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Canada’s use and export of chrysotile asbestos

Petition: No. 226

Issue(s): Air quality, human health/environmental health, international cooperation, natural resources, and toxic substances

Petitioner(s): David Berliner

Date Received: 18 December 2007

Status: Completed

Summary: This petition is a follow-up to responses received for a previous petition on the use and export of chrysotile asbestos. The petitioner is concerned about Canada’s export policies regarding this substance and questions how the Government of Canada is monitoring and ensuring its safe use in importing countries. The petitioner also inquires about the existence of a national surveillance program to keep track of asbestos-related diseases in Canada and of a public registry of buildings in Canada that contain asbestos. See related petition 179 (in the petitions catalogue).

Federal Departments Responsible for Reply: Canada Economic Development Agency for Quebec Regions, Environment Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade - Department of [2006-present], Health Canada, Human Resources and Social Development Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada

Petition

December 18, 2007

Office of the Auditor General of Canada
Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development
Attention: Petitions
240 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G6

Fax to: 613-941-8286
Subject: Follow up to Petition 179, Chrysotile asbestos
PAGES INCLUDING THIS ONE: FIVE (5)

Dear Sir or Madam,

Under section 22 of the auditor general's act, please accept the following as a formal petition. Misuse of any type of asbestos fibre is known to cause damaging diseases, such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. Figure 1 compares a healthy lung, and a lung affected by mesothelioma. Safe-use of asbestos can minimize these risks.

Figure 1: On the left is a healthy lung; on the right is a lung affected by mesothelioma, a disease caused by exposure to asbestos. Figures from www.asbestostrip.co.uk.

In the Government's response to [name withheld], Petition 179 'Canada's policies on chrysotile asbestos exports', one of the questions asks: What other means does Canada rely on for monitoring and ensuring "safe use" of Canadian chrysotile asbestos in importing countries? The response notes "While Canada does not have the legal authority to monitor exposures in other countries, the industry has agreed not to export to companies that do not use chrysotile in a manner that is consistent with Canada's controlled-use approach." I am interested in information regarding this agreement, as well as other related matters.

1a) Is the aforementioned agreement between Canada and industry a formal, written document? If yes, please provide the document. If not, why is this agreement not in writing, and when will the government be drafting such a document?

b) How can the government of Canada be sure that industry is monitoring buyers (in foreign countries) to ensure asbestos is being used in compliance with Canada's controlled-use approach?  Is there an investigation process that the Government of Canada or any other body performs? If yes please elaborate. If not, why not? Is there an investigation process that foreign countries perform, and submit to the government of Canada? If yes, please elaborate, if not why not?

c) Are there instances of industry denying a request for export because of non-compliance with Canada's controlled-use approach? If a country is found to be in non-compliance of chrysotile asbestos standards, will the Government of Canada agree to restrict shipments to said country?

d) Various authors, journalists, and photographers have witnessed blatant violations of asbestos safety standards; for example, the Globe and Mail article "Asbestos Shame" (especially the pictures by Louie Palu), and an article by Laurie Kazan-Allen reporting on the conference at Capitol Hill, Ottawa in September 2003 (especially Dr. Barry Castleman p129, Dr. Tushar Kant Joshi p131.) These eyewitnesses recount occupational health violations. If the Canadian government doesn't recognize the validity of anecdotal and eyewitness evidence, what type of evidence does the Canadian government acknowledge? Has this type of evidence ever been gathered?

Articles available at

(Kazan, A. (2004). International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health. (10) 121-143. Accessed online at http://www.ijoeh.com/pfds/1002_KazanAllen2.pdf) Mittelstaedt, M. (Oct 27, 2007) "asbestos shame / Canada's cancer-causing cargo / Our gift to the world. (Focus)(DEADLY EXPORT: THE POLITICS OF A POISONOUS COMMODITY)." Globe & Mail (Toronto, Canada): F4. Pictures available in situ.

e) Has the Canadian Government followed-up with respect to the allegations by Mr. Palu in the above Globe and Mail article that health standards at an Indian U.P. Asbestos plant are non-existent? How does the Canadian government respond to Mr. Palu's statement that government inspectors in India took no action when blatant asbestos violations were witnessed at an asbestos-using auto-parts plant in New Delhi?

f) If chrysotile asbestos is being misused in foreign countries (contrary to controlled-use standards), and if the source of asbestos is proven to be Canada, is the Canadian government liable for damages (in the form of medical expenses)? Has the Government ever had to offer such compensation?

g) Is it the Canadian government's position that all downstream use of chrysotile asbestos originating from Canada follows "controlled-use" standards?

2) As a major sponsor of the Chrysotile Institute, is the Canadian government aware of any third-party that reviews information that the Institute publishes either via brochure, publications or on the website, either domestically or abroad, for accuracy? Please provide any relevant documents.

3) Does the Canadian government plan to implement a program that reviews facilities to which they plan to provide asbestos, to ensure `controlled-use' approaches are being enforced? Does the Canadian government plan on funding the Chrysotile Institute to perform this investigation and report back? How much would such a program cost? If this is not planned, why not?

4) According to Canada's risk assessment of chrysotile asbestos, how many Canadian deaths are attributable to chrysotile asbestos at current ambient exposures levels? At current occupational exposure levels? Please provide all assumptions and calculations. If such a risk assessment has not occurred, why not?

5) Does the Canadian government agree with the EPA's findings in "Final Draft: Technical Support Document for a Protocol to Assess Asbestos Related Risk" (2003) page 7.46, that the hypothesis that "chrysotile and amphiboles fibres are equally potent carcinogens with respect to lung cancer" could not be rejected? How does this change Canada's position that chrysotile is a less potent carcinogen compared to amphiboles?

6) Has the government undertaken, or is the government aware of, a study that compares asbestos to other substitute materials in terms of cost, health effects, as well as manufacturing properties. If yes, please provide details. If not, when does the government plan to undertake such a project? If the government has no plans for such a report, why is the government convinced that chrysotile asbestos is the best solution for Canada, when alternatives have not been evaluated.

7) To demonstrate Canada's controlled-use asbestos export policy, would the Canadian government be willing to participate in a cultural exchange program to India, where delegates work in a controlled-use asbestos facility. Workers could wear the proper protective clothing and see if they can work in the heat. Could you estimate the cost of this exchange based on a 5-person delegation and 1-week exchange? How does this cost compare to similar federal expenditures to promote asbestos abroad, especially those mentioned under question 4 b,c,f,g in petition 179. When will this cultural exchange be taking place?

8) Does the federal government provide compensation for Canadian workers who were exposed to asbestos in the past, and are now suffering from asbestos-related diseases, for example asbestosis, mesothelioma, or lung cancer. If yes, how much has been provided to date? Also, what does the federal government do to ensure those who are diagnosed with mesothelioma are aware of compensation possibilities?

9) Does a national surveillance program that tracks asbestos related diseases in Canada exist? If not, will the government work with the provinces to create such a program?

10) Does the federal government oversee a public registry of buildings that contain asbestos? If not, why not?

11) What is Canada's position with respect to listing asbestos at the upcoming Rotterdam Convention in 2008?

Regards,

[Original signed by David Berliner]

David Berliner
56 Albany St. #2
Toronto, Ontario
M5R3C3
647-200-8486
david.berliner@utoronto.ca

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Minister's Response: Canada Economic Development Agency for Quebec Regions

14 February 2008

Mr. David Berliner
50 Albany Street, Appt. 2
Toronto, Ontario
M5R 3C3

Dear Sir:

I am writing with respect to your Environmental Petition No. 226, to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, regarding Canada’s policies on Chrysotile asbestos.

The Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Foreign Affairs, will provide you a response on behalf of all departments which received the petition.

Yours sincerely,

[original signed by Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec]

Jean-Pierre Blackburn, P.C., M.P.

c.c.: Mr. Ronald C. Thompson, FCA
Interim Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development   

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Minister's Response: Environment Canada

27 March 2008

Mr. David Berliner
2 - 56 Albany Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5R 3C3

Dear Mr. Berliner:

I am pleased to respond to your Environmental Petition No. 226, to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, regarding chrysotile asbestos. The petition was received by Environment Canada on December 19, 2007.

Due to the nature of the issues being raised in the petition, Environment Canada has collaborated with the other federal departments involved to prepare a joint response. The Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Foreign Affairs, will be providing you with the Government's response. This response has been reviewed by my officials, who are in concurrence with its conclusions.

Sincerely,

[Original signed by John Baird, Minister of Environment]

John Baird, P.C., M.P.

c.c.:

The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Tony Clement, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable David Emerson, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Gary Lunn, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Monte Solberg, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Maxime Bernier, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Michael Fortier, P.C.
Mr. Ronald C. Thompson, Interim Commissioner of the Environment
and Sustainable Development

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Minister's Response: Human Resources and Social Development Canada

20 March 2008

Mr. David Berliner
2-56 Albany Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5R 3C3

Dear Mr. Berliner:

This is in response to your petition no. 226 concerning chrysotile asbestos. I would like to inform you that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Maxime Bernier, will be replying on behalf of the Government.

Please rest assured that a response to your petition will be sent before April 17, 2008, as required by subsection 22(3) of the Auditor General Act.

Sincerely,

[Original signed by Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec]

Jean-Pierre Blackburn, P.C., M.P.

c.c. Mr. Ronald C. Thompson, FCA
Interim Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

The Honourable Maxime Bernier, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Foreign Affairs

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Joint Response: Canada Economic Development Agency for Quebec Regions, Environment Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade - Department of [2006-present], Health Canada, Human Resources and Social Development Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada 

4 April 2008

Mr. David Berliner
2 - 56 Albany Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5R 3C3

Dear Mr. Berliner:

I am writing in response to your Environmental Petition No. 226 to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, regarding Canada's policies on chrysotile asbestos. The petition was received by the ministers of Health, Environment, Foreign Affairs, Public Works and Government Services, Labour, Natural Resources and myself on December 20, 2007.

Due to the nature of the issues being raised in the petition, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) has collaborated with the above departments in preparing a joint response to your petition. My colleague, the Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Foreign Affairs, will be providing you with the government's response to the petition. This response has been reviewed by DFAIT officials, who are in concurrence with its conclusions.

I appreciate your interest in this important matter.

Sincerely,

[Original signed by David L. Emerson, Minister of International Trade and Minister of the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics]

The Honourable David L. Emerson, P.C., M.P.

c.c.:

The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Monte Solberg, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Gary Lunn, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Maxime Bernier, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Tony Clement, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Michael Fortier, P.C., M.P.
Mr. Ronald C. Thompson


ENVIRONMENT PETITION 226 - FOLLOW-UP TO PETITION 179, CHRYSOTILE ASBESTOS

QUESTION 1.a: Is the aforementioned agreement between Canada and industry a formal, written document? If yes, please provide the document. If not, why is this agreement not in writing, and when will the government be drafting such a document?

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Government of Canada, as represented by the Minister of Natural Resources, and JM Asbestos Inc. and LAB Chrysotile Inc., was signed by all Parties on March 3, 1997. To this day, the chrysotile industry still does not export to companies that do not use chrysotile in a manner that is consistent with Canada's controlled-use approach.

QUESTION 1.b: How can the government of Canada be sure that industry is monitoring buyers (in foreign countries) to ensure asbestos is being used in compliance with Canada’s controlled-use approach? Is there an investigation process that the Government of Canada or any other body performs? If yes, please elaborate. If not, why not? Is there an investigation process that foreign countries perform, and submit to the government of Canada? If yes, please elaborate, if not why not?

The controlled-use approach to chrysotile, adopted and promoted by the federal government since 1979, means that, through enforcement of appropriate regulations to rigorously control exposure at low levels, the risks associated with occupational exposure to chrysotile in mining, milling, product manufacturing, transportation and handling may be no greater than the risk present in other occupational situations. This approach is solidly based on extensive and internationally recognized and peer reviewed scientific studies.

Canada exports chrysotile and chrysotile-based products to more than 80 countries around the world. While implementation of domestic measures to ensure workplace health and safety is a sovereign responsibility of importing countries, Canada promotes the controlled use of chrysotile. Canada provides information on how to manage the risks associated with chrysotile and supports the work of the Chrysotile Institute.

The Chrysotile Institute, which promotes safe use of chrysotile internationally, provides information to governments, industry, unions, media, and the general public on how to manage the risks associated with the production and handling of chrysotile fibres. Information includes technical information about regulations, control measures, standards, and best practices. Countries are encouraged to implement measures in compliance with the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 162 on Safety in the Use of Asbestos. The Institute has organized and conducted information and dust control seminars for trade unions, held medical surveillance training programs, provided technical and financial assistance for launching national fibre associations and technology transfer in more than 60 countries around the world. Each initiative helps developing countries and countries with economies in transition meet the worker health and safety requirements of the ILO Convention 162.

QUESTION 1.c: Are there instances of industry denying a request for export because of non-compliance with Canada’s controlled-use approach? If a country is found to be in non-compliance of chrysotile asbestos standards, will the Government of Canada agree to restrict shipments to said country?
 
While Canada is not aware of any instances of a company refusing to export to a client, Canadian chrysotile industry has agreed not to export to companies that do not use chrysotile in a manner that is consistent with Canada's controlled-use approach.

QUESTION 1.d: Various authors, journalists and photographers have witnessed blatant violation of asbestos safety standards; for example, the Globe and Mail article “Asbestos Shame”? (especially the pictures by Louie Palu), and an article by Laurie Kazan-Allen reporting on the conference at Capitol Hill, Ottawa in September 2003 (especially Dr. Bally Casleman p 129, Dr. Tushar Kant Joshi p 131.) These eyewitnesses recount occupational health violations. If the Canadian government doesn’t recognize the validity of anecdotal and eyewitness evidence, what type of evidence does the Canadian government acknowledge? Has this type of evidence ever been gathered?

While the implementation of domestic measures to ensure workplace health and safety is a sovereign responsibility of importing countries, Canada makes efforts to promote the controlled use of chrysotile. Canada provides information on how to manage the risks associated with chrysotile and supports the work of the Chrysotile Institute, which assists other countries in building capacity and expertise to implement controlled use measures for chrysotile. Countries are encouraged to implement measures in compliance with the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 162 on Safety in the use of Asbestos. At the same time, it periodically collects data, based on industry input, on a range of workplace exposures in countries producing and using chrysotile (see response to 1.b).

QUESTION 1.e: Has the Canadian Government followed-up with respect to the allegations by Mr. Palu in the above Globe and Mail article that health standards at an Indian U.P. Asbestos plant are non-existent? How does the Canadian government respond to Mr. Palu’s statement that government inspectors in India took no action when blatant asbestos violations were witnessed at an asbestos-using auto-parts plant in New Delhi?

While Canada does not have the legal authority to monitor exposures in other countries, the industry has agreed not to export to companies that do not use chrysotile in a manner that is consitent with Canada’s controlled-use approach. At the same time, the Chrysotile Institute is helping to build capacity and expertise in countries using chrysotile to better ensure its controlled use. (see response to 1.b).

QUESTION 1.f: If chrysotile asbestos is being misused in foreign countries (contrary to controlled-use standards), and if the source of asbestos is proven to be Canada, is the Canadian government liable for damages (in the form of medical expenses)? Has the Government ever had to offer such compensation?

Canada does not have the legal authority to monitor exposure in other countries and the implementation of domestic measures to ensure workplace health and safety is a sovereign responsibility of importing countries. However, Canada promotes the controlled use of chrysotile and provides information on how to manage the risks associated with chrysotile, in compliance with the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 162 on Safety in the use of Asbestos through the support of the work of the Chrysotile Institute.

QUESTION 1.g: Is it the Canadian government’s position that all downstream use of chrysotile asbestos originating from Canada follows “controlled-use” standards?

Since 1979, the Government of Canada has consistently and repeatedly applied and promoted the policy of controlled-use of chrysotile. Canada has taken steps to ensure this approach is applied domestically through appropriate legislation at the federal, provincial and territorial level and by working internationally with other governments both directly and indirectly through the activities of the Chrysotile Institute.

QUESTION 2: As a major sponsor of the Chrysotile Institute, is the Canadian government aware of any third-party that reviews information that the Institute publishes either via brochure, publication or on the website, either domestically or abroad, for accuracy? Please provide any relevant documents.

The Chrysotile Institute is a non-profit organization which, among other things, promotes the adoption of prevention and control measures for the safe use of chrysotile. The Institute provides, to countries producing and using chrysotile, including information from peer-reviewed science, government regulations, industry best practice and training manuals that are informed by industrial hygiene specialists.

QUESTION 3: Does the Canadian government plan to implement a program that reviews facilities to which they plan to provide asbestos, to ensure “controlled-use” approaches are being enforced? Does the Canadian government plan on funding the Chrysotile Institute to perform this investigation and report back? How much would such a program cost? If this is not planned, why not?

Funding for the Chrysotile Institute, which is provided by the Government of Canada, the Government of Quebec and the chrysotile industry, is aimed, among other things, at promoting the adoption of prevention and control measures for the safe use of chrysotile in other countries.

The Institute provides training workshops and courses, organized in cooperation with national governments and often the International Labour Organisation (ILO); these activities are intended to promote the controlled use of chrysotile. The Institute has also developed manuals on safe working methods and equipment and has organized training courses for industrial health specialists and workers on air monitoring and dust control techniques.

QUESTION 4: According to Canada’s risk assessment of chrysotile asbestos, how many Canadian deaths are attributable to chrysotile asbestos at current ambient exposures levels? At current occupational exposure levels? Please provide all assumptions and calculations. If such risk assessment has not occurred, why not?

Health Canada is presently assessing the chrysotile exposure-cancer risk relationship along with an assessment of current chrysotile asbestos exposures in Canada. When this is completed, Health Canada will be able to determine risk estimates for Canadian exposures to chrysotile asbestos fibres.

The illnesses we are currently seeing in countries that have intensively used “asbestos” fibres, predominantly the amphibole asbestos group, are linked in large part to past high-level exposures and to inappropriate uses which have been discontinued in Canada since the late 1970’s

QUESTION 5: Does the Canadian government agree with the EPA’s findings in “Final Draft: Technical Support Document for a Protocol to Assess Asbestos Related Risk” (2003) page 7.46, that the hypothesis that “chrysotile and amphiboles fibres are equally potent carcinogens with respect to lung cancer” could not be rejected? How does this change Canada’s position that chrysotile is a less potent carcinogen compared to amphiboles?

The cited findings come from a “Report on the Peer Consultation Workshop to Discuss a Proposed Protocol to Assess Asbestos-Related Risk” prepared by the Eastern Research Group Inc. under contract to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2006, the EPA stated that the “Berman-Crump Protocol" examined in that report is a draft EPA method and had not yet been adopted by the EPA. Health Canada is presently assessing the chrysotile exposure-cancer risk relationship along with an assessment of current chrysotile asbestos exposures in Canada. When this is completed, Health Canada will be able to determine risk estimates for Canadian exposures to chrysotile asbestos fibres.

QUESTION 6: Has the government undertaken, or is the government aware of, a study that compares asbestos to other substitute materials in terms of cost, health effects, as well as manufacturing properties. If yes, please provide details. If not, when does the government plan to undertake such a project? If the government has no plans for such a report, why is the government convinced that chrysotile asbestos is the best solution for Canada, when alternatives have not been evaluated.

As part of its Priority Substances List (PSL) assessments under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1988), the Government carried out an assessment of man-made vitreous fibres (rock and slag wool, glass wool, glass microfibres, continuous glass filaments and aluminosilicate refractory ceramic fibres) and published the results in 1993. It was concluded that of the substances studied, refractory ceramic fibre was probably carcinogenic to humans and may enter the environment in quantities or under conditions that may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health. The report is available on the internet at http://www.ec.gc.ca/substances/ese/eng/psap/PSL1_vitreous_fibres.cfm

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the World Health Organization, convened a Workshop on Mechanisms of Fibre Carcinogenesis and Assessment of Chrysotile Asbestos Substitutes November 8-12, 2005 in Lyon, France. A final report has not has not yet been published, but an initial summary report has been completed (copy attached). It is also currently available on the internet at http://www.who.int/ipcs/publications/new_issues/summary_report.pdf

In addition, the Society of Chemical Industry has published a book entitled "Alternatives to Asbestos: The Pros and Cons” (Critical Reports on Applied Chemistry, Volume 26). Edited by A. A. Hodgson. It was published for the Society of Chemical Industry by John Wiley and Sons, in 1989. It contains three chapters, entitled "The Alternative Raw Materials" by A. A. Hodgson, "The Feasibility of Substitution" by A. Pye and "The Health Aspects" by P.C. Elmes.

Recent studies have shown that many fibres used to replace “asbestos” may be as hazardous or even more hazardous than chrysotile. All scientific reviews to date clearly confirm that chrysotile can be used under controlled use conditions which is not the case with substitute fibres.

QUESTION 7: To demonstrate Canada’s controlled-use asbestos export policy, would the Canadian government be willing to participate in a cultural exchange program to India, where delegates work in a controlled-use asbestos facility. Workers could wear the proper protective clothing and see if they can work in the heat. Could you estimate the cost of this exchange based on a 5-person delegation and 1-week exchange? How does this cost compare to similar federal expenditures to promote asbestos abroad, especially those mentioned under question 4 b, c, f, g in petition 179. When will this cultural exchange be taking place?

Canada exports chrysotile and chrysotile-based products to more than 80 countries around the world. While implementation of domestic measures to ensure workplace health and safety is a sovereign responsibility of importing countries, Canada continues to promote the controlled use of chrysotile through distribution of information on how to manage the risks associated with chrysotile and through support of the work of the Chrysotile Institute.
 
QUESTION 8: Does the federal government provide compensation for Canadian workers who were exposed to asbestos in the past, and are now suffering from asbestos-related diseases, for example asbestosis, mesothelioma, or lung cancer. If yes, how much has been provided to date? Also, what does the federal government do to ensure those who are diagnosed with mesothelioma are aware of compensation possibilities?

All Federal Government Departments and most Crown corporations, which account for approximately 400,000 employees across the country, are covered under the Government Employers Compensation Act (GECA). From January 1, 1996 to December 12, 2007, a total of 131 claims for a total cost of $3,741,823 were submitted under the Act in which the nature of injury was asbestosis, malignant neoplasms and tumors or pneumoconioses.

Private sector federally regulated employers (other than all Federal Government Departments and most Crown corporations), are subject to provincial jurisdiction for purposes of workers’ compensation.

Statistics for provincially regulated employers can be obtained from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada whose main purpose is to collect data from the provincial/territorial jurisdictions and maintain a national database.

Employers and employees who are covered under the GECA, as well as provincial compensation boards, are made aware of compensation possibilities related to occupational diseases through their medical doctors, provincial Workers’ Compensation Board websites and the Labour Program's website.

QUESTION 9: Does a national surveillance program that tracks asbestos-related diseases in Canada exist? If not, will the government work with the provinces to create such a program?

The annual number of new cases of mesothelioma by age group is available at the Public Health Agency of Canada web site Cancer Surveillance On-Line, based on data from the Canadian Cancer Registry at Statistics Canada. In addition, the annual number of deaths from asbestosis by age group is published in the Statistics Canada publication "Causes of Death".

QUESTION 10: Does the Federal government oversee a public registry of buildings that contain asbestos? If not, why not?

The Treasury Board Secretariat, as the as the government’s real property administrative policy authority, does not oversee a public registry of buildings that contain asbestos. There is no specific or administrative policy requirement arising from federal legislation that would require such a registry or the reporting of related data to such a registry.

Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), as part of its common service mandate, is the Government’s manager and steward of common office space. In this capacity, PWGSC is the custodian of approximately 1.9 percent of the 46,000 federally owned or leased government buildings, which houses approximately 65 to 70 percent of federal public service employees. PWGSC, in its role as building owner, tenant and landlord identifies, assesses and maintains an inventory of asbestos containing materials in government buildings and facilities where it is the custodian.

Many of the buildings managed by PWGSC still contain asbestos, and as such, PWGSC has developed and implemented a Policy on Asbestos Management, which provides for a code of practice for managing asbestos in PWGSC owned or leased buildings. PWGSC’s policy ensures that the department manages associated health risks by limiting exposure. This is done within the context of an Asbestos Management Plan, which surveys the building for, and provides regular inspection and surveillance of, asbestos containing materials.

Once an asbestos survey has been completed and assessment of the materials has been made, the information is recorded and is made available to maintenance staff, contractors, and workplace safety and health committee representatives at the respective building or facility to ensure that an up-to-date inventory is maintained.

More recently, PWGSC has developed a national information management system for the collection and reporting of building related data. PWGSC’s Real Property Management System replaces a previous, outdated system and enables PWGSC to demonstrate due diligence and compliance with legislative reporting requirements, with respect to the environmental legislation and federal government environmental policy under which it operates.

The Real Property Management System facilitates the collection of Asbestos related data and the retention of Asbestos Management Plans. The Asbestos Management module within Real Property Management System was implemented in July 2007. This module is currently being populated with information that resides with regional PWGSC Asbestos Coordinators, and/or buildings for which the Asbestos Management Plans were prepared.

QUESTION 11: What is Canada’s position with respect to listing asbestos at the upcoming Rotterdam Convention in 2008?

Canada joined with all parties in deciding to defer consideration of the listing of chrysotile until the fourth Conference of the Parties (COP4) in October 2008. Canada is reviewing this issue as part of its preparations for COP4.

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Minister's Response: Health Canada

16 April 2008

Mr. David Berliner
2 - 56 Albany Street
Toronto, Ontario M5R 3C3

Dear Mr. Berliner:

This is in response to your environmental petition no. 226 of December 18, 2007, addressed to Mr. Ronald Thompson, the Interim Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD).

In your petition you raised concerns about chrysotile asbestos.

Due to the nature of the questions being raised in the petition, Health Canada has collaborated with the other departments involved to prepare a joint response. My colleague, the Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Foreign Affairs, will be providing you with the Government of Canada response to the petition. This response has been reviewed by my officials, who are in concurrence with its conclusions.

I appreciate your interest in this important matter, and I hope that you will find the information useful.

Yours sincerely,

[Original signed by Tony Clement, Minister of Health and the Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario]

Tony Clement

c.c.: Mr. Ronald C. Thompson, Interim CESD
The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, P.C., M.P., Minister of Labour
The Honourable David Emerson, P.C., M.P., Minister of International Trade
The Honourable Gary Lunn, P.C., M.P., Minister of Natural Resources
The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P., Minister of the Environment
The Honourable Monte Solberg, P.C., M.P., Minister of Human Resources
and Social Development
The Honourable Maxime Bernier, P.C., M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs 
The Honourable Michael Fortier, P.C., Senator, Minister of Public Works and
Government Services

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Minister's Response: Natural Resources Canada

25 March 2008

Mr. David Berliner
56 Albany Street, #2
Toronto, Ontario
M5R 3C3

Dear Mr. Berliner:

I am pleased to respond to your Environmental Petition no. 226 addressed to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, concerning follow-up to Petition 179 relating to chrysotile asbestos.

The departments of Foreign Affairs, Labour, Health, International Trade, the Environment, Human Resources and Social Development, Public Works and Government Services, and Natural Resources Canada have coordinated their efforts in preparing the government's response. In the interest of avoiding sending you duplicate responses, my colleague the Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Foreign Affairs, will be sending you the joint response.

I appreciate having this opportunity to respond to your petition. Thank you for raising these important concerns.

Yours sincerely,

[Original signed by Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources]

The Honourable Gary Lunn, P.C., M.P.

c.c.:

Mr. Ronald C. Thompson,
Interim Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

The Honourable Maxime Bernier, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Foreign Affairs

The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P.
Minister of the Environment

The Honourable David Emerson, P.C., M.P.
Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway
and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

The Honourable Tony Clement, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Health and the Minister for the Federal Economic
Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency
of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

The Honourable Monte Solberg, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

The Honourable Michael Fortier, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Public Works and Government Services

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Minister's Response: Public Works and Government Services Canada

8 Aprill 2008

David Berliner
56 Albany St. #2
Toronto, Ontario
M5R 3C3

Dear Mr. Berliner:

I am writing in response to your follow-up petition concerning Chrysotile Asbestos received by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development on December 19, 2007.

In addition to my department, the Commissioner has asked the Ministers of Environment, Health, Human Resources and Social Development, International Trade, Foreign Affairs, Labour and Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, and Natural Resources, to respond.

Due to the horizontal nature of the issues raised within this petition, my department has worked jointly with the above-mentioned departments to develop the consolidated government response that will be provided to you under the signature of my colleague, the Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

I appreciate your interest in this important matter.

Yours sincerely,

[Original signed by Michael M. Fortier, Minister of Public Works and Government Services – Receiver General of Canada]

c.c.:

Mr. Ron Thompson
Interim Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn
Minister of Labour and
Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

The Honourable John Baird
Minister of the Environment

The Honourable Tony Clement
Minister of Health and the Minister for the Federal
Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

The Honourable Monte Solberg
Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

The Honourable David Emerson
Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway
and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

The Honourable Maxime Bernier
Minister of Foreign Affairs

The Honourable Gary Lunn
Minister of Natural Resources