'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

October 1, 2011

Asbestos, Abortion and the Canadian Prime Minister's cats

Chain The Dogma      October 1, 2011

Asbestos, Abortion and the Canadian Prime Minister's cats

by Perry Bulwer

Several Canadian Parliament buildings, including the Prime Minister's residence,  are currently undergoing renovations to remove deadly asbestos used as insulation for decades before it was known to cause cancer and other deadly diseases. That particular kind of remedial renovation has been going on across the country for some time now, in all kinds of buildings including homes and schools, because there is absolutely no doubt that asbestos kills people.  Those renovations on Parliament Hill will cost taxpayers close to one billion dollars, but the politicians and bureaucrats who work and live there deserve a safe environment so the cost is justified. Or is it? Perhaps those politicians, who love to call themselves public servants, ought to actually serve the public before serving themselves, and first end homelessness and near homelessness by ensuring that all citizens have adequate, safe housing before they fix up their own house. They obviously care little about the citizens they claim to serve, especially the poorest ones, but even worse, most of the politicians, including a medical doctor, who are part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government have absolutely no qualms about exporting Canadian-mined asbestos to poor countries where it will surely kill people. Either that or they simply ignore their conscience and obey the dictates of our anti-democratic Prime Minister.

To save the Canadian asbestos export market, which brings a mere $90 million into the economy (that's 10% of the cost of renovating just those Parliament buildings), Stephen Harper ordered his government delegates attending the 2011 Rotterdam Convention to oppose listing asbestos in the international list of hazardous chemicals. Listing asbestos as a hazardous material would not prevent Canada from exporting it. Instead, listing it would simply require Canada to acknowledge the well established harms to health it causes and provide health information labelling on export shipments. Yet Stephen Harper is not willing to take even that minimal step to protect people in poor countries, including women and children, who will be exposed to Canadian asbestos, though he is willing to protect himself and his colleagues by spending a billion dollars to remove it from his home and work place. That deadly hypocrisy is obvious to both the international  and domestic communities.

Adding to Harper's hypocrisy on the issue of asbestos is the fact that he claims  to be an international advocate for maternal and child health. In September 2011, a day before attending a high-level conference at the U.N. on maternal and child health in developing countries, Harper stated: "Canada continues to play a leading role on the world stage – from improving the health of women and children in developing countries to ...."  If that is true, why is he endangering the health of women and children by allowing exports of Canadian asbestos and insisting that no health warnings of its toxicity accompany those exports? He is obviously aware that asbestos is dangerous to health, otherwise why remove it from the Parliament buildings at such great expense at a time of serious fiscal instability. Does Harper think women and children in India, for example, do not deserve the same protection from asbestos as he and his colleagues, or the women and children of Canada? Here is how asbestos affected just one Indian family.

One thing Rajendra Pevekar remembers from falling asleep on his father’s chest as a child is the smell of burnt plastic and the shiny specks of dust sticking to his clothes.

What Pevekar didn’t know was that the dust had a name -- asbestos -- and a record of wrecking the lungs of those who inhale it. Only last year did he draw a connection between the fiber from the auto-parts factory where his father worked sweeping the floor, the man’s early death, the disease that left his mother crippled and his own shortness of breath.

“This is a slow poison,” Pevekar said in an interview at his home in Mumbai’s working class neighborhood of Ghatkopar. “It destroys your lungs and you don’t even know it.”
Canada was India’s second-largest overseas supplier of asbestos in 2009, trailing Russia, according to the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics database.

We should not look to Harper's politically motivated public statements expressing concern for the health of women and children, but to his actions, which demonstrate exactly the opposite. It is deceptive of Harper to claim a leading role in improving women and children's health internationally when he continues to insist on Canada's right to export toxic materials that will kill many of those women and children, or when he prohibits any Canadian funding from going to international reproductive services for women.

Harper's desire to be seen as an international advocate for women and children's health began during the lead up to the G-8 summit meeting held in Canada in June 2010. His approach to the issue, informed by the religious dogma of his church, was controversial from the start because of his insistence that no Canadian funding be used for any international project that included contraceptive or abortion services. U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, did not hesitate to publicly criticize Harper's position during her visit to Canada in March 2010, stating:

You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health, and reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortion.
I've also been very involved in promoting family planning and contraception as a way to prevent abortion. If you're concerned about abortion, then women should have access to family planning. And finally, I do not think governments should be involved in making these decisions.

Two weeks before that Clinton visit, Canadian Foreign Minister, Lawrence Cannon, announced that birth control would not be part of any maternal health program supported by Canada. Two days later, Prime Minister Harper seemed to reverse that position, stating that contraceptive services would not be ruled out, but he remained adamant that abortion services would not be part of any Canadian funded program.

Stephen Harper is a member of the evangelical, fundamentalist Christian and Missionary Alliance church,  so he has no choice but to oppose abortion, though it is politically dangerous for him to say so publicly. That is why Harper has never publicly affirmed that right of citizens, although abortion is legal in Canada and supported by a majority of Canadians. Since 2006, when he was first elected, until the most recent federal election in May 2011, Harper led a minority government. That meant he did not have the political clout to reopen and win parliamentary debates on issues important to his conservative constituents and caucus, such as the legal right to abortion or same sex marriage, which became legal in 2005. Harper managed to avoid the issue of abortion during those years, however, in the lead up to the election in May of this year, and with a majority government within his grasp that he did not want to jeopardize, he was forced to reassure voters he had no intention to reopen that debate. But now that he has won that majority (though only 40% of those who voted, voted for his part), and despite those assurances, it seems political debate on abortion has reopened even though it is a constitutional right.

Harper's claim that he had no intention of reopening parliamentary debates on abortion was undermined by the actions, or more accurately deliberate inactions, of one of his cabinet members, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda, who was undoubtedly directed by Harper. Applications by Planned Parenthood in 2009 and 2010 for funding were ignored by Oda, prompting one of Harper's Conservative MPs, Brad Trost, to declare during the 2011 election campaign  that the government had defunded Planned Parenthood because of its support for abortion and therefore had reopened debate on the issue. That wasn't exactly true, as no decision had been made, but it forced Harper to make those assurances that he would not reopen the abortion debate while he was Prime Minister. After the federal election this year, Planned Parenthood submitted a revised application for funding and in September 2011 Oda approved funding to provide sex education and contraception, but only in five developing countries where abortions are illegal. That decision by Oda prompted Trost to state: "So in reinvigorating the debate as they have by funding IPPF, you'll see more politicians like myself will be discussing the matter. In a respectful way, but it will be discussed."

Although Harper is legally restrained from denying Canadian women their legal right to abortions, he has no problem exporting his fundamentalist ideology abroad. He can't help himself, it is what evangelists do. Morally, however, I see no difference between exporting asbestos that will kill women and children in developing countries and exporting religious ideology disguised as aid that comes with contractual conditions that prohibit life-saving and live-improving health services because of dogma. But morality is not Stephen Harper's strong point, if his official website is anything to go by. As I wrote in a previous post:

Around four million Canadians, including more than one in seven children, live in poverty yet the Harper government recently refused to accept the evidence-based recommendations of a Parliamentary committee to develop and implement a poverty-reduction plan. One in seven Canadian children in poverty amounts to over one million poor children. It is a national disgrace for one of the richest countries in the world, yet Prime Minister Harper shows more compassion and concern for the welfare of cats than children. His official website demonstrates that clearly. The home page under Family Center provides information on how to foster or adopt pets, but nowhere can you find any concern for the welfare of a million children suffering the indignity of poverty.

Perhaps Harper thinks a million Canadian children suffering the indignity of poverty is nothing compared to the suffering of an estimated 70 to 100 million feral cats in North America.  Or maybe his concern for cats is nothing more than mere politicking. "This public cuddling and cooing might have something to do with presenting a warmer image of the Prime Minister, but the Harpers seem legitimately committed to the cause of feline welfare," speculated Aaron Wherry in Maclean's.  Too bad Stephen Harper is not legitimately committed to improving the welfare of children living in poverty, or the estimated 67 to 78 thousand Canadian children living in care homes, most of whom are awaiting adoption. He would rather promote the adoption of house cats, which are an invasive species not indigenous to Canada, than promote the end of poverty, sub-standard housing, and homelessness for Canadian citizens and their children.


Canada's Christian fundamentalist Prime Minister tells millions of poor no need to protest

Red Cross emergency mission to Indian reservation exposes Canadian apartheid


  1. Growing number of Tories questioning Harper’s position on asbestos

    The Canadian Press November 20, 2011

    A growing number of Conservative MPs are questioning their government's position on the export of asbestos, with a group of them independently summoning industry experts to a meeting on Parliament Hill last week.

    Solid caucus discipline has been one of Stephen Harper's political achievements over six years in power. While open revolt over asbestos hasn't erupted, clear faultlines over government resistance to having the substance listed as hazardous internationally suggest the prime minister may be forced to deal with a rare case of internal dissent.

    The first public cracks in the Conservative party line came on Nov. 1, when five Tory MPs broke ranks and abstained from an NDP vote that would have banned asbestos exports.

    That was followed last Monday with a private Parliament Hill meeting that saw about a dozen Conservative parliamentarians ask some pointed questions of the Chrysotile Institute and industry scientists over several hours.

    British Columbia MP Mark Warawa, who has expressed his concerns about asbestos in the past, organized the meeting. He said in an interview that he is simply looking for more facts.

    Industry critics say it's laughable to expect top-notch safety standards in the poorer countries that import the substance. Mr. Warawa said he wants more clarity on those workplace conditions.

    “Chrysotile asbestos can be handled in a safe manner. The question is: is it? That's what I'm looking into,” he said.

    “I think that's been the continuing message of our government, that it can be handled in a safe manner,” said Mr. Warawa, noting that asbestos is still used safely in Canada in some products.

    “Whatever decision is made internationally has to be based on science, and the facts, and it's not helpful to have rhetoric, it has to be based on science and facts, and that's why I'm doing research just to find out what is happening internationally.”

    Alberta Conservative MP Jim Hillyer also attended the meeting. He said he abstained from the Commons vote a few weeks ago for personal reasons – he suffered from leukemia as a younger man. Regular, unprotected exposure to asbestos fibres has been linked to lung diseases including cancer.

    “We ask questions so that we can make decisions that we feel are in the best interest of Canada, so it certainly wasn't a love-fest where we were making strategies with the asbestos industry or the chrysotile industry,” said Mr. Hillyer.

    “But at the same time we weren't there to attack them and lambaste them, we were just there to get some information.”

    Other Conservative MPs who were not at the meeting have told The Canadian Press they too are uneasy with the current position on asbestos. One Tory, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said some of his colleagues might have voted for the recent NDP motion if had been worded more narrowly and had actually been binding on government.

    “I think there's people who want to see some action taken on this,” said the MP.

    Bernard Coulombe, president of Quebec's Jeffrey asbestos mine, said he was given a full report about the Tory meeting by someone in attendance. Mr. Coulombe, who declined to reveal his source at the session, said he was told that Chrysotile Institute president Clement Godbout and a few scientists spoke to the parliamentarians.

    “I don't know what the outcome [of the meeting] will be, but these MPs asked questions like, ‘Why does our government, or our party, continue to support the exploitation and the export of chrysotile if it's this dangerous?' ” Mr. Coulombe said in an interview from the mine in Asbestos, Que. ...

    read the rest of the article at:


  2. Asbestos mining stops for first time in 130 years

    CBC News November 24, 2011

    Canada's asbestos industry has quietly stopped churning out the controversial fibre, with production halted at the country's two mines for the first time in 130 years.

    A shutdown at Quebec's Lac d'amiante du Canada operation earlier this month marked a historic moment for Canada's once-mighty asbestos sector, which has come under increasing scrutiny as science has linked the mineral to serious health issues such as lung disease and cancer.

    The news also came as relatives of those who died from asbestos exposure spoke to the press on Parliament Hill, asking for the industry to come to a halt, for good.

    Both of Heidi von Palleske's parents died from asbestos-related diseases, she told reporters on Thursday. Her father worked at an asbestos plant, bringing the fibres home with him. Von Palleske's mother died in August of mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos fibres, she said.

    "She died very bravely, with love on her lips, and a desire that the asbestos industry comes to an end ... Four days before she died, I recorded a plea where she asked that the exportation of asbestos to Third World countries be stopped, because nobody should die the way she was dying."

    Still, proponents of the industry insist it's way too early write the obituary on Canadian asbestos; they're hoping to start digging again as soon as the spring.

    The stoppage at the Lac d'amiante du Canada operation in Thetford Mines, Que., followed a production halt at the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, about 90 kilometres away.

    The future of both mines is unclear.

    Jeffrey Mine needs a bank-loan guarantee from the Quebec government before it can start digging a new underground mine.

    Lac d'amiante du Canada is apparently facing operational obstacles in accessing its mineral.

    Still, although the controversial mineral was removed from inside Parliament buildings over health concerns, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has backed Canada's asbestos industry.

    "The government will not put Canadian industry in a position where it is discriminated against in a market where sale is permitted," Harper said in April.

    NDP MP Pat Martin, however, has been a vocal opponent of the industry. Earlier this month, he read a petition in Parliament signed by "thousands" of Canadians calling for the country to ban asbestos and all its forms. More Canadians now die from asbestos than all other industrial causes combined, he said.

    "Canada remains one of the largest producers and exporters of asbestos in the world, and spends millions of dollars subsidizing the asbestos industry and curbing international efforts to curb its use.... They call upon government to end all subsidies of asbestos both in Canada and abroad, and they call upon the government to stop blocking international health and safety conventions, designed to protect workers from asbestos," Martin said.

    Canadian asbestos is expected to disappear from the international market altogether in the coming weeks, as the stockpiles at both operations dry up, says Jeffrey Mine president Bernard Coulombe.

    Does the production standstill signal the end of Canada's embattled asbestos sector? Not if you ask Coulombe.

    "It's not closed ... fibre is still being sold," said Coulombe, who explains that both mines are still selling small amounts from their limited inventories.

    He predicts production to resume at Jeffrey in the spring — once the loan-guarantee is secured. ...

    read the rest of the article at:


  3. Child pleads with Harper to drop support for asbestos industry


    OTTAWA - Little Cavanagh Matmor has a message for Prime Minister Stephen Harper: The sixth-grader didn't appreciate Harper's "cut-and-paste reply'' to her emotional letter pleading with him to end the government's support for the asbestos industry.

    Matmor, 11, and her mother, Heidi von Palleske, travelled to Parliament Hill Thursday from Cobourg, Ont., as part of an escalating campaign to kill Canada's asbestos industry.

    After 130 years, asbestos mining in Canada was suspended earlier this month, but the industry could be revived if the Jeffrey mine in Asbestos, Que., secures a loan guarantee from the provincial government to open an underground mine. In the meantime, inventory continues to be exported while Ottawa promotes the ``safe use'' of the cancer-causing fibres in overseas markets.

    ``They don't know how it feels to have a grandmother and a grandfather die of asbestos,'' an emotional Cavanagh told reporters on Parliament Hill. ``It breaks my heart. It breaks my heart that they're going to continue doing that and people from other countries are going to have to go through the same thing. It's hard to take in.''

    The family matriarch, Doreen Stachan, died in August from mesothelioma, linked to asbestos exposure through her husband, Wolfgang von Palleske. He was exposed to asbestos from the Jeffrey mine, previously known as the Johns Manville mine, when he worked at an asbestos plant in Toronto. He died of mesothelioma in 2007.

    ``It's very hurtful,'' von Palleske, said of Harper's response to her family's pleas.

