen. Public health authorities long ago concluded that it was dangerous, but Canada has dragged its feet about prohibiting it.

As a result, this country has one of the world's highest rates of mesothelioma, a particularly virulent form of cancer, caused by asbestos. Near the end of his term, former prime minister Stephen Harper finally accepted that asbestos should be banned, and the government of Justin Trudeau has acted on this, after cautiously saying only that it "would work toward" prohibiting asbestos.

Story continues below advertisement

Read more: In a 'win for public health,' Canada moves to ban asbestos

In pictures: Asbestos in Canada: The politics, the economics, and the deadly legacy 

Read more: No safe use: The Canadian asbestos epidemic

Until now, Canada had imported about $10-million worth of asbestos annually, mostly in the form of brake pads and industrial pipes. Far more has been spent each year ridding the country's homes, schools, hospitals and office buildings of the stuff.

At one time, there was a large asbestos-mining industry in Canada, specifically in Quebec. With our Canadian obsessive preoccupation with propping up regional economic industries, there has long been a reluctance to suppress even such toxic enterprises as this. Other countries banned the substance, and Quebec's asbestos industry gradually withered away, but still Canada delayed.

The federal government has now set an end for the Canadian asbestos industry in 2018. Ideally, it should be put to an end immediately, though there is a case to be made that it takes some time to get rid of the deadly material; we can't just leave the stuff lying around on the ground or in the shafts of old mines.

Ottawa's promise to impose a full ban by a definite time is welcome. Nonetheless, it's a little unsettling when the government says it hopes to prohibit asbestos by 2018, and to change the rules and regulation by that date.

Story continues below advertisement

Hope is not enough. Because the evidence against asbestos is so compelling, and has been around for so long, many Canadians mistakenly believe that asbestos must have been banned long ago. That belief must finally be made real.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter