Bill 88, Asbestos Use Prohibition Act 2017, introduced by MPP Robert Bailey, passed second reading in the House February 23 and was sent to the Standing Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly. Scheduled hearings for Bill 88 before the Legislative Committee will be announced in Notice of hearings.
The Bill (read text here) bans the use, reuse, import, transport or sale of asbestos in Ontario. The bill aims to close a loophole that allows for the import and use of new raw asbestos and asbestos products in Ontario such as brake pads and fibre cement pipe. (The federal comprehensive asbestos ban is not expected to take effect until 2018). Bill 88 also requires the Ministry of Labour to create and maintain a Register of all provincially owned or leased buildings containing asbestos and its removal.
The Sarnia-Lambton MPP told the House that he decided on the bill after attending many Day of Mourning events in his riding of Sarnia-Lambton, home to Chemical Valley’s petrochemicals and refineries plants, a region with the highest rate in Ontario of mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
Leading occupational killer
Asbestos remains the top cause of occupational deaths, accounting for nearly 70% of all compensated deaths. Canadian workers’ compensation boards have accepted more than 5,700 asbestos-related claims since 1996. “A fraction of the true burden”, this number reflects successful claims only. The long time between exposure and diagnosis (up to 40 years+) also means mesothelioma and other asbestos-related disease have frequently been under-recognized and unreported. With approximately 150,000 Canadian workers (52,000 in Ontario) still exposed to asbestos on the job, the Occupational Cancer Research Centre’s Paul Demers estimates asbestos may be responsible for at least 2,000 new cancers each year in Canada, mostly fatal.
“Asbestos fibres floated thick in the air…”
Such were the conditions described by former workers at the General Electric plant in Peterborough, where asbestos was just one of the “toxic soup” of multiple chemicals to which workers were exposed and left vulnerable in broken system for monitoring and compensating occupational diseases. In Toronto Star’s Dec. 17 2016 report “Lethal Legacy” occupational disease researchers point to the lack of a province-wide system for surveillance and prevention of occupational disease together with lax enforcement of compliance with health and safety regulations; the failure of health-care providers to routinely collect patients’ work histories; and, a workers’ compensation system that “bases its decisions on a narrow and outdated understanding of occupational disease — an area of research that still receives little attention and funding.” Experts charge the WSIB still looks for definitive proof of the work-relatedness of an illness, despite a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that as existing research may not allow scientific certainty workers’ compensation boards should in considering all evidence, decide entitlement based on the balance of probabilities.
- Widows of Asbestos (Peterborough – Facebook)
- Occupational Cancer Research Centre. 2016. OCRC Resources on Asbestos. Toronto
- CBC The Current. 2016 Dec. 15. Thought Asbestos was Fully Banned in Canada? Not Until 2018. [listen to podcast, 21 mins]
- Globe and Mail. 2016 Dec. 15.“By the Numbers: A Closer Look at Asbestos.”
- Walker, Cathy. 2016 Nov. 1. The Politics of Asbestos: Canada’s Shame [slide presentation to Simon Fraser University]
- Del Bianco, Ann & Paul Demers. 2013 Sep. “Trends in Compensation for Deaths from Occupational Cancer In Canada: A Descriptive Study.” CMAJ Open 1(3): E91-E96