    In addition to Cavanagh's letter, Heidi von Palleske also has received a form letter from Harper in response to her own correspondence.

    Earlier this summer, the family invited Harper to the family home for tea to meet Doreen prior to her death. The dying woman also made a tape recording for Harper, begging him to ban asbestos exports.

    ``I feel like their minds are made up, but I'm not going to shut up because I've paid with the blood of my two parents.''

    Cavanagh said she wants Harper to know how difficult it was to see her grandmother in the last days of her life.

    ``She tried to say, `I love you,' but she couldn't,'' said Cavanagh. ``She was gasping for air.''

    For now, the prime minister isn't budging.

    ``Our sympathy goes to the family and indeed, to all families who have lost loved ones to cancer,'' Harper's spokesman, Andrew MacDougall, said in a statement issued after the emotional news conference.

    ``Canada, under various governments, has promoted the safe use of chrysotile domestically and internationally for more than 30 years. Scientific reviews confirm that chrysotile fibres can be used safely under controlled conditions.''

    Earlier this summer, Canada blocked the listing of chrysotile asbestos on Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention.

    Such a listing would have required Canada to receive ``Prior Informed Consent'' before the mineral could be exported. That would have allowed developing countries that import asbestos to, after being informed of the hazards, refuse to accept the carcinogen if they thought they could not handle it safely.

    The Conservative caucus also voted against an NDP motion earlier this month to ban the export of asbestos. Five Tory MPs abstained.

    The family was joined on Parliament Hill by anti-asbestos campaigner Kathleen Ruff and Steven Staples of the Rideau Institute.


  4. Asia Pacific Fdn Pressured to Disavow Former Fellow's Pro-Asbestos Stance

    By Tom Sandborn, 1 December 2011, TheTyee.ca

    A group of scientists and anti-asbestos campaigners are demanding the prestigious Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada disavow pro-asbestos statements made by a former foundation fellow, Baljit Chadha.

    In recent letters penned to the foundation, human rights campaigner Kathleen Ruff and a group of prominent scientists slammed Chadha's support of Canada's export trade in chrysotile asbestos. As The Tyee reported earlier this year, asbestos mining and export has come under fire from a long list of medical and public health bodies, including the Canadian Medical Association, and labour and social justice groups such as the Canadian Labour Congress.

    A spokesperson for Chadha -- a key figure in an attempt to raise public and private money to revamp and re-open Quebec's Jeffrey Mine, which produces chrysotile asbestos primarily for the export market into Third World countries -- disputes the claims made in the letters. Chadha's group of investors hopes to win support from the Quebec government to re-open the operation as an underground mine.

    It's the latest round in a long debate over the future of the industry, one that, while currently stalled, could see a second life should Chadha win Quebec's support.

    'No intention of resigning': Chadha's rep

    The Tyee obtained letters sent to the foundation by Ruff, a former director of the B.C. Human Rights Commission, as well as the group of scientists supporting her call for action on Chadha's statements. Chadha has made his pro-asbestos views known in various venues, including in a Montreal Gazette op-ed and on the foundation's website.

    (The APF website currently hosts a discussion about asbestos export, including an essay by Chadha and a response by Ruff.)

    "I believe that Mr. Chadha's conduct violates normal standards for any reputable research organisation and discredits the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada," states Ruff’s letter. "I request that you ask Mr. Chadha to stop denying the overwhelming, clear, reputable scientific evidence and to stop serving his vested interests by promoting deceptive misinformation concerning chrysotile asbestos."

    Ruff's letter echoed a similar call from 25 scientists and physicians. They argue the foundation is "violating minimum ethical standards" by refusing to take action against Chadha, "who falsely claims that the World Health Organization supports the use of asbestos, when, in fact, the World Health Organization opposes the use of asbestos." ...

    read the rest of the article at:


  5. National law organization joins call to ban asbestos

    By Tom Sandborn, The Tyee December 8, 2011

    A national environmental law organization has issued a statement today calling for a total ban on asbestos.

    The Canadian Environmental Law Association is calling for broad support for banning asbestos across the US and Canada. The CELA endorsed a statement, The North American Declaration -- issued in Washington DC by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and the Canadian Voices of Asbestos Victims -- which calls on Canadian Prime Minister Harper and US President Obama to take immediate steps to prevent further production or export of asbestos.

    "My father was exposed to asbestos while working as a labourer and electrician at the petro-chemical plants in Sarnia, Ontario. In 2008, he died from mesothelioma, just two months after his diagnosis, thirty to forty years after he was exposed," said Stacy Cattran, Canadian Voices of Asbestos Victims Co-Founder. "Sarnia, like so many industrial towns, has suffered the loss of too many of her citizens to asbestos-related disease. After 130 years of mining asbestos, it is time for Canada to close the mines and transition the affected workers to other forms of industry. . . "

    "It is unconscionable that while Canadians are spending billions of dollars on health care costs for asbestos victims in Canada and on removing asbestos from our schools, homes, hospitals and public buildings -- including Prime Minister Harper's workplace and residence -- the Canadian government is providing political and financial support to the asbestos lobby and supports a plan to relaunch Canada's bankrupt and deadly asbestos industry,” asbestos campaigner Kathleen Ruff told the Tyee.

    "The asbestos issue is a shocking example of denial of science and environmental racism by our government."

    As reported earlier in the Tyee, many health, trade union and human rights groups across Canada, including the Canadian Labour Congress and the Canadian Medical Association, have called for an end of Canada’s national asbestos policy, which has allowed the known carcinogen (now rarely used in Canada itself) to be exported to 3d World countries. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure, critics argue, and Canada should cease exports altogether.

    "For the first time in decades, Canada's asbestos mines have stopped production. However, a decision to finance, reopen and expand the Jeffrey Mine in Quebec is expected by the end of the year", said Fe de Leon, Researcher at CELA in a press statement. "If the Quebec government supports a decision to restart these mining operations, it will entrench the Canadian export of this cancer causing substance for decades to come. For developing countries where there are markets for Canadian asbestos, workers and their communities will bear the burden of asbestos exposure since exporters are not required to provide information on the toxicity or safe handling of these hazardous substances. This year, Canada was one of several countries that opposed listing asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention for exchanging information on hazardous substances. Consequently, health and safety labeling need not accompany these exports to unsuspecting workers."

    Tom Sandborn covers health policy and labour news for the Tyee.


  6. Voice from Grave Pleads for Canadian Asbestos Ban

    By Tom Sandborn, Today, TheTyee.ca January 2, 2012

    [...] In 2010, Rachel Lee, a Korean woman dying of mesothelioma because of exposure to asbestos, was part of an international delegation to Canada, organized by A-BAN, the Asian Ban Asbestos Network. On Dec. 9 of that year, Lee met with Clément Gignac, Quebec's minister of natural resources and wildlife. Citing her own terminal condition, Lee called on Minister Gignac to promise that Quebec would not continue its policy of subsidizing asbestos production in the province. Specifically, Lee and the other members of the delegation asked the minister to commit to blocking any more provincial funding for the Jeffrey mine.
    The Jeffrey mine in Asbestos, Quebec, which is currently inoperative, has been at the centre of a fierce public debate during 2011.

    As reported earlier in the Tyee, critics have charged that Canada, by allowing asbestos mining and export, is in part responsible for 100,000 deaths a year worldwide. Critics point out that asbestos use in Canada has almost entirely ceased because of the substance's proven toxicity, and say that if the province of Quebec provides the loan guarantees necessary for Baljit Chadha, a local entrepreneur, to re-open the mine, it will be flying in the face of calls from many medical and human rights groups, including the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Labour Congress, for a total ban on asbestos.


    Lee suffered from mesothelioma, a lung condition that only occurs in patients who have been exposed to asbestos. Lee lived close to a factory that produced cement products using chrysotile asbestos. On Dec. 21, 2011, Lee died of the mesothelioma that may well have been caused by chrysotile asbestos from Canada.

    Although South Korea announced a ban on asbestos imports in 2009, before that date, nearly 60 per cent of the asbestos imported into South Korea came from Canada. The day after Lee's death, Canadian anti-asbestos campaigners addressed an open letter to Minister Gignac, reminding him of his meeting last year with the asbestos victim, informing him of her tragic death and asking him to honour her memory by blocking any provincial support for the pending request for loan guarantees for the Jeffrey mine.


    By Dec. 30, Minister Gignac had not responded to the open letter, which was signed by Dr. Fernand Turcotte, MD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Social & Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval, Kathleen Ruff, author of Exporting Harm: How Canada markets asbestos to the Developing World; Éric Darier, Ph.D., Director of Greenpeace Québec, and Micheline Beaudry, Ph.D., retired professor of public nutrition, Université Laval. In fact, Ruff told the Tyee that Minister Gignac had not responded to a letter sent to him by the A-BAN delegation more than a year ago.

    The minister did not respond to Tyee requests for comment on this story.

    In a Dec. 28 email, Ruff told the Tyee that:
    "At great personal self-sacrifice and in spite of herself suffering from a deadly asbestos disease (mesothelioma), Rachel Lee came to Quebec in December 2010, to bring a message on behalf of all asbestos victims around the world and appeal to the Quebec government not to finance a new asbestos mine. Minister Gignac met with Rachel Lee that month, but he did not respond to her heartfelt, personal appeal. Likewise, he did not respond to the irrefutable evidence put before him by Ms. Lee and the other members of the Asian delegation that asbestos exported by Quebec causes suffering and loss of life overseas.

    "A year later, now that Rachel Lee has herself died from having been exposed to asbestos, Minister Gignac continues to maintain a heartless silence. It seems that he has neither heart, mind nor conscience and is deaf to the facts and deaf to the voices of victims."

    read the full article at:


  7. McGill asbestos study flawed, epidemiologist says

    Government plans to approve asbestos sales to developing world

    CBC News February 2, 2012

    A major 40-year study on asbestos safety completed by a group of scientists at McGill University is flawed, lacks transparency and contains manipulated data says Dr. David Egilman, a professor at Brown University, health activist and longtime industry critic.

    The study, which followed the health of 11,000 miners and mill workers in Quebec between 1966 and the late 1990s, is used by the Chrysotile Institute — a lobby arm funded by, overseen and closely associated with both Liberal and Conservative governments — to promote the use of asbestos overseas.

    According to Egilman, as the dangers of asbestos became better known in the 1960s, the industry decided to do its own research and hired Dr. John Corbett McDonald at McGill University's School of Occupational Health. Industry documents obtained by CBC News showed it wanted to conduct research similar to that in the tobacco industry, which stated that "Industry is always well advised to look after its own problems."

    “Doubt is their product. They just need to have a little doubt in the dialogue. OK? And doubt allows you to go in and say, OK, maybe they’re right, maybe we’re right, but nobody’s sure,” says Egilman, who has been investigating the dangers of asbestos for over two decades.

    Starting in the mid-1960s, McDonald headed the McGill study. The CBC has documents that show payments from the Quebec Asbestos Mining Association to McDonald and other researchers at the McGill School of Occupational Health totalling almost a million dollars from 1966 to 1972.

    Tremolite, an even more dangerous contaminant than chrysotile, is sometimes found alongside white asbestos or chrysotile.

    The McGill researchers would suggest in a 1997 study that cases of mesothelioma — cancer of the lining of the lung — occurred in "most, if not all," miners who had a greater exposure to tremolite and that the mines close to the centre of the town of Thetford, Que., were the ones most contaminated with tremolite.

    McDonald suggested that chrysotile was "essentially innocuous" at certain levels and advocated for its export to the Third World.

    Egilman, who has been a longtime critic of the study, argues that chrysotile causes mesothelioma and has called for the release of the McGill study data.

    “The whole argument is based on contaminated and uncontaminated mines. And nobody knows which is which? That’s crazy,” says Egilman.

    Egilman is not the only expert asking to see the McGill University study data.

    John Dement, an asbestos specialist at Duke University and Dr. Richard Lemen, a former assistant surgeon general in the U.S., both told CBC News that they would also like to see the information.

    Lemen said the researchers are "either hiding something or … afraid the results will be interpreted differently."

    continued in next comment...


  8. continued from previous comment:

    A recent analysis sponsored by the Dutch government tried to assess the risk from asbestos for lung cancer. It looked only at “higher quality studies” and excluded the Quebec mine study “because a variety of limitations, notably insufficient job history information.”

    The CBC asked Dr. Bruce Case, a key participant in several McGill asbestos studies, if he would release the data:

    CBC: Will you give Dr. Egilman the data he’s requesting?

    DR. CASE: I wouldn’t give Dr. Egilman the time of day.

    CBC: Why not?

    DR. CASE: Because he is not an honourable person.

    CBC: But if it’s scientific data that…

    DR. CASE: He’s not a scientist. He’s a social critic. He hasn’t done any original science, what would he do with it? I am sharing the data with some American agencies.

    CBC: OK, will you give it to us?

    DR. CASE: No, I won’t give it to you.

    Asbestos was historically used for its heat resistance and insulating properties and was frequently added to cement, brake linings, fibres and shingles.

    Today, asbestos is banned in more than 40 countries including all member states of the European Union. The World Health Organization has concluded that “all types of asbestos cause asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer and that there is no safe threshold level of exposure.”

    In June, 2011, members of the Canadian delegation blocked a UN resolution that would have listed chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous material.

    While asbestos is severely restricted in Canada and the United States, it is still commonly used in developing countries like India and Vietnam. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 107,000 people die annually from asbestos exposure worldwide and Ken Takahashi, an epidemiologist affiliated with WHO, recently said that “asbestos tsunami” of deaths is going to hit Asia because of the continued use of the product there.

    Several scientists, including McGill's Dr. Case, have publicly opposed exports of this mineral.

    Two Conservative members of parliament stood up in the House of Commons in the past year to say that chrysotile can be safely handled based on studies, some of which come out of McGill:

    “Mr. Speaker, scientific reviews show that chrysotile fibres can be used safely in a controlled environment at the national or international level." — Christian Paradis, federal Minister of Industry and Quebec MP, House of Commons, Nov. 23, 2011.

    “All scientific reviews clearly confirm that chrysotile fibres can be used safely in controlled conditions.” — Joe Oliver, Ontario MP, House of Commons, June 20, 2011.

    During the federal election campaign last April, Prime Minister Stephen Harper went to the asbestos region in Quebec and talked about the industry.

    “Canada is one of a number of exporters of chrysotile and there are a number of countries in which it is legal who are buyers. This government will not put Canadian industry in a position where it is discriminated against in a market where it is permitted.”

    There is a plan to reopen the Jeffrey Mine, the world’s largest asbestos mine, using a $58-million loan guarantee from the Quebec government.


  9. Asbestos registry needed, says cancer patient

    CBC News February 28, 2012

    A Saskatchewan man with a rare form of cancer linked to asbestos is demanding the federal government establish a national registry of buildings that contain the hazardous fibre.

    Howard Willems, 59, who lives in Saskatoon, contracted mesothelioma while inspecting a number of older food plants in Saskatchewan.

    Willems began lobbying for a registry in his home province, which he hopes will eventually spread across the country, shortly after being diagnosed.

    He argues that “everyone has a right to know when they go into a workplace or when they’re going into a building, it is safe.”

    Only a short time ago, Willems was fit enough to hike the Grand Canyon with his wife. Today, he needs a cane to walk. Though he remains upbeat, Willems had one lung removed in 2011 and his other lung is continually monitored.

    Research shows that 98 per cent of people with mesothelioma die within three years.

    Willems has been a federal food plant inspector for more than 30 years. He says he now realizes he was exposed to asbestos when he inspected plants while they were being renovated, especially during the removal of pipes with asbestos insulation.

    “When the light hit the right way you could see the fibres in the air.”

    He says no one seemed to be concerned at the time about the dangers of breathing in the fibres, and that a registry would help workers to be better informed.

    “Something as simple as knowing and putting on a mask going into those scenarios could have prevented all of that,” he says, referring to his lung cancer.

    Quebec asbestos registry kept from public

    Willems is not the only one to have lobbied for an asbestos registry. In the last two years, the Canadian Cancer Society has asked both the prime minister and the finance minister to create a registry.

    In Quebec, environmental activist Daniel Green has been a vocal proponent of a registry. He says Quebec has a list of 1,550 buildings containing asbestos, but won’t allow the public to see it.

    “When we asked the government to give us the list [of addresses] they refused.… the government is telling us, 'We will not tell you of the asbestos in buildings you own as taxpayers,'” says Green.

    Green, who is trying to compile his own inventory list, says through his own research he has identified 300 schools, hospitals, and public offices in the province that contain asbestos.

    Although the asbestos in many of the buildings may be contained and could be considered safe, Green points out that “in a lot of these places, asbestos fibres are escaping because of wear and tear and degradation and because of work like masonry replastering and replacing walls.”

    Many buildings constructed before 1980 contain asbestos, which was used starting in the 1930s to insulate plumbing and in rubber tiles.

    The federal government keeps track of asbestos in some of the buildings it owns and is removing asbestos from the Parliament Buildings In Ottawa; so far, over 1,000 tonnes have been trucked away.

    Some asbestos was also removed from the top of a hot water tank at 24 Sussex Drive, the prime minister's residence, in 2008.

    Public Works provided CBC with a list of the buildings it owns across Canada that contain asbestos. The list was compiled Jan. 20.

    Although politicians and civil servants have a registry of their buildings, Green and Willems argue that all Canadians should know whether the buildings they work in contain asbestos.

    At least two other countries, France and Australia, have a registry of buildings that contain asbestos.

    “People have to say enough is enough. We need to know,” says Willems.


  10. Radical Handmaids on Parliament Hill

    BY BERNADETTE WAGNER, rabble.ca APRIL 25, 2012

    Today, on Parliament Hill, the Radical Handmaids gather in opposition to Motion 312, the anti-choice motion that seeks to redefine when human life begins. The Motion will be debated in the House of Commons on Thursday. The Handmaids' action, based on Margaret Atwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale, is sure to be an interesting one.

    Sporting red garments and "Flying Nun" hats in an allusion to Margaret Atwood's classic novel The Handmaid’s Tale, the Handmaids are protesting Bill M-312 as a regressive attack on women.

    "The Handmaid's Tale shouldn't be an instruction manual," said one young woman, who identified herself only as "OfStephen" ("Woodworth or Harper, take your pick").

    In Atwood’s novel, set in a futuristic America transformed by religious fundamentalists into the Republic of Gilead, women are judged by whether or not they are capable of bearing children and, if fertile, are enslaved to men of the ruling elite who forcibly impregnate them.

    "We're watching what's going on in the United States with the war on women and we know the Conservatives are trying to sneak it up here," said another OfStephen, standing in front of a display of brightly-coloured knitted uteruses.

    Supporters across the country have been sending the Handmaids knitted wombs and vulvas, using patterns available on the Internet. When they have enough, the Handmaids say they will deliver the woolly parts to any MPs who vote in favour of Woodworth’s bill.

    "If they want to control our uteruses so badly, they can have a womb of their own," said OfStephen.

    the regina mom applauds the Handmaids on their radical action. Oh, if only she could be there to join in! (Read their full news release in the next comment)


  11. Handmaids on the Hill protest Conservatives’ Anti-Abortion Bill

    Radical Handmaids Press Release April 25, 2012

    OTTAWA – On the eve of the introduction of Conservative MP backbencher Stephen Woodworth’s anti-abortion private member’s bill, a determined group of women calling themselves the Radical Handmaids are getting together on Parliament Hill for a little “causeplay” in support of reproductive rights.

    Sporting red garments and “Flying Nun” hats in an allusion to Margaret Atwood’s classic novel The Handmaid’s Tale, the Handmaids are protesting Bill M-312 as a regressive attack on women.

    “The Handmaid’s Tale shouldn’t be an instruction manual,” said one young woman, who identified herself only as “OfStephen” (“Woodworth or Harper, take your pick”).

    In Atwood’s novel, set in a futuristic America transformed by religious fundamentalists into the Republic of Gilead, women are judged by whether or not they are capable of bearing children and, if fertile, are enslaved to men of the ruling elite who forcibly impregnate them.

    “We’re watching what’s going on in the United States with the war on women and we know the Conservatives are trying to sneak it up here,” said another OfStephen, standing in front of a display of brightly-coloured knitted uteruses.

    Supporters across the country have been sending the Handmaids knitted wombs and vulvas, using patterns available on the Internet. When they have enough, the Handmaids say they will deliver the woolly parts to any MPs who vote in favour of Woodworth’s bill.

    “If they want to control our uteruses so badly, they can have a womb of their own,” said OfStephen.

    If it passes in the House of Commons, M-312 would create a Parliamentary Committee to revisit the question of fetal personhood. The Radical Handmaids point to the futility of reopening the abortion debate, arguing that Parliamentary resources could be better used to restore the national childcare program the Conservatives killed on their election in 2006.

    “Affordable daycare for working parents isn’t on the agenda,” OfStephen said. “Apparently you have to be a fetus to matter to a Conservative.”

    For more information, please contact OfStephen (Julie Lalonde) at 613-301-2697 or OfStephen (Aalya Ahmad) at 613-327-1177.


  12. Abortion rights debate spurred by MP's motion

    By Laura Payton, CBC News April 25, 2012

    Abortion rights are at the centre of a debate set for this afternoon as MPs consider whether to hold a special committee to look at when human life begins. Stephen Woodworth, a Conservative MP from Kitchener, Ont., introduced a private member's motion calling for the committee. Woodworth says current Canadian law says human life begins when a child has fully emerged from the mother's birth canal, which is based on a 400-year-old definition imported from Britain.

    The motion isn't binding, but allows MPs to spend two hours discussing the need — or lack thereof — for a committee to examine the question of when life begins. When he announced the motion, Woodworth had argued he was simply interested in updating the law to agree with 21st-century medicine. But speaking to Radio-Canada on Monday, he admitted his motion is linked to abortion.

    "It certainly allows us to have an honest discussion about the abortion question. How can we honestly discuss all of the complicated issues around abortion if we cannot decide whether or not a child is a human being before the moment of the complete birth?" Woodworth said.

    Speaking to reporters Wednesday, he cast the debate as one about human rights. "If in Canada we cannot agree that a law which decrees that some human beings are not human is wrong, then we need to definitely have some discussion about that. That really is the starting point for any just system of laws," Woodworth said. "It’s a serious debate. It should be addressed."

    The motion will get one hour of debate at about 5:30 p.m. ET. Then it drops to the bottom on the order of precedence, and gets another hour of debate when it returns to the top of the list. The House will vote on the motion the following Wednesday, which Woodworth expects will be in June or September, after the summer recess.

    NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said no one in his caucus supports the motion but he plans to whip the vote, or force his MPs to vote along party lines. "We're resolutely in favour of women's right to choose, so it's very clear for us, and we are absolutely opposed to this motion of Mr. Woodworth," he said.

    Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said he's going to allow Liberal MPs to vote however they want, known as "voting their conscience." In question period, New Democrat MP Niki Ashton said the Conservatives are rolling back Canadian women’s rights. "A woman’s right to choose, in Canada, in 2012, is not up to negotiation," she said.

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    But some of Woodworth's colleagues disagreed. Conservative Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost, who has previously talked about wanting to limit abortion, said he plans to support the motion. Trost said MPs keep bringing up the issue — despite Prime Minister Stephen Harper saying repeatedly that his government will not reopen the debate on abortion — "because Members of Parliament are duty-bound by both their constituents and their conscience to argue for things that they feel [are] important."

    "Mr. Woodworth feels this is important. He feels this is a thoughtful, proper thing for Canada. And I, like a lot of members, think it’s time that we looked at this in a way that brings compassion to everyone involved."

    While Harper has pledged not to raise the abortion issue, it's not clear whether the Conservatives will whip the vote for cabinet ministers or for the caucus as a whole. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who is a practising Catholic, says party tradition is to allow free votes on issues of conscience. "I'm going to consult my constituents and consider the implications before taking a decision," Kenney said. "My position is that we must have free votes on questions of conscience."

    A spokesman for Harper says the government doesn't usually "communicate its parliamentary strategy" before a vote. "The [prime minister] has been clear — he will not reopen this issue," Andrew MacDougall told CBC News.


  14. Harper denounces unfortunate bid to reopen abortion debate

    GLORIA GALLOWAY, Globe and Mail April 26, 2012

    A motion by a backbench Conservative MP that aims to reopen the debate on abortion has been denounced by members of the opposition as well as senior members of his own party, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

    Stephen Woodworth, an Ontario Tory, wants the House of Commons to establish a committee to examine the section of the Criminal Code that declares babies to be human at the moment they have fully emerged from the birth canal.

    In an impassioned speech to the House on Thursday evening, Mr. Woodworth said those who believe that a fetus becomes human at the moment of birth should have the courage of their convictions and be willing to expose them to an examination of the evidence.

    But “most Canadians know that our existing definition dishonestly misrepresents the reality of who is a human being,” he said. “When you consider a child before birth, do you see a new human life with a beating heart and 10 human fingers? Or do you see the child as an object and an obstacle, even a parasite?”

    Mr. Woodworth does not deny that his motion is an attempt to criminalize abortion. Canada has no laws to govern the procedure, and if a fetus is declared to be a human being, abortion foes could argue that killing it before birth would be tantamount to homicide.

    Several other Conservatives agree with Mr. Woodworth’s efforts, but at this point, his motion would seem doomed to failure. Not only did the New Democrats and the Liberals oppose it, Mr. Harper and Conservative Whip Gordon O’Connor rejected it.

    Mr. Harper said during the spring election campaign that a Conservative government would not bring forward legislation to restrict access to abortion and that any such legislation would be defeated. On Thursday he told the House that he considered the motion “unfortunate” and he would vote against it.

    Mr. O’Connor delivered an even more blunt attack.

    “I do not want women to go back to the previous era where some were forced to obtain abortions from illegal and medically dangerous sources. This should never happen in a civilized society,” he said. “I cannot understand why those who are adamantly opposed to abortion want to impose their belief on others by way of the Criminal Code.”

    Mr. O’Connor’s statements followed indignant outcries from the opposition benches. François Boivin, a New Democrat from Quebec, said the motion frightened her to death. “Make no mistake about it,” she said, “this is a full-frontal assault on a woman’s right to choose.”

    Hedy Fry, the Liberal health critic, asked if Mr. Woodworth would incarcerate women who wanted to have abortions to ensure that they carried their pregnancies to term. She accused the Prime Minister of allowing his MPs to do “through the back door” what he publicly opposes.

    Mr. Harper, who has courted the vote of the social right, has given the more socially conservative members of his caucus wide latitude to express their opinions on such issues.


  15. Anti-abortion activists tell Harper 'debate is on'

    By Laura Payton, CBC News May 9, 2012

    Anti-abortion activists say they have a message for Prime Minister Stephen Harper as they gather today for an annual demonstration on Parliament Hill: the debate is on.

    Alissa Golob, a spokeswoman for Campaign Life Coalition, said Harper is scared of raising the issue, despite what she says is rising support among Canadians.

    "Whether you like it or not, the abortion debate is on. The issue has been raised in Parliament by a private member's motion, it's been raised with recent studies exposing the practice of sex-selection abortion in Canada, it's an issue that is constantly discussed in the media," she said.

    Harper has repeatedly said his government will not reopen the debate.

    Golob said the March for Life has grown significantly since it started 15 years ago, which she says is a sign of optimism for the anti-abortion movement.

    This year's march comes two weeks after a private member's motion by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth calling on a committee study on when life begins. The motion was debated for an hour last month and will be debated and voted on sometime in June or once the House returns in September from its summer break.

    A private member's motion means it is backed by a single MP rather than by the government.

    NDP MP Niki Ashton says that Golob's statements contradict what the government is saying.

    "They obviously see the Conservative Party as an ally on the issue," Ashton said.

    "A woman's right to choose is her own and not up to the state. That's a position that most Canadians have dealt with and we're ready to move on to other things."

    Golob calls those born after the Supreme Court struck down Canada's abortion law "survivors."

    "Anyone born after 1988 is lucky to be alive," she said.

    The coalition is focusing in particular on sex-selective abortion following a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that found a difference in the rates of boys and girls born to Indian-born women in Canada.

    The study found that the third-child births among Indian-born women were at a ratio of 136 boys to 100 girls, much different from the third-child rates among Canadian-born mothers of 105 boys to 100 girls, which is considered about normal for the worldwide average.

    Golob said pro-choice advocates who want to limit sex-selective abortions are hypocrites.

    "The only reason you would be for abortion is because you are saying that the pre-born are not human. And if they are not human, then it does not matter why anyone should kill them, whether they are female, whether they are going on vacation, or whether they don't want to be fat for nine months, it doesn't matter if they're not human. But if the pre-born are human then these are issues that must be addressed."

    Ashton said Golob can choose whatever language she wants, but the focus ought to be on the government's "Trojan horse agenda."

    "What we need to remind ourselves … [is] that whether or not a woman chooses to have an abortion, that's her right and that access to reproductive rights should be respected, and there should be access to the services," Ashton said.


  16. Feds admitted dangers of asbestos while fighting hazardous label: documents


    OTTAWA — The federal government acknowledged years ago that the dangers of chrysotile asbestos warranted limits on its export — but still fought against international restrictions over the past decade — internal records show.

    The memorandum to Environment Minister Peter Kent, obtained by Postmedia News under access to information, states the scientific panel for the UN's Rotterdam Convention was on solid ground in 2002 when it first proposed the listing of chrysotile asbestos, a known carcinogen mined in Quebec, as a hazardous material on Annex III of the convention.

    Materials listed on this annex require Prior Informed Consent (PIC) — meaning that before countries export listed goods, they must inform importers of the risks and precautionary measures for safe handling, to which importers must consent. Because the convention operates by consensus, any one country can block a listing simply by objecting.

    "Since 2002, chrysotile has been proposed four times for addition to the PIC Procedure of the Rotterdam Convention. This decision requires the consensus of the Parties. At previous meetings and again last June, Canada acknowledged that all criteria for the addition of chrysotile asbestos to the Convention have been met but opposed its addition," states the briefing note, dated last fall.

    The revelation of Canada's sustained effort to block the listing of chrysotile asbestos despite its acceptance of the scientific evidence behind the proposal comes as the struggling Quebec industry tries to revive itself with government support.

    Operations at the last two mines were suspended last November in the Quebec towns of Thetford Mines and Asbestos. A consortium in Asbestos is in negotiations with the Quebec government for a $58-million loan guarantee to open an underground mine at the Jeffrey Mine and export the mineral to developing countries.

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    New Democratic MP Pat Martin, a longtime critic of the asbestos industry and a former miner himself, said the briefing note blows open Canada's public positions on asbestos.

    The Conservative government has said repeatedly that its opposition to the Rotterdam listing, most recently articulated at the June 2011 convention meeting, is consistent with Canada's 30-year old policy of promoting the safe and controlled use of chrysotile.

    "They've ignored the scientists. They didn't just deny the science. They acknowledged it but yet ignored it. That is unforgivable, in my view," Martin said Monday.

    "They've put commercial and political interests ahead of scientific interests, and in doing, compromised and undermined the whole purpose and intent of the convention," he added, singling out the Conservative government's Quebec Lieutenant, Christian Paradis, who represents a riding at the heart of Quebec's asbestos mining region.

    "Stephen Harper has almost no support in Quebec and one of his only seats is the biggest cheerleader for asbestos," said Martin.

    The ministerial memo was prepared by Deputy Environment Minister Paul Boothe and Associate Deputy Environment Minister Andrea Lyon after Health Canada informed the department it was set to release a draft report on the risks posed to Canadian workers and the general population from exposure to chrysotile.

    The release of the report, triggered by an access to information request, "states that chrysotile deposits are often contaminated with tremolite." And tremolite, "a more potent carcinogen than chrysotile for mesothelioma and it is possibly a more potent carcinogen for lung cancer," is one of five forms of asbestos listed on Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention, the memo states.

    Previously released records from Health Canada show the department challenged the government's public stance on the Rotterdam listing and safe use.

    "HC's preferred position would be to list (the substance under the treaty) as this is consistent with controlled use — i.e. let people know about the substance so they have the information they need, (through) prior informed consent, to ensure they handle and use the substance correctly," wrote Paul Glover, an assistant deputy minister at Health Canada, in an internal email, dated Aug. 15, 2006.


  18. Quebec and Canada keep deadly asbestos industry alive

    BY DAVID SUZUKI, rabble.ca JULY 18, 2012

    Mesothelioma is a nasty cancer that affects the lining around a person's lungs. It can also damage membranes around the abdomen, heart, and testicles. The prognosis for those who have it is poor. It causes close to 90,000 preventable deaths a year. More than 90 per cent of cases are attributed to asbestos exposure.

    Asbestos is made up of tiny fibres that can be inhaled, penetrating the lungs. Because they are mineral-based, they can't be broken down by the body's natural defences, so they cause inflammation. The fibres also remain in the lining around the lungs, and over time - often 20 to 30 years or more - may cause mesothelioma or other diseases.

    Because asbestos is a known carcinogen, it has been banned by more than 50 countries, including all members of the European Union. They appear to be getting along fine without it, probably because there are safe alternatives for construction, fire-proofing, and other asbestos functions. Canada and the U.S. have not banned it but don't use it much anymore.

    Although Canada doesn't have a domestic market for asbestos, we actively support the industry and promote exports to other countries, especially India. In fact, Canada is one of only a few countries that still exports asbestos. And despite these times of government cutbacks, the Quebec government has even stepped in to keep the industry alive by agreeing to lend the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Quebec, $58-million to restart and expand.

    The Jeffery operation is one of the two last asbestos mines in Canada, both of which were shut down last year. Proponents also hope to restart the other, Lac d'amiante du Canada in nearby Thetford Mines. Quebec has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world.

    Meanwhile, the Quebec and federal governments had been funding the Chrysotile Institute, an asbestos industry lobby group, to the tune of a quarter million dollars or more a year. Federal funding was axed last year and the institute closed earlier this year. The federal government has also blocked international efforts to have asbestos listed as hazardous - against advice from Health Canada - by repeatedly voting to keep it off the UN Rotterdam Convention, a treaty listing hazardous substances and requiring exporting countries to inform importers of bans, dangers, and safe-handling methods.

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    Asbestos may be good enough for export to Indonesia and India, but not for the politicians who support the industry here at home. The federal government has spent millions of dollars to remove asbestos from buildings on Parliament Hill and from the prime minister's residence. As for the stuff that will be removed from the Jeffrey Mine - more than 200,000 tonnes a year for the next 20 years - it will be sent to developing countries that may not adhere to safety standards for its use and handling.

    Interestingly, the Jeffrey Mine's owner had asked for a loan guarantee, but the government offered a direct loan. Maybe the private sector didn't see much future in trading a known carcinogen that countries around the world are moving to ban.

    It's particularly disappointing to see the Quebec government, which otherwise has a pretty good environmental track record, support a project with known negative environmental and health risks.

    It also says a lot about the absurdity of an economic system in which creating a few jobs and boosting wealth is a higher priority than preventing cancer, protecting health, and having a clean environment. The Jeffery mine re-opening is expected to create just over 400 direct jobs, each paying about $16 an hour.

    Is such a small economic boost worth the misery and death continued extraction and exports will cause? Many health and environmental experts from here and around the world don't think so. The Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Public Health Association, Canadian Labour Congress, and other organizations have called for a ban, with labour groups also asking for a just transition strategy for affected workers. Around the world, numerous health agencies, scientists, and doctors, including the World Health Organization, have warned of the dangers of asbestos and have recommended banning it.

    We must urge the governments of Quebec and Canada to listen to scientists, experts, and the public and put the brakes on this deadly industry.

    Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Editorial and Communications Specialist Ian Hanington


  20. Epidemiologists denounce asbestos trade

    By Tom Sandborn, The Tyee July 25, 2012

    Ban all asbestos mining, export and use.

    That's the demand made in a statement issued today and endorsed by over 150 organizations around the world. Organized by the Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology, with an initial draft dated June 4, the statement has garnered endorsements from scientific organizations and individual researchers in 20 countries around the world by July 24.

    The statement calls on asbestos producing countries like Canada, Russia, Kazakhstan and Brazil to stop mining the lethal material altogether, and on countries that still allow wide spread use of asbestos, mainly in the Third World, to ban it.

    The government of Quebec announced in June that it would provide a long sought and long controversial loan of $58 million to re-open the Jeffrey asbestos mine in the province, a move that will allow the mine to open and operate for another two decades.

    John Aylen, a spokesman for the company re-opening the Jeffrey Mines, recently argued the economic case for the government loan in the Montreal Gazette.

    He said that world demand for the chrysotile asbestos mined at his operation was steadily increasing, and that the mine re-opening would represent a substantial economic benefit for the surrounding region. Aylen did not, in his opinion piece, address the health concerns regarding asbestos that are advanced by critics such as the Canadian Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the World Federation of Public Health Associations, the International Commission on Occupational Health, the International Social Security Association, the International Trade Union Confederation and the World Bank.

    "Continued use of asbestos will lead to a public health disaster of asbestos-related illness and premature death for decades to come, repeating the epidemic we are witnessing today in industrialized countries that used asbestos in the past," said Dr. Stanley Weiss, chair of the Joint Policy Committee.

    "The body of evidence is now so overwhelming and it was time to step up and come together as a group," Professor Colin Soskolne, past-president of the Canadian Society of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, told CBC News.

    Tom Sandborn covers health policy and labour news for the Tyee. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at tos@infinet.net


  21. Why the Christian Right is Wrong About Abortion

    By Lynn Beisner, Role/Reboot August 14, 2012

    I learned a dirty little secret in Bible college: It is easier to prove the existence of unicorns by using the Bible than it is to establish the personhood of a fetus. In fact, it is so hard to make a case against abortion using Christian scripture that for decades most Evangelicals did not even try. Instead, their leaders were silent on the issue or told their followers that abortion was part of the larger feminist agenda to destroy families.

    Everything that the Bible has to say about fetuses is contained in the hyperlinks in this paragraph. There are five religious leaders who are said to have been chosen by God for a specific role or developed a relationship with the divine before they were born including John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, Jeremiah, Sampson, and King David. And there are four passages of poetry in which God is described as entering a woman’s uterus to make or form a fetus by knitting it together or by curdling it like cheese. Finally, there is single law regarding the accidental injury or death of a fetus.

    The law mentioned above makes it particularly hard to say that the Bible supports fetal personhood. It is contained in the amazingly comprehensive legal code for the ancient nation of Israel found in the first five books of the Bible. These laws cover just about every aspect of living in a society from regulations for human waste management to the penalty for knocking out a slave’s tooth. Yet this legal code, which is excruciatingly clear about all matters related to sex and reproduction, gives only one highly specific situation in which the law should become involved in the injury or death of a fetus: If a woman miscarries because she is accidentally hit by a brawling man other than her husband.

    The single law regarding fetal injury or death requires that the man who accidentally struck the woman must pay whatever damages the court sets as long there is no lasting injury. But if “mischief follows,” the law required that whatever the injured party suffered the injuring party must be dealt by society.

    If you read that passage in older translations of the Bible, it is abundantly clear that the fetus had no personhood. If the woman died, the man who accidentally harmed her paid with his life. This was the same punishment for killing any person, including a slave. But the penalty for the miscarriage itself, the death of a fetus, was payment of whatever damages the court assessed.

    Since the rise of the anti-abortion movement, newer translations and interpretations have tried to muddle or even reverse this meaning. But even then, this passage would only establish an extreme penalty for a single and highly specific kind of fetal injury or death. If a person intentionally caused a miscarriage or accidentally caused one in any situation other than a brawl, the law had no interest. For a fetus to have personhood, killing it under any circumstances must be murder. So clearly, the law of the Old Testament does not grant personhood to fetuses.

    The sum total of Biblical evidence about fetal personhood is a few poetic passages describing how humans are made, a few men claiming prenatal relationships with God, and a law prescribing the penalty for accidentally injuring a pregnant woman during an altercation. Given such scant evidence, you must be wondering how on earth the Christian Right became so attached to this cause and why most Christians do not realize that the Bible contains no commandments against abortion or any indication that society should protect every fertilized egg.

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    We know from those who were present at the birth of the Christian Right that it was actually a series of horse-trades by powerful men in conservative religious groups. Each group came with its own non-negotiable agenda and problems with the agendas of others. Catholics demanded that any alliance they joined must back the Pope’s edict against abortion, but Evangelicals were resistant since there was not enough in the Bible about fetuses to support a ban on abortion. Evangelicals, on the other hand, needed an unfettered capitalist market to perpetuate their dominance, and that ran afoul of the Catholic Church’s teachings about economic and social justice. Catholics agreed to down-play the issue of social justice (which is why Nuns on the Bus is such a problem), and Evangelicals agreed to take an anti-abortion stance despite the lack of Biblical support for it.

    Most Christians do not know how that there is scant biblical support for fetal personhood because churches no longer teach biblical literacy. Instead, they teach ideological literacy and the isolated scriptural passages which support those beliefs. When I taught classes about the Bible to college students I was shocked to discover that students who had been in church all their lives had never heard the story of the talking donkey or what happened after Noah’s ark landed. This shift in biblical literacy has created an entire nation of Evangelicals who do not know enough about the Bible to question what they are being taught. The only reason that many young Evangelicals have begun to question their religion’s anti-gay stance is that they have been exposed to tons of religious and Biblical arguments made in favor of gay rights.

    The success of the gay rights movement is why I believe we must begin using Biblical arguments to refute anti-choice religious claims. We are are losing reproductive rights even as the gay community is turning the tide of public opinion in their favor. I believe that a key reason why they are succeeding while we are failing is that we have been unwilling or unable to challenge religious teachings.

    I believe that many Christians are looking for an escape clause from the rigid teachings of the personhood movement. They are uncomfortable with the government invading the uteruses of women, but they are even less comfortable going against what they believe are the commandments of the Almighty. If we give them the life raft of an alternative scriptural argument, I believe many will jump ship.

    The one problem that I can foresee is that the Biblical teaching about personhood does not come in one easily quotable package. But if gay rights leaders could find a way of countering the passages in the Bible which are explicitly anti-homosexual, we can counter the incredibly weak and nebulous Biblical arguments against reproductive rights. It is up to the witty writers of our movement to craft succinct and even humorous arguments that will go viral across social media.

    Lynn Beisner is the pseudonym for a mother, a writer, a feminist, and an academic living somewhere East of the Mississippi. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.


  23. Health minister showing criminal negligence on asbestos: activist

    By Tom Sandborn, The Tyee August 23, 2012

    Canada’s Minister of Health is guilty of criminal negligence on the asbestos file, says veteran anti-asbestos campaigner Kathleen Ruff. Writing on her website Right On Canada on August 19, Ruff says that in Italy, industry magnates have been prosecuted for their criminal negligence around exposing workers to the known carcinogen, and cites recent statements from Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq that Ruff calls “callous” to support the suggestion the Tory minister ought to face the same legal consequences.

    Aglukkaq recently declined an invitation to attend a memorial event organized by citizens of Sarnia, Ontario, who have lost family members to the cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

    Leah Nielsen and her sister, Stacy Cattran, are organizing the 2nd annual Walk to Remember Victims of Asbestos in Sarnia on September 29, 2012. They are also calling for a public inquiry into the tens of thousands of Canadian asbestos deaths, many of which they say have have not even been properly tracked. Both women lost their fathers to asbestos related disease.

    Minister Aglukkaq declined the invitation, saying that asbestos was not her concern and suggesting the women should direct their concerns to Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver, whose ministry has been a proponent of ongoing Canadian asbestos mining and export.

    While unmoved by the health dangers of asbestos, Ruff notes, Minister Aglukkaq has recently announced she will order an investigation into the health dangers she suspects may be associated with wind turbines.

    Asbestos is a toxic and carcinogenic substance that is very little used these days in the developed world, and Canadian involvement in shipping it to Third World countries has been condemned by the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Labour Congress, the World Health Organization and many other international bodies. The Canadian government came under fire last year for helping to block a move under the UN sponsored Rotterdam Convention to require that asbestos producers fully inform customers of the health risks entailed in asbestos use.

    The Quebec government recently provided a mining company with a $58 million loan to allow the firm to re-open the Jeffrey mine in that province, thus renewing the prospect of Canada exporting the toxic substance to third world countries, where critics say it will continue to cause millions of deaths among unprotected workers.


  24. Some former B.C. asbestos workers living in fear

    CBC News September 4, 2012

    Hundreds of former residents of a B.C. asbestos-mining town may have a time bomb ticking in their lungs – and because no one is tracking their health as a group, many of them might not be aware of the potential danger they face, CBC News has learned.

    An estimated 50,000 people were employed over the lifetime of the Cassiar mine, which closed in 1992. They lived with their families in the now-abandoned town, about 220 kilometres south of the B.C.-Yukon border.

    It takes about 20 years for asbestos-related cancers like mesothelioma to show up in the lungs, and workers say they were routinely exposed to the dangerous mineral without any protection.

    "There was no face masks there," said former worker Rolly Gunville, who has been diagnosed with the lung disease asbestosis, which can be a precursor of mesothelioma.

    "I asked for face masks. And what happened, this safety guy came up and he brought me this little container of salt pills," Gunville said.

    He spent just three months working in the Cassiar mine.

    "I wanted to get out of there. It was dangerous work. It was cold. It was hard to breathe."

    Dozens of former Cassiar residents met for a reunion in Penticton, B.C., in August.

    Many, like Gary Stratton, say they miss the old town.

    "It was the greatest experience of my life living up there," Stratton said at the reunion.

    'Green haze'
    Some recalled typical sights they now wonder about.

    "There was green haze over the town all the time. The more that I think about it, I used to jog by the tailings pile every morning. That was my exercise," said Kelly Holzhaus.

    Many former residents stay connected through a website run by a miner who spent his first 29 years in Cassiar.

    "It's a virtual community website where there's tonnes of photos and, sadly, an 'In Memory' section that grows steadily," said Herb Daum.

    But, like many from Cassiar, Daum says he has no symptoms and is not overly concerned..

    "I had exposure, no denial of that. The impact, who knows?" said Daum.

    Former resident Todd Whiteside also is not terribly concerned about the threat.

    "It's been 20 years, since I've been exposed to asbestos," said Whiteside. "I refuse to let it rule my life. If something happens, something happens. I will deal with it then."

    Lung specialist Dr. Stephen Lam says CT scans can detect asbestos-related diseases sooner than other technologies. (CBC)
    Many know they're at risk and get regular chest X-rays. But X-ray technology does not detect asbestos-related cancer early enough.

    New research suggests that CT scans are much more effective at detecting lung cancer in people who were exposed to asbestos and also had other risk factors, like smoking or other lung damage.

    "Getting an X-ray or CT scan will not really provide me any ways to deal with the problem. It would only be an indication of a problem. There's nothing I can do about it," Daum said.

    At least one medical expert disagrees.

    "It's not uncommon for people to think that way. There's an anxiety level. 'What if I found something that is not normal?' But if you discover disease early, the result of treatment is much better," said Dr. Stephen Lam, respirologist at the B.C. Cancer Agency.


  25. Canada won't oppose asbestos limits

    CBC News September 14, 2012

    Canada's dying asbestos industry was dealt another blow Friday from one of its former friends, with Industry Minister Christian Paradis announcing that the federal government will no longer oppose global rules that restrict use and shipment of the substance.

    In an announcement in Thetford Mines, Que., where he took several shots at the province's new Parti Québécois government, Paradis said his Conservatives are reversing course and won't use their veto to stop chrysotile asbestos from being listed as a hazardous substance under the international Rotterdam Convention.

    Paradis also said Ottawa will invest up to $50 million to help the country's last remaining asbestos mining region, in Quebec's Eastern Townships, to diversify into other areas of activity.

    The government had previously blocked the chrysotile form of asbestos from being listed under the convention on three occasions, most recently at a summit last year in Switzerland. The convention requires consensus of its members to list a substance; five other forms of asbestos are already covered by it.

    Asbestos production in Quebec has been de facto shut down for the last couple years, but the outgoing Liberal provincial government was loaning $58 million to a company to restart its chrysotile mining and export operations.

    The incoming Parti Québécois provincial government has promised to cancel the loan, and suggested it would ban asbestos production and exports outright.

    The federal government's stance, however, has been that "we promote the safe and controlled use of chrysotile."

    Paradis basically blamed incoming Quebec Premier Pauline Marois for forcing Ottawa's hand, saying Friday that Marois "has clearly indicated her intention to ban the production of chrysotile in Quebec. Evidently this action will have a negative impact on the future prosperity of our region."

    The PQ, though, has repeatedly pledged to take the $58 million from cancelling the loan to the Jeffrey asbestos mine and put it toward economic diversification in the area. Reopening the mine would have put 400 to 500 employees back to work.

    As recently as 2010, Canada was producing 150,000 tonnes of asbestos annually, all of it in Quebec, and exporting 90 per cent — worth about $90 million — to developing countries. More than 50 countries ban the mining and use of asbestos because it causes cancer. But Canada, traditionally a major exporter, has successfully lobbied to keep it off the Rotterdam list, putting it in the company of Vietnam, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which also opposed the move.

    A listing in the convention forces exporting countries to warn recipients of restrictions and bans on a substance, to label their exports and to handle substances in controlled ways. A party to the convention also has the right to ban imports of any listed substance.

    "It does create bureaucratic hurdles that do not exist at this time, and in international trade, an unnecessary bureaucratic hurdle just becomes a trade barrier," said Guy Versailles, a spokesperson for the consortium behind the Jeffrey mine.

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  26. continued from previous comment...

    Versailles said the company was disappointed by Paradis's announcement, but insisted that it's not the death knell of the asbestos industry and that talk of the consortium's $58-million lifeline getting revoked is mere speculation.

    "This in no way signals the end of chrysotile in Quebec," he said. "The Jeffrey mine has kept going ahead as planned to reopen the mine."

    A second operation, the Lac d'Amiante mine in Thetford Mines, declared bankruptcy late last year. Employees there have been pushing for a return to work, but the company would have to gain access to new deposits of the mineral to have anything to extract.

    Three of the four major parties in Quebec's recent election campaign vowed to shut down the industry in the province. The Canadian Cancer Society and the Quebec Medical Association have also denounced the plan to reopen the Jeffrey mine.

    The cancer society said Friday that the federal government made the "right decision" in withdrawing its opposition to listing chrysotile asbestos as hazardous; the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Public Health Association concurred.

    "This is an important first step," the cancer society's vice-president, Paul Lapierre, said in a news release."It's imperative that the health of people around the world be put ahead of the interests of the asbestos industry."

    The World Health Organization says 107,000 people around the world die annually from ongoing workplace exposure to asbestos. It is still used in many developing countries in everything from roofing tiles to cement pipes and boiler insulation, and even Canada imported $2.6 million worth of asbestos brake pads last year.

    Federal Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair noted that the NDP has long wanted asbestos on the Rotterdam Convention list.

    "It's taken time," he said. "I was the first Quebec politician to come out clearly against the mining and export of asbestos. There was no safe use."

    Needle-like asbestos fibres were once considered magic minerals. They were woven into clothes, building insulation and coffee pots. They were even mixed with children's play dough. In its heyday, the Jeffrey mine in Asbestos, Que., was the biggest open-pit asbestos mine in the world.

    Then, starting in the late 1960s and '70s, study upon study began linking asbestos to voracious diseases such as lung cancer, scarred lungs (asbestosis) and mesothelioma, a cancer of the stomach and chest that is only caused by exposure to asbestos.


  27. Human being motion excuse to open abortion debate, MPs say

    By Laura Payton, CBC News September 21, 2012

    Opposition MPs questioned the motives behind a call to study the Criminal Code definition of a human being, suggesting it naturally leads to a debate on criminalizing abortion.

    NDP and Liberal MPs raised the question in speeches Friday that called for their colleagues to vote against Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth's motion to study when life begins. Woodworth's private member's motion would set up a special parliamentary committee to examine the current definition of a human being. That definition says a child becomes human when it has fully exited its mother's body.

    MPs spent an hour last April debating the motion. Friday was the second allotted hour of debate, with a vote coming next Wednesday.

    Woodworth says the definition, found in section 223 of the Criminal Code, is based on a 400-year-old British law that should be updated to reflect modern medical and scientific knowledge.

    Section 223 falls under the homicide provisions of the Criminal Code, which define what constitutes homicide — causing the death of a human being.

    Liberal MP Massimo Pacetti and New Democrat MP Irene Mathyssen pointed to Woodworth's admission that he is opposed to abortion, arguing putting limits on the procedure is his end goal.

    Woodworth should be up front and ask Parliament to legislate abortion, Pacetti said, instead of trying to set up a committee to study an old law.

    Mathyssen said more than 90 per cent of abortions in Canada occur in the first trimester, with no doctor performing abortions past 20 or 21 weeks except for compelling health reasons.

    "A fertilized egg is not a class of people," Mathyssen said. "What is absolutely clear — absolutely clear — is that Motion 312 is taking aim at a woman's right to choose and is a direct attack on jurisprudence.

    "The right rests solely with the women who choose. No one has the right to interfere. The Supreme Court has upheld that right and so should members of Parliament."

    Conservative MP Stella Ambler argued in favour of Woodworth's motion, saying the issue already provokes passionate debate among Canadians, and that feelings will only fester if the issue isn't openly discussed.

    "Wouldn't it be strange if Parliament even refused to study an update on our 400-year-old ... law?" Ambler said.

    "This is about fundamental human rights and about a 400-year-old law, frozen in time."

    Conservative MP Mark Warawa said it's important to have a logical debate based on science.

    "I think maybe [opponents of the study] are afraid of the truth. What that study would reveal," he said.

    MPs first debated the motion last spring, with Conservative Whip Gordon O'Connor giving a speech saying society has moved on and that abortion is an issue to be decided between a woman, her doctor and her family. The NDP and Liberals oppose Woodworth's motion.

    NDP House leader Nathan Cullen says there was no question whether his party would have to whip the vote — that is, make MPs vote the way the caucus decides — because they are all opposed to it.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly said Canadians don't want to reopen the debate on abortion. He said last April that he will vote against Woodworth's motion.


  28. Motion on when life begins splits Conservative caucus

    By Laura Payton, CBC News September 27, 2012

    The vote in Parliament on whether to study when life begins shows a split in the Conservative caucus, opposition MPs charge.

    Eight cabinet ministers, including Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino, voted in favour of the motion by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth.

    The motion would have set up a parliamentary committee to study whether the Criminal Code's definition of a human being is out of date.

    Most of the MPs who voted in favour of the motion — 87 — were from the Conservative caucus. Four Liberals voted in favour of it. The NDP, Bloc Québécois and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May all voted against the motion, which they charged would re-open the debate on setting limits on abortion.

    Liberal MP Justin Trudeau says Ambrose was hypocritical as status of women minister to vote for a motion that could have resulted in women having fewer rights.

    "Her responsibility is to women in this country. That's what you do when you become a minister. You're not just responsible to your constituents, you're not just responsible to your supporters or the people who vote for you, you're responsible to all Canadians on a file that touches all Canadians. She lacked leadership on that level," Trudeau told CBC News on Thursday.

    "What we're beginning to see is that Mr. Harper's iron grip on his cabinet is loosening and the true colours of the Reform base are showing through."

    The vote was a free vote, meaning MPs weren't told what position to take.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it known he would vote against the motion, and party whip Gordon O'Connor, under most circumstances responsible for ensuring MPs vote according to the party's wishes, gave a speech in the House of Commons explaining why he would vote against Woodworth's motion.

    Many observers took that as a signal to MPs of how Harper wanted them to vote. He has repeatedly said the party isn't interested in debating limits on abortion.

    "I think what it shows is to what extent inside the Conservative Party the view that women do not have the right to choose is very widespread. If you know the private opinions, or the opinions, of the members of the Conservative caucus, it's not stunning," Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said Wednesday night.

    Fantino and his parliamentary secretary, Lois Brown, both voted in favour of the study, indicating the government isn't likely to reverse its policy not to fund abortions in developing countries. The policy was a source of controversy for the government in 2010 when Harper announced he would push G8 leaders to focus on funding maternal and child health in developing countries.

    NDP Leader Tom Mulcair calls Ambrose's vote shocking, since she had told a parliamentary commission she had the opposite position.

    "In fact, a person who's responsible for women's rights is in a very delicate position when she votes against a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada which upheld the rights of women," he said.

    He stopped short of calling for her to resign.

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  29. continued from previous comment...

    Two women's groups in Quebec, however, demanded Ambrose step down from her cabinet post. The Fédération des femmes du Québec and the Fédération du Québec pour le planning des naissances said in a joint press release that someone in the status of women cabinet post was supposed to protect women's interests.

    Woodworth said Thursday that he plans to keep fighting for his beliefs. He says while it's unlikely he'll get another chance in this Parliament to present a private member's motion, he will support and advise other MPs who want to try their own motions or bills.

    He defended Ambrose's right to vote as she chose on the motion.

    "I think there are many women who would be offended at the notion that because they are a woman, their rights depend on dehumanizing and excluding another human being," he said.

    "To say that Motion 312 has implications for women's reproductive rights is really to say that women's reproductive rights depend on the pretence that some human beings are not human beings."

    Ambrose said on Twitter Wednesday night that she voted in favour of studying section 223, part of the homicide provisions of the Criminal Code, because of sex selective abortion.

    "I have repeatedly raised concerns about discrimination of girls by sex selection abortion: no law needed, but we need awareness!" Ambrose tweeted.

    She rose at the end of question period Thursday but didn't explain why she voted the way she did. Instead, she claimed that it was the first question she'd had on the status of women file this year.

    "And you know why that is? Because this government has an incredible track record for standing up for Canadian women," she said. "We have increased funding for Status of Women to its highest point in Canadian history and so far in just a couple of years, we've funded over 550 projects from coast to coast to coast to tackle violence against women and empower women and girls and we'll continue to do just that."

    Asked for more information about the claim, a spokeswoman for Ambrose said she had cautioned in her answer that she thought it was the first question. The spokeswoman couldn't provide a date for the last time Ambrose was asked about a status of women file.

    Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, who voted against the motion, said Ambrose is a good minister.

    "I have full confidence in Minister Ambrose's ability to serve the Canadian public in both of her capacities, as minister of public works and minister of the status of women," Raitt said.

    "I believe that last night was a free vote. We did it as individuals. We did not do it as ministers."


  30. Is Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper endangering Canadians and their children by using his office to promote the adoption of cats?

    Beware of the cat: Britain's hidden toxoplasma problem

    by Steve Connor, The Independent September 4, 2012

    A parasite spread by cats is infecting 1,000 new people every day in Britain – about 350,000 a year – according to an official assessment of the risks posed by toxoplasma, which can cause serious illness and has been tentatively linked with schizophrenia and other psychotic disturbances.

    In news that will challenge public perceptions about the country's most popular pet, official figures to be published later this week will reveal the shocking levels of infection within the UK human population of Toxoplasma gondii, a microscopic parasite that forms cysts in the human brain and other vital organs of the body.

    Toxoplasma infections come either through direct contact with cats or from eating contaminated meat or vegetables, tests on British blood donors have revealed.

    Although the clinical signs can be mild, risk groups, such as pregnant patients with compromised immune systems, can suffer very serious side-effects, leading to congenital birth deformities, blindness, dementia and even death.

    The true scale of the hidden problem has shocked experts who believe not enough is being done to warn the public of the known risks posed by toxoplasma, which they judge to be one of the worst food-borne illnesses because of the severity of its effects.

    Some experts call in The Independent today for the condition to be made a notifiable disease in England and Wales – meaning that medical staff must be put on alert – bringing the two countries on a par with Scotland, where infections must be reported on a national database. Others question whether families with young children should have pet cats, while some say advice on cooking lamb and preparing vegetables should be changed.

    In addition to infections caused by direct contact with cats, people can pick up the parasite by eating the meat of infected animals or from raw vegetables that have not been washed properly to rid them of any toxoplasma eggs contaminating the soil.

    About 80 per cent of infected people show no obvious symptoms of toxoplasma and are completely unaware that they are harbouring the parasite. However, new estimates suggest that up to 70,000 people a year in the UK develop some kind of symptoms.

    Experts are especially concerned about the emerging scientific evidence suggesting that apparently healthy people with toxoplasma may still be affected unwittingly by the parasite, even when they show no obvious clinical symptoms.

    A number of small-scale studies suggest that toxoplasma infection may alter people's personality, making them more prone to risk-taking or delayed reaction times. Studies have also linked toxoplasma infection to psychotic disturbances such as self-harm and suicide, and to serious psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia.

    read the rest of this article at:


  31. BC a Base for Abortion Battlers Trying New Tactics

    New faces of anti-choice include Langley MP Mark Warwara, Vancouver activist Mike Schouten.

    By Tom Sandborn, 3 January 2013, TheTyee.ca

    In the House of Commons this fall, a motion brought forward by Tory backbencher Stephen Woodworth called for a new debate about when life begins. The motion was defeated, but one who voted for it was Rona Ambrose, Minister for the Status of Women, prompting some pro-choice advocates to demand her resignation.

    Ambrose isn't budging, nor is debate about abortion in the House about to fade away. In the next session Tory MP Mark Warawa, who represents representing Langley, B.C., is slated to introduce Motion 408. It calls on MPs to denounce the practice of gender selection abortion.

    Jack Fonseca, of Campaign Life Coalition Catholics, an organization recently in the news for denouncing Justin Trudeau as a "public heretic" because of the Liberal MP's support for abortion and same sex marriage, told The Tyee his group strongly supported the Warawa resolution, describing it as "a great embarrassment to the abortion industry. The pro-abortionists say they are pro-women, but they support the murder of pre-born women. They don't value women, they value abortion. There are a lot of millionaires in the abortion industry."

    Joyce Arthur of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada said that Fonseca is wrong about pro-choice activists and gender selection abortion.

    "No one likes sex selection abortion," she told The Tyee. "But opponents of choice are using this issue as a way to get toward re-criminalizing abortion. It is hypocritical for the anti-choice movement, which is so anti-woman, to pretend they are concerned for women in this matter. The real problem isn't sex selection abortion. The root problem, and the one we should oppose, is sexist preference for boy children. We support education programs to eliminate that prejudice and other initiatives to raise the status of women and girls in all communities."

    Twenty-five years after ruling, access to abortion limited

    First prohibited under Canadian law in 1869, then tightly regulated under new legislation in 1969, abortion in Canada is still a battleground a quarter century after a 1988 Supreme Court decision, R v Morgentaler, struck down all legal prohibitions, while leaving problems of access to the procedure for many women.

    Anti-abortion activists in Canada frequently picket hospitals and clinics that provide the service, with 69 per cent of Canadian abortion clinics reporting in 2010 that they were targeted by demonstrators that year.

    Opposition to choice on abortion has sometimes turned violent. According to the National Abortion Federation (NAF), in Canada and the U.S. combined there have been eight murders of abortion providers since 1997, 17 attempted murders, 41 clinic bombings and 175 clinics torched by arsonists. For the same time period, the organization reports 1400 acts of clinic vandalism, 179 assaults against clinic staff and clients and 763 clinic blockades.

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  32. And while abortion is legal in Canada, finding health professionals to do the procedure is difficult for many women. No legal abortions are available anywhere on Prince Edward Island, although the province does pay for procedures PEI women obtain off-island. Procedures in New Brunswick are restrictively regulated and women in rural areas across the country often still find it difficult to access the service.

    Dr. Colleen MacQuarrie, a University of Prince Edward Island researcher, has investigated the impacts of lack of access to abortion on women in her province. "All women in my research who had an unwanted pregnancy and tried to access an abortion were harmed by the existing state of affairs," she wrote in an email.

    "Women had to navigate a labyrinth of barriers, each one taking its toll. Some women were able to navigate with the help of friends and family, while others were left isolated and desperate. In these cases, women sometimes did things to their bodies that were designed to start their period. This self harm was more likely with marginalization such as age, poverty, social exclusion."

    Disputed claims about late term abortions

    For Jill Doctoroff, the executive director of Vancouver's Elizabeth Bagshaw Women's Clinic, the Morgentaler decision was "of huge importance to Canadian women. It was a step in the right direction, giving women the respect and trust they deserve to make their own health care decisions."

    Jim Hughes does not agree that the Morgentaler decision represented progress, or that women should have expanded access to the procedure. Hughes was in the offices of the Campaign Life Coalition on the day in 1988 when the court's ruling was announced.

    "We had been working to amend or throw out the earlier law," Hughes told The Tyee. "We were hopeful the court would throw out what we saw as a bad law and Parliament would act to reform the law, instead of leaving Canada as the only Western nation that doesn't have some legal constraints on abortion."

    Under the law struck down by R v Morgentaler in 1988, Canadian women could access abortion services under strict conditions: they could get an abortion if the hospital in their community was one of the approximately one third of Canadian hospitals that chose to form a Therapeutic Abortion Committee under the legislation and if the three doctors on the committee -- known as a TAC -- agreed that the pregnancy posed a risk to the woman's health. This arrangement, brought in as a daring reform in 1969 by Pierre Trudeau and his Liberal government, put enough men in charge of female bodies to make women's rights advocates critical, and allowed a large enough number of abortions to make anti-choice activists like Hughes see it as unacceptable too.

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  33. The Supreme Court decision left Canada with no criminal law on abortion. The Supreme Court ruling clearly anticipated that Parliament would draft and adopt new law on abortion, but that has not happened over the ensuing 25 years. During that period, pro-choice activists say, the constraints on access to abortion, which they see as a fundamental element of women's reproductive freedom, have come not from legal prohibition but from inadequate government funding and uneven provision of the medical procedure in different jurisdictions.

    For anti-choice campaigners like Jim Hughes, abortion in Canada is far too accessible as it is.

    "What most people aren't aware of," he told The Tyee, "is that abortions can be performed in Canada right up to the moment of birth, and those deaths are paid for by the taxpayer."

    When Hughes spoke to the Tyee on Dec. 20, he had just finished writing a letter to Rob Nicholson, the federal Minister of Justice, calling on the government to investigate Statistics Canada figures that he says revealed that 491 babies born alive after failed abortion attempts and then left to die in the last decade. Nicholson said the federal government risked being seen to be "condoning infanticide."

    Joyce Arthur of the Abortion Rights Coalition says Hughes is distorting Statistics Canada's reporting. "Anti-choice activists are just making things up in a worst-case scenario kind of way, based on extremely limited information." Arthur says the findings show "that late abortions are rare and not done past 24 weeks -- refuting anti-choice propaganda that they are done up to birth."

    New role for former Surrey Christian Heritage candidate

    The claim that legal abortion leads to infanticide also was sounded by Mike Schouten in a recent op-ed column in the Vancouver Sun. Schouten is a spokesperson for a newly launched anti-abortion group We Need a Law. He and his organization were profiled by Maclean's magazine as representing a new face to the anti-choice movement. Unlike more traditional anti choice groups, Schouten's is willing to endorse gestational limits that would allow abortion during early term pregnancy but oppose the procedure for more advanced pregnancies, a view that is very controversial within the anti-choice movement.

    "All pro-life groups have similar goals," Schouten has clarified, and he emphasized that he would not be personally content with a partial ban on abortion. "We are taking advantage of opportunities to save some lives. We are currently calling for abortion to be as restricted as possible."

    Schouten is no stranger to controversy. As a candidate in Surrey, B.C., for the Christian Heritage Party, he championed the idea of a moratorium on Muslim immigration to Canada and published a letter in a local newspaper saying gays choose to "practice a totally unnatural lifestyle."

    No longer affiliated with the Christian Heritage Party, Schouten has been working full time for We Need a Law since its formation late last year. Saying his organization is funded by private donors, Schouten declined to reveal its annual budget.


  34. Leash and licence all house cats, say B.C. wildlife groups

    CBC News January 30, 2013

    A B.C. coalition of more than 50 nature groups wants cat owners to leash their pets and wants the province’s municipalities to require licences for felines.

    BC Nature president John Neville says other cities such as Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary require cats to be licensed.

    "It's a slowly growing movement, that process so that the cats are under control and the diminishing wildlife is being protected,” Neville told CBC News.

    A new study shows cats are responsible for many more animal deaths each year than previously believed, killing as many as 3.7 billion birds and up to 20 billion mammals in the U.S. alone.

    Most of the cats responsible are strays, but according to the report, domestic felines are still responsible for billions of deaths.

    Neville said he would like to see strict rules go along with the licensing.

    "You would have to let it out either in a run, or take it out on a leash or keep it totally indoors.”

    In May 2011, BC Nature forwarded a resolution to the Union of B.C. Municipalities, urging them to adopt mandatory cat licences.

    “We brought it to the attention of the UBCM, we've written to municipalities around the province, we've drawn attention to the fact that other cities around Canada are now requiring licensing,” Neville said.

    But Neville said as far as he knows, there are still no municipalities in the province that now have cat licensing bylaws.


    The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v4/n1/full/ncomms2380.html

  35. Investigate some abortions as homicides, Tory MPs ask RCMP

    The Canadian Press January 31, 2013

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper says while some of his Conservative MPs may not agree, abortion is legal in Canada.

    Harper made the comments while under questioning in the House of Commons over a letter written by three Tory MPs who want the RCMP to investigate hundreds of abortions as possible homicides.

    "I think all members of this house, whether they agree with it or not, understand that abortion is legal in Canada and this government, myself included, have made it very clear that the government does not intend to change the law in this regard," Harper said Thursday.

    The MPs from Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario made the request on House of Commons letterhead to RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson.

    They call the abortions "possible murders" that require a thorough police investigation.

    "From 2000 to 2009 in Canada, there were 491 abortions, of 20 weeks gestation and greater that resulted in live births," reads the letter dated Jan. 23. "This means that the aborted child died after it was born."

    The letter is signed by MPs Maurice Vellacott of Saskatoon-Wanuskwein, Leon Benoit of Vegreville-Wainwright and Wladyslaw Lizon of Mississauga East-Cooksville.

    According to the Criminal Code, a child is a human being when it emerges completely from the womb — whether or not the umbilical cord has been severed, it is breathing on its own or has "independent circulation."

    Section 223 (2) says a person commits homicide when he causes injury to a child before or during its birth as a result of which the child dies after becoming a human being.

    Officials at RCMP national headquarters in Ottawa said they have received the letter, but declined further comment.

    On Monday, Rona Ambrose, minister for the status of women, told the Commons that Canadians don't want to revisit the abortion debate.

    She made the comments on the 25th anniversary of a Supreme Court decision in 1988 that declared the country's ban on abortion a violation of women's rights.

    In their letter, the MPs wrote that the RCMP is in the best position to investigate their allegations.

    "These are vulnerable, innocent children that homicide has been perpetrated on," Vellacott said Thursday from Ottawa.

    "The individuals who have perpetrated the breach of the Criminal Code should be charged and brought to justice."

    Velacott said he and his two colleagues do not believe the letter will embarrass the Conservative Party or the Prime Minister. He said they did not share the letter with Harper's office before sending it to the RCMP.

    Velacott said all members of the government are staunch supporters of the Criminal Code.

    "If we have a Criminal Code that is supposed to mean anything and be of value, then you need to have the enforcement of it."

    As controversy swirled around the letter in Ottawa, one of the signatories, Benoit, tried to qualify some of the concerns expressed in it.

    "I read the letter again just now and I signed this while I was on holidays and I guess I wasn't taking the normal care," he told reporters. "But I thought the letter said exactly what I said — there was an attempted abortion, the baby was born alive, then killed."

    "In fact, that's not what it says. It says there was an attempted abortion, the baby was born alive and died as a result of the injuries caused through the attempted abortion, so I just wanted to correct the record as to what this is about."

    Benoit clarified that he is not taking issue specifically with the 19-week mark.

    "This has got to do with law enforcement — a live baby, viable, born and then killed,' He said. "That breaks Canadian law, so that's what it is all about.

    "We are talking about live babies who are killed."


  36. Poverty: Canada's greatest child abuse problem

    BY MICHAEL LAXER | rabble.ca FEBRUARY 5, 2013

    Another year. Another report on how we as Canadians are failing one in every six of our children.

    According to The Conference Board of Canada, the child poverty that all Canadian political parties, in 1989, pledged to eliminate by the year 2000 has not only not been eliminated, it has actually increased since the 1990s by 15.1%.

    At almost the same time that this report, a report that simply confirms what we as citizens and all our politicians provincially and federally have known for years and acknowledged almost twenty-five years ago to be true, came out, the federal government with a great deal of fanfare was announcing its plans to "protect" children from crime and sexual exploitation.

    This is, of course, a noble and lofty goal. And it is important to protect children victimized in this horrific way.
    But it is also disingenuous for the federal government, or, frankly, any provincial government regardless of which party is in power, to pretend and cry false tears for children as they ignore one out of every six of them.

    If protecting children is the goal, then surely lifting children out of the violence of poverty, given that this violence impacts hundreds of thousands of children, none of whom, even by the barbaric standards of our capitalist society, can remotely be said to be at all responsible for their "lot", should be a greater goal.

    Why, one might ask Rob Nicholson, is his government doing absolutely nothing to end child poverty, with all of its clearly and demonstrably negative effects which impact on equality of opportunity and which brutalize children daily? Where is a federal housing strategy or a Lyndon Johnson style declaration of "war" on poverty? Where is even a remote acknowledgement that this poverty might, as is clearly the case, greatly increase the chances of children being exploited and abused, both in childhood and later in life.

    The impact of poverty on children, who are entirely innocent of any "responsibility" for it, and are simply born into it by fate, is life-long and effects health, education, and, frankly, happiness. (Let alone obviously increasing the likelihood of the child either being a victim of crime or being drawn into committing crime). Everyone, even when doing nothing about it, knows this is true and no one really disputes it, other than a few delusional religious types who actually believe poor kids deserve their fate as some type of moral purgatory.

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  37. The problem is not that anyone debates that there is a problem. The problem is, simply, that there is no political will to do anything about it.

    And it is not just Rob Nicholson and the federal Tories. No political parties, the Liberals, NDP and Greens included, have any meaningful programme to confront and eliminate this appalling moral scourge that draws so many into its maelstrom of injustice, hunger and day-to-day brutality.

    And make no mistake, this is what child poverty is; a daily crime inflicted on children by a wealthy society that has the means to eliminate it, but that has decided not to. We are all complicit in this crime, no one more so than the politicians that could actually effect change, but remain idle instead.

    In Ontario, for example, we have a Liberal government that passed a law, Bill 115, entitled the "Putting Students First Act", and yet whose last budget actually cut welfare rates, in real terms versus the cost of living, by nearly 2%. This cut was supported by the NDP, whose constant mantra is doing what is "achievable". What of the children born to parents on welfare? How are they, and they are "students" also, being put "first".

    Clearly, in the books of the Ontario Liberals and NDP, lifting children out of poverty, in one of the wealthiest places in the world, is not "achievable".They have no plan, at all, to do so.

    This recent welfare cut, combined with the continuing freeze of Ontario's minimum wage, and the total lack of political will to reverse tax cuts for the upper and middle classes, helps rather obviously to keep Ontario's children in poverty, and those who have allowed it to happen are directly responsible for this. It is that simple.

    It is, also, no different in any other province.

    We are not absolved of blame by abstention or good intentions. Nor are we absolved because we think that "doing something" might be too radical and might harm chances of re-election. Only actions matter. Positive sentiments are as meaningless in actually protecting poor children and helping them as are Tory crime bills.

    As the author of the report, Brenda Lafleur, noted “If we want to address a problem like child poverty...we know we can do it — we just have to work together and actually decide that it is a problem.”

    Apparently, as decades of preventable child suffering continues, we, and the political parties that represent us, are still not willing to admit that it is really a problem at all.

    to view the links embedded in this article go to:


  38. NOTE: Tom Flanagan, a former senior adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former campaign manager for Alberta’s Wildrose party, drew heavy criticism from the PMO's office and the Wildrose, as well as the University of Calgary where Flanagan works as a professor, after he was caught on video saying he had “grave doubts” about jailing people who view child pornography.


    Tom Flanagan is now persona non grata, but his ideology lives on


    Tom Flanagan was one of Stephen Harper's key mentors, and remains perhaps the most influential ideologue of the current "Conservative movement" -- the movement that's in power in Ottawa right now.

    You can get some sense of Flanagan's ideology in his many articles and speeches and in his books, especially Waiting for the Wave: The Reform Party and the Conservative Movementwhich was originally published in 1997, but re-issued in an updated version last year.

    Flanagan, who is originally from the United States and is a leading member of the neo-conservative "Calgary School," has written most extensively on Aboriginal matters.

    He has argued that most Aboriginal militancy is manufactured by the "Aboriginal industry," the army of consultants and advisors who egg on the Aboriginal leadership and profit from the ongoing conflict between Aboriginal and "mainstream" societies.

    It is a fairly dark and conspiratorial theory, and takes little account of the concrete current and historic realities of Aboriginal Canada; but that's Flanagan for you.

    He has also advocated for property rights on First Nations reserves, but has to be given credit, on that front, for a willingness to modify his initial hard line after being exposed to former Kamloops Chief Manny Jules' much more nuanced position.

    Jules is the chief advocate in Canada for First Nations property rights. He favours a tailored system suited to Aboriginal history and culture, not a reproduction of the majority (colonial) society's "fee simple" system.

    Flanagan has admitted publicly that he learned much from Jules that changed his view on this complex issue -- an issue he once believed was oh-so-simple.

    He has not shown similar open-mindedness on much else.

    Like children, Canadians need behaviour modification

    The essence of Harper's mentor's political philosophy, if one could call it a philosophy, owes as much to Machiavelli as it does to any of the philosophic heroes the new right, going back to Adam Smith and his famous "invisible hand."

    Flanagan's goal has been to get the Conservatives to understand that they must re-invent Canada, not merely govern it. And they have to do this in the face of the fact that even if Canadians might put the Conservatives in power (thanks to the first-past-the-post electoral system) those same Canadians are still "soft, spoiled and socialistic."

    Canadians, Flanagan believes, must -- like children who don't know what's good for them -- be gently but firmly led to the brisk and bracing Conservative promised land.

    Indeed, Harper's mentor harbours an attitude toward his adopted country that is not dissimilar to that of colonizers on a "civilizing and Christianizing" mission toward the benighted and unschooled "natives."

    It is no use trying to reason with the spoiled and recalcitrant welfare state clients that Canadians are, Flanagan has argued.

    The way to re-make Canada, Flanagan teaches, is through behaviour modification. His central message: Change the rules of the game and change the incentives of the system and we will change the people and the country.

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  39. The tactic of resorting to stealth to get the Conservative Party’s main legislative agenda through Parliament (see omnibus Bills C-38 and C-45) comes, either directly or indirectly, from Flanagan.

    As well, Flanagan's ideology is behind the end of the per capita subsidy to political parties, the raising of the minimum age for Old Age Security, the draconian tightening of Employment Insurance rules for seasonal workers, and the virtual elimination of environmental hearings for energy projects.

    In the last case, the Flanagan ideology reasons that if First Nations, environmentalists and other do-gooder ne'er-do-wells are deprived of a platform, their voices -- like Bishop Berkeley’s tree in the forest -- will echo in futile silence.
    Fund your friends, starve your critics

    In fact, Flanagan has been most emphatic in advocating that the Conservatives should de-fund all those "Liberal friends" in civil society.

    Stop giving taxpayer dollars, he has said, to the array of non-governmental organizations that work on the environment, social justice, international development, and women's and children's issues (some, likely, raising concerns over sexual exploitation of children).

    Flanagan has argued that Liberal governments spent public funds to subsidize their politicakl "allies" in civil society, even if some of those supposed allies used some of that money funds to quite harshly criticize the Liberals.

    In the view of Flanagan and the Harper Conservatives, tolerating that sort of criticism from people who benefit from your largesse is symptomatic of a sort of masochistic pathology among Liberals (and, provincially, where they have been in power, among NDPers).

    The Conservatives have been blunt about not wanting to fund anyone who, in any way, openly disagrees with any aspect of their program.

    And they have gone even further. They have worked hard to steer funds to their ideological soul mates and friends among the Evangelicals, regardless of what those friends may have to say about homosexuality.

    Flanagan's 'perch has been unique'

    You can find the most thorough elaboration of the Flanagan philosophy in a book by two up and coming young Canadian neo-conservatives, Tasha Kheiriddin and Adam Daifallah:Rescuing Canada's Right: Blueprint for a Conservative Revolution.

    The two up-and-comers are big Flanagan fans.

    This is what Daifallah had to say about Flanagan in a review of the updated version of Waiting for the Wave, in the Globe and Mail, last summer:

    Other than Stephen Harper, no person is as qualified as Tom Flanagan to offer an insider's perspective on the Reform Party, its reincarnation as the Conservative Party and what has transpired since then. As a Reform activist and staffer (he worked closely with Preston Manning for two years) and as the occupant of several important roles in the Canadian Alliance and Conservatives (including election campaign manager in 2004), the University of Calgary professor's perch has been unique.

    Flanagan's rather overly frank comments on child pornography may have pushed him off that "unique perch."

    But Flanagan's ideology is very much alive and well, and living in the halls of power, in Ottawa.


  40. From Bible Bill to Stephen Harper, the evolution of faith-based politics

    By Ira Basen, special to CBC March 15, 2013

    When Tommy Douglas, a Baptist minister, was the premier of Saskatchewan in the 1940s and '50s, his Co-operative Commonwealth Federation was inspired by the ideals of the "social gospel" movement, which sought to apply Christian ethics to attack social injustice.

    Next door in Alberta, another Baptist minister, William "Bible Bill" Aberhart had been premier since 1935 and when he died, in 1943, he was succeeded by Ernest Manning, who had been the first graduate of Aberhart's Prophetic Bible Institute in Calgary.

    In Quebec, the Union Nationale Party of Maurice Duplessis was in power from 1944 to 1960, and enjoyed the enthusiastic support of most of the province's Catholic hierarchy.

    So tight was the connection between church and party that Duplessis campaigned on the slogan "a vote for the Union Nationale is a vote for your religion and your Catholic faith."

    You don't have to dig very deep into Canadian history to find evidence of faith-based politics, at least on the provincial level. In national politics, it's been a different story.

    Canada has had nine Catholic prime ministers, but two of the most prominent, Wilfrid Laurier and Pierre Trudeau, both clashed publicly at times with Quebec's Catholic Church leaders.

    By the time Tommy Douglas became the first leader of the federal New Democratic Party in 1961, most of the talk about building a "new Jerusalem" had faded well into the background.

    Only the conservative Christian fundamentalist tradition, which began with Aberhart and Manning, has been able to plant roots in the soil of federal politics, but it has been a long and convoluted road.

    By the 1970s, many conservative Christians were growing increasingly dismayed by the growing secularization of Canadian society, and shifting attitudes about abortion, divorce and homosexuality.

    In 1987, the Christian Heritage Party was founded, dedicated to running the country on "biblical principles." It fielded 63 candidates in the 1988 federal election.

    That same year, Preston Manning, son of Ernest, founded the Alberta-based Reform Party as a Western protest movement with a strong socially conservative bent. Ten years later, Reform had 60 seats in the House of Commons and had become the official opposition.

    Under Manning, Reform was generally able to put its Christian roots on the back-burner.

    But that was no longer possible when Reform morphed into the Canadian Alliance Party in 2000 and chose Stockwell Day as its leader. Day refused to campaign on Sundays and once gave a speech that seemed to indicate he supported the biblical notion that humans and dinosaurs co-existed on Earth 6,000 years ago.

    Evangelicals were wildly enthusiastic about Stockwell Day as the leader of a national political party, but many Canadians were wary about his perceived fundamentalism, and he was unable to expand the Alliance base outside of Western Canada.

    By 2002, the party had turned against him and Day was replaced by Stephen Harper.

    Harper, who joined the evangelical Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in the 1980s, had long believed that courting the religious right by emphasizing social issues was bad politics for a party trying to form a national government.

    Better to stick to economic issues like taxes, deficits and de-regulation.

    But in a speech given to a conservative think-tank in Toronto in April 2003, Harper changed course. He argued that "the defining issues have shifted from economic issues to social values, so conservatives must do the same ...

    "On a wide range of public-policy questions, including foreign affairs and defence, criminal justice and corrections, family and child care, and health care and social services, social values are increasingly the really big issues."

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  41. The new party needed to reach out to social conservatives of all denominations and faiths, a group he labelled the "theo-cons," and it must be prepared to accept small incremental gains and build coalitions that would ultimately lead to victory.

    Three years later, that victory was achieved, and in the seven years since then, that 2003 speech can be seen as a blueprint for solidifying the Conservative hold on religious conservatives of all denominations.

    The theo-con influence

    How important are theo-cons in the Conservative coalition?

    Well, an Ipsos-Reid exit poll taken on election day 2011 found that across all faiths, the more religious you were, the more likely you were to vote Conservative.

    The party picked up 50 per cent of voters who said they attended a church or temple every week; and 42 per cent of those who said they had "some religious identity," compared to 32 per cent for the NDP and 16 per cent for the Liberals. But what about on the policy front?

    It is tempting to dismiss the influence of theo-cons because two of their biggest legislative goals — the re-criminalization of abortion and an end to same-sex marriage — appear no closer to being realized today than they did when the Conservatives were first elected.

    But in many other areas this group has made significant progress.

    One of the Harper government's first acts upon taking office was to cancel the national daycare plan cobbled together by the Liberals and replace it with child tax credits and other "family friendly" measures designed to keep government out of the business of raising children.

    A recent study of grants awarded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), by a political scientist at the University of Quebec, found that money allocated to religious non-profit groups increased 42 per cent between 2005-10, compared to a rise of five per cent for secular NGOs.

    As well, for the first time, millions of federal dollars have been funnelled into private Christian colleges and universities through the government's Knowledge Infrastructure Program.

    And then there was the recent announcement of the creation of the Office of Religious Freedom, with a $5-million annual budget, charged with "promoting freedom of religion or belief around the world."

    This fulfilled a promise made in the 2011 Conservative election platform, although a promise made in the 2008 platform to establish a Democracy Protection Agency to "promote Canada's democratic ideals abroad" has never seen the light of day.

    The Armageddon factor

    In her exhaustively researched 2010 book, The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, journalist Marci McDonald traced the growing influence of conservative Christian groups on the Canadian political landscape, and specifically within the upper echelons of Stephen Harper's Ottawa.

    Canadians needed to wake up, McDonald argued, "to the realization that slowly, covertly, the political process is being co-opted by an extremist vision of Christianity."

    Many critics, however, have accused McDonald of overstating the role played by evangelicals in the Conservative Party, suggesting that she is transposing what is happening with the Christian right in the U.S., and that the Canadian experience is different.

    But the past two years of majority government has made it clear that faith-based politics and policies are clearly a factor in today's Ottawa, much more so than in the past.

    "Serious conservative parties simply cannot shy away from values questions," Stephen Harper told the audience in his 2003 speech in Toronto. And he clearly hasn't.


  42. NOTE: PM Harper has a soft spot for furry animals, especially foreign species like cats and pandas. Too bad for Canada's poorest children, especially Indigenous children, who Harper completely ignores in his policy making. He is eager and willing to spend billions on unnecessary war machines and law and order programs like new prisons as crime rates fall, while leaving a few million Canadian children to languish in poverty, hunger and housing insecurity. No wonder he tried to hide from Canadian citizens his prominent role kowtowing to the Chinese so he could get more public relations photos of him with cuddly creatures. Disgusting demagoguery.

    Stephen Harper personally asked for China’s pandas, memo says


    OTTAWA – Stephen Harper has a soft spot for two cute and furry pandas that are scheduled to arrive from China on Monday. But the government was hesitant to let Canadians know full details of his efforts.

    According to an internal memorandum, Harper and former environment minister Jim Prentice were instrumental in securing the deal that will land the pandas, Da Mao and Er Shun, in Canada for a 10-year stay at the Toronto and Calgary zoos.

    “Attempts to strike a deal on pandas have been floated for more than a decade, but only began to progress quickly when Prime Minister Harper personally raised the matter with Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the National People’s Congress, in Beijing in December 2009, and former Minister Prentice signed a letter of support on behalf of the Government of Canada,” said the memo, prepared for the office of Environment Minister Peter Kent.

    The memo was released through access to information legislation, but only following an investigation by the office of Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault. The investigation concluded that Environment Canada had inappropriately responded to a 2012 request for the memo from Postmedia News, by denying access to sections that mentioned Harper as well as other details about the loan of the bears.

    Environment Canada also attempted to redact the word “loan” from the memo’s title – “Giant panda loan for Canadian zoos” – and other references to the “loan” throughout the document. It revised these redactions following the investigation.

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  43. The newly released version of the memo, dated Oct. 25, 2011, suggested that the Chinese government wanted Harper to personally make a trip to China to announce the panda deal, which will also require the two zoos to collectively pay about $10 million over the next decade for panda conservation efforts.

    “While the date for the announcement of the giant panda loan has not yet been confirmed, it is expected that it will be made jointly by Prime Minister Harper and Chinese Premier Wen during the Prime Minister’s proposed visit to China in December (2011),” said the memo, signed by Environment Canada’s associate deputy minister Andrea Lyon.

    “Although the approval has been granted, China has advised that a public announcement should wait for a suitable occasion (i.e. a senior level visit). As China has already granted approval for the loan, the risk of a change in this arrangement is low and the loan process is expected to proceed without incident.”

    The trip in which Harper announced the deal occurred in February 2012. His office declined comment about whether China wanted him to be there in person to announce the panda deal, or whether that affected the timing of the trip in any way.

    “The Prime Minister was pleased to be able to visit China in 2012 and make a number of significant announcements, including the announcement that two pandas would be loaned to Canada,” said Harper’s spokeswoman Julie Vaux in an email. “The arrival of the pandas is a signal of the strong relationship between Canada and China and we’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

    The Chinese government’s embassy in Ottawa did not respond to questions.

    The prime minister ended 2012 by saying on his social media Internetaccounts that his favourite picture of the year was a shot of him sitting with his wife, Laureen, holding a baby panda at the Chongqing zoo in February.


  44. Conservative MPs take aggressive stand on speech restraints

    by GLORIA GALLOWAY OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail
    March 26, 2013

    Backbench Conservative MPs are taking the most aggressive stand to date against the control exercised by the Harper government over what they are permitted to say in the House of Commons.

    But the government says its MPs are members of the party team, and the coach of that team gets to decide the plays.

    The rebellion originates in the anti-abortion faction of the Conservative caucus, where lesser incidents of backlash against the tight restraints imposed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper have occasionally flared in the past. It centres on the efforts of Mark Warawa, the Tory MP for Langley, B.C., to introduce a non-binding motion condemning sex-selective abortion.

    A sub-committee of the House of Commons declared that the motion was not eligible for further debate – essentially rendering it dead – despite the opinion of a Library of Parliament analyst who said it was entirely within bounds.

    Mr. Warawa tried to fight back by reading a statement in the Commons but says the Conservative brass struck his name from the list of members set to make statements. “The reason I was given was that the topic was not approved of,” Mr. Warawa said.

    Mr. Harper has made it clear to his caucus that he does not want the abortion debate reopened in the House. Mr. Warawa, on the other hand, insists he has the right to raise whatever issue he sees fit.

    “Each of us has that responsibility to represent our communities, the people who elected us,” he said to Speaker Andrew Scheer on Tuesday. “We need to have those rights to be ensured that we have the opportunity to properly represent our communities.”

    Many Conservative MPs agree. Leon Benoit, an Alberta MP, said there are at least 36 members of the caucus who do not believe the government should have been allowed to censor Mr. Warawa.

    “I have had my rights taken away when it comes to representing my constituents on certain topics and I just do not think that is appropriate,” Mr. Benoit, another abortion opponent, told the House.

    Brent Rathgeber, a Conservative MP for Edmonton, said on a blog post that the fact that the topic of abortion makes “some leaders” nervous is entirely irrelevant. “To essentially censor the motion out of the gate against the advice of an independent analyst is heavy handed,” he said, “and I would suggest contrary to the expectations of constituents who rightly believe that their MPs have a voice and can represent them in Ottawa.”

