April 28th 2016
Today, the flag on Parliament Hill will fly at half-mast as people across the country light candles, don ribbons and attend ceremonies to remember our colleagues, friends and family members who have been killed due to workplace-related hazards and incidents.
We can’t bring back those who have passed, but we can continue to push to make our workplaces safer today. That’s why this April 28th, Canadian unions are calling for a national ban on asbestos, a known killer that causes disease, suffering and death – all of it preventable.
At a ceremony earlier today Brother Bob McCallion stated, “To continue to use asbestos today, is to plot the death of a worker 20, 30 or 40 years from now”. I don’t believe this is too strong of a statement when it comes to this deadly substance.
It is estimated that more than 2,000 people die every year, in Canada, from diseases caused by exposure to asbestos; including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.
We continue to use asbestos, in products like brake pads, even though the asbestos free alternatives are produced right here in our province. Providing jobs to people in our own province. Asbestos is the number-one cause of occupational death in Canada and is considered a global pandemic.
Despite this, imports of items that contain asbestos, like brake pads and cement pipes, are on the rise. The lack of a formal registry of buildings known to contain asbestos also adds to the risk of needless exposure. Plans for new spending on infrastructure, at all levels of government, make it urgent to put a ban in place now – to guarantee those projects are asbestos free.
Unions have already made a difference in making our workplaces safer.
Unions have advocated to reduce the hazards people face when working in confined spaces. We have fostered workplace protections for victims of domestic violence. In recognizing that not all injuries are physical, unions are also taking on the stigma of mental illness and have factored mental health into what makes a workplace healthy and safe.
Unions, through organizations like the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), continue to stand up for the health and safety of everyone who works for a living. We work with employers to improve working conditions. We work with governments to improve workplace health and safety standards and advocate to pass laws to punish employers who needlessly put lives at risk for their own gain.
Twenty-five years ago, the federal government proclaimed April 28th as the National Day of Mourning for workers injured or killed on the job. This year, Canada can take a giant step forward with a ban on asbestos- making all of our workplaces, homes and public spaces safer and healthier.
I urge all of you to join the Canadian Labour Congress and the Niagara Regional Labour Council in calling for a comprehensive national ban on the use, export and import of asbestos.
Together, let’s work to make it happen.
Special thanks to Lisa Bastien CLC for providing a copy of her speech.