    But the Conservative government, which has managed to keep its members well scripted both inside and outside the Commons for more than seven years, disagrees. Gordon O’Connor, the government whip, reminded Mr. Scheer that the lists of MPs making members’ statements has been drawn up by the party whips.

    “Put simply,” he said, “this is a team activity and your role is referee. It is not your job as referee to tell the coach or manager which player to play at any given time. That is a question for each team to decide.”

    The New Democrats at first seemed unsure how to respond to Mr. Warawa’s point of privilege. On one hand they undoubtedly enjoy seeing fractures in the Conservative caucus; on the other, they may have concerns about their own members being granted too much licence.

    Nathan Cullen, the NDP House Leader, told the Commons that his party wanted time to consider the matter. Later, he told reporters that his party does not vet members’ statements.

    “Whether the Speaker can intervene and whether it is actually and technically a question of privilege is one debate,” Mr. Cullen said. But “we have been hearing a growing frustration just in the back corridors of Parliament from Conservative MPs about the controlling nature of the PMO and that there’s maybe a list, and a growing list, of taboo topics that the Prime Minister doesn’t want raised.”


  45. Harper government sidesteps motion on MP rights to avoid giving Justin Trudeau a win


    In the last election campaign, Michael Ignatieff spoke persuasively, often and at length about the importance of Parliament, complaining that Stephen Harper had shown contempt for our democracy’s central institution. Harper, on the other hand, talked about something more interesting to most voters: the economy.

    Voters sent Ignatieff back to the lecture hall and gave Harper a majority.

    Having run a presidential-style campaign, he received a presidential mandate, and governs as a president does, issuing fiats through unelected staffers in his office, who are able to control MPs to a degree that would shock MPs in Britain.

    Our political campaigns are so leader-centric that most MPs understand that their masters are not really the people in their communities but the party leader who got them elected.

    This is not only true of the Conservatives. What else explains the many formerly unknown students and Cegep professors elected under Jack Layton’s banner in Quebec?

    I think this leader-centric politics is the result of Canadians’ confusion about our system. We don’t elect a prime minister, as the Americans elect a president, but everybody acts as though we do.

    But presidential systems are designed with checks and balances, not a Parliament that rubber stamps everything the prime minister wants.

    Our parliamentary democracy is degraded and debased, fulfilling a largely ceremonial function while the real work of governing takes place in secret.

    Individual MPs can’t meaningfully review spending before voting on money bills. They do not have the right to rise in the House of Commons to ask questions of concern from their constituents without the approval of party bosses. Legislation is rarely meaningfully amended in committees.

    Everybody knows that the system is broken, including a growing number of Conservative backbenchers who are bravely pushing for reforms.

    The catalyst was a motion condemning sex-selection abortions that British Columbia backbencher Mark Warawa introduced.

    The prime minister had promised voters that his government would not allow debate on abortion — a presidential veto — so the party killed the bill at committee.

    Warawa wanted to complain about that in the House of Commons during the daily 15-minute period allotted for members’ statements. But just before he was to speak, the party yanked his slot.

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  46. He stood to complain to Speaker Andrew Scheer that “he experienced the removal of my right and my privilege” as an MP, which seems to be true.

    Government whip Gordon O’Connor told Scheer that Warawa was wrong: “It is not your job as referee to tell the coach or manager which player to put on to play at any given time. That is a question for each team to decide.”

    Theoretically, all MPs have the right to make statements, but for decades the party whips have parceled out the slots — just like a hockey coach shifting lines.

    The Conservatives use this control to get MPs to stand every day to tediously denounce the NDP’s supposed plans for a job-killing carbon tax.

    Many backbench Tory MPs would prefer to have the freedom to stand up and talk about something important to them or their constituents, and 12 of them have now stood in the House to speak in support of Warawa’s complaint, calling on the Speaker to let them speak without party permission. If the speaker says yes, they could sometimes ludicrously attack a mythical carbon tax and other times talk about oil seeds or local music festivals or whatever.

    For a year, a group of about 20 Conservative MPs has been holding quiet meetings on the Hill to discuss ways to advance democratic reform. This is a democracy movement, not an anti-abortion movement in disguise, as some have written.

    The MPs who have stood in the House — including John Williamson, the former director of communications to Harper — are likely sacrificing their career prospects by speaking out, but the PMO has not put the muscle on them, likely because what they are seeking is entirely within their rights, and because they are otherwise loyal soldiers.

    On Friday, new Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced that the Liberals would move a motion Monday to give MPs the right to speak without permission from party bosses.

    It looked like the motion could have passed with the help of the pro-democracy Tory MPs, but the government quickly postponed the Liberals’ opposition day, pointing to the terrible events in Boston and saying MPs need to debate an anti-terrorism bill, a tissue-thin excuse for avoiding a humiliating defeat at the hands of the new Liberal leader.

    The speaker is expected to rule this week on Warawa’s motion before the Liberals can bring the question to a vote.

    The Conservatives are likely now hoping that Scheer will rule against them and for Warawa, which will quietly resolve the issue without giving Trudeau a win, and Parliament will take one very small step in the right direction.


  47. Morgentalers fight not finished for abortion movement

    Barriers to abortion access remain in parts of Canada

    By Amber Hildebrandt, CBC News May 31, 2013

    Dr. Henry Morgentaler fought successfully for a woman's legal right to an abortion, but the controversial physician knew the fight was far from over in Canada.

    In accepting the Order of Canada in 2008 for his role in decriminalizing abortion two decades earlier, Morgentaler declared "the battle is not completely won in all of Canada."

    It's a battle Morgentaler refused to stop even late in life, but his death on Wednesday at the age of 90 creates some bumps in the road as the movement continues its march.

    Barriers to access to an abortion remain in Atlantic Canada and rural parts of the country. Prince Edward Island is the sole province where abortions are not performed, while the New Brunswick government is the subject a decade-long court battle spearheaded by Morgentaler over funding.

    "It's been a big blow, for sure," said Simone Leibovitch, manager of the Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic, "but we have to go on."

    Morgentaler launched the lawsuit against the province in 2003 over its refusal to pay for abortions at the private clinic he'd set up in Fredericton. Under Canada's Health Act, New Brunswick pays only for abortions performed in hospitals and approved by two physicians.

    A preliminary challenge questioned whether Morgentaler himself could act as plaintiff since he wasn't directly affected by the abortion policy. In 2009, a Court of Appeal ruling stated he could.

    Now, the court case faces questions over its future.

    A department of justice spokesperson said the lawsuit is effectively null and void after Morgentaler's death, but legal experts said an application can be made before the courts to have a substitute plaintiff named.

    Finding a suitable plaintiff willing to take on the case could take a year or two, said Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada executive director Joyce Arthur.

    "It's hopefully not over," said Arthur, noting Morgentaler had taken a less active role in recent years.

    "Henry was a plaintiff for many years, but he already sort of washed his hands of that case because he was too tired and ran out of money. It's just a matter of finding a new plaintiff. We'll see what we can do in regards to that."

    The New Brunswick case was the only legal battle that Morgentaler was still involved in at the time of his death, but the abortion rights activist had also spent years trying to tackle barriers to access in Prince Edward Island.

    In the 1990s, Morgentaler fought Prince Edward Island's policy of not paying for abortions in private clinics. He initially succeeded in having the regulation thrown out, but that decision was appealed and the regulations were reinstated.

    After that, however, Morgentaler turned his attention to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, hoping victories there would spur change on P.E.I.

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  48. A local professor studying the abortion rights issue on the Island says a chilly climate surrounds the issue and the province would benefit from a Morgentaler-type figure to help strip away the remaining barriers to abortion access.

    "The bottom line is that women in Prince Edward Island never benefited from the 1988 Morgentaler decision by the Supreme Court because the province of Prince Edward Island systematically worked against that constitutional right," said Colleen MacQuarrie, an associate psychology professor at the University of Prince Edward Island.

    No doctor on the island is currently performing surgical abortions, though medical abortions are secretly being conducted, according to reports.

    Physicians in Canada don't have to perform an abortion, but can't stand in the way of providing a referral to get the procedure done and informing the patient about it.

    A P.E.I. woman who wants the procedure must travel four hours by car or transit to either a Halifax hospital where it is publicly funded, or to Fredericton's private Morgentaler clinic where it costs about $800. Travel expenses are not paid for.

    "What it means is substantial resources and personal supports are required for a 10-minute procedure," said MacQuarrie. "Contrast that if you're living in Charlottetown, 10 minutes away from your home, you go there you have the procedure and you're home. It's a couple hours out of your day."

    The Abortion Coalition of Canada's executive director Arthur said one of its priorities is to find a doctor willing to perform abortions on the Island.

    Island activists are appreciative of the legacy Morgentaler left, even though they say there's still a battle to be waged in his absence.

    "I think he's given us a gift that we need to, unfortunately, continue to fight to maintain and preserve and here on P.E.I. even access," said Michelle MacCallum of the Women's Network PEI.

    Besides the battles in Atlantic Canada, Arthur said the lack of abortion access in rural communities remains the top concern.

    "Access is good to excellent in most major cities, but it's the rural areas and the North and a few places like the Maritimes and Saskatchewan where access is still poor," said Arthur.

    Less than 20 per cent of hospitals actually provide abortions, with private clinics, such as the Morgentaler ones, conducting most of them.

    "Doctors don't want to be exposed in a small town and it's hard to blame them, because of the fear that still surrounds the abortion issue," said Arthur. "Doctors are still being harassed today."



    Abortion rights activist Dr. Henry Morgentaler dies at 90

    Abortion rights: significant moments in Canadian history

    A crusader's legacy: How Henry Morgentaler changed Canada's laws

  49. Castledare Boys Home (Or: Shoveling Asbestos)

    by Lewis Blayse, Commentary on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Australia)
    July 4, 2013


    Image: The Castledare Boys’ Home is now a retirement home for priests http://dynamic.architecture.com.au/awards_search?option=showaward&entryno=20046002

    The Castledare Boys’ Home was one of the notorious facilities operated by the Christian Brothers in Western Australia. Like the others (Bindoon,Tradum and Clontarf), it is worthy of renewed attention by the Royal Commission.

    It was a destination for “child migrants” (see previous posting) from the U.K. and Malta. The Northern Ireland government is currently trying to contact Irish “child migrants” to these institutions (see previous posting). In 1994, the Parliament of Western Australia was presented a petition with 30,000 signatures calling for an enquiry into the Christian Brothers’ institutions.

    Castledare was opened in 1929 to house what the Brothers then called “sub-normal boys”). Later it changed to a facility for boys who were state wards, orphans and child migrants. The abuses which occurred there were typical of the other Christian Brothers’ Homes in Western Australia. A very full account is given in the “Voices” organization’s submissions to the U.K. government and the 2004 Australian Senate’s enquiry (see references below).

    U.K. Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, have both apologized to the “child migrants” sent to these Christian Brothers’ Homes. The Maltese Prime Minister, Mr.Gonzi, unveiled a memorial to Maltese “child migrants” to Australia. It is located in GrandHarbour, and notes that there were 310 such children.

    Various reports over the years (see references below for details) indicated that both government and church authorities were well aware of the terrible conditions, and abuses, at Castledare. Some offenders have been prosecuted, but others have escaped justice because of age or ill-health. This is one of the reasons that the Royal Commission should revisit the Castledare scandals.

    There is also one further matter which distinguishes the Castledare case from other Homes of that era.

    Since 1963, there has been a small scale railway open to the public for children’s rides, at Castledare.

    In Australia, the asbestos building materials producer, James Hardie, has been prosecuted for its product causing the lung cancer, mesothelioma and forced to establish a compensation fund for the many victims, both present and future.

    In 2011, Simon Lowes successfully sued James Hardie for mesothelioma he contracted as a result of visiting the model railway as a child in the 1970s. The pay-out was $2,068,396.93, a record at the time. The asbestos dust came from base materials for the rail track.(see photo below), which had been placed there between 1968 and 1970.

    Image: The Castledare Model Railway

    Given that Mr. Lowes had only visited the facility on 4-6 occasions for periods of about 2 hours at a time, then what was the exposure for the boys at Castledare who had to place the material there, and maintained it with raking, shoveling etc., for several years.

    No former residents have been compensated. No asbestos-related health checks have been conducted by the government health authorities.

    During the Lowes court hearings, Norman Holmes recalled how he and other boys at Castledare used to shift up to nine tonnes of dumped asbestos from piles to swamp areas and spread it with rakes and compact it into solid foundations for the railway. He was often “knee deep in mud and water” working on building the railway, which took between 12 and 18 months to complete stage one and longer to finish stage two.

    continued below

  50. They also carted ‘blue rock’ that was used to form a base for the railway track and dumped material was placed on top of the blue rock,” the court decision read. He and the other boys would be covered in dust from working on the railway; the water would turn grey when they subsequently showered. He typically worked on the railway during the week in the afternoon until 5pm and all day Saturday from the age of six to eight.

    Another Castledare boy, Christopher Wagland, recalled the Brothers making him smooth out 3-4 cubic metres of asbestos dust. “Dust would be blown onto the oval and into the dormitories and classrooms so that the boys were always coughing,” he told the court.

    Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia WA President Robert Vojakovich said children were forced to carry asbestos up to 60m with no protective clothing and in little more than T-shirts and spread it around on the ground.

    A doctor who visited the site in 1972, reported that “The situation at the model railway is intolerable and some means must be found urgently to prevent the exposure of the boys at the home and visitors from the general public being exposed to dust in this way.”

    The asbestos exposure is, of course, not within the terms of reference of the Royal Commission, but it does serve the purpose of giving a background picture of the disregard for the welfare of the Castledare boys by the Christian Brothers.

    One boy, whose name was suppressed out of consideration for the family, had experienced every type of abuse the malevolent minds of his “carers” could think of, also contracted early onset asbestosis. At the time, the issue was not well known to the public, so he had no chance of compensation. He took his own life, in despair.

    Mesothelioma takes a very long time to develop – sometimes over 40 years. The connection with asbestos has only recently been established. How many Home Boys have died of it, undiagnosed?

    The main building has been extensively renovated by the Catholic Church. It is described by its architects as being “restored to its former glory”. It now has self-contained units which are used for retired priests. Most of the land has been sold for a housing estate in what is now sub-urban Perth. The model railway continued to make money.

    The value of the old Castledare Home and land should be donated to a compensation fund for the former boys of the Home.

    Read more here:





















    TOMORROW: The Maltese Connection

  51. Study: Cats named the leading cause of bird deaths in Canada

    Environment Canada has released a report on the top causes of bird deaths in Canada, and it's not looking good for our feline friends.


    Feral and domestic cats have been named the top cause of bird deaths across the country, claiming more than 133 million lives annually.

    The paper concludes that approximately 269 million of the country's 10 billion birds are destroyed by human activity each year.

    That's the equivalent of 186 million breeding individuals.

    When combined, "cat predation, and collisions with windows, vehicles and transmission lines caused >95% of all [avian] mortality," the study's authors write.

    The data was compiled from various studies as well as publicly-available information, like national housing statistics and the number of cats in Canada.

    Because there haven't been many studies on bird mortality rates, there is some uncertainty with the estimates. Still, researchers say the paper sheds a light on the impact human activity can have wildlife populations.

    "Some sources of human-related avian mortality are well-quantified, such as the regulated sport harvest of game birds, but the magnitudes of most sources are precise or unknown," the authors write.

    "In particular, those affecting a few birds at a time, e.g., a cat predation or building collisions, may often be overlooked because their local effects are extrapolated nationally."

    Some collisions are unavoidable. Researchers at the University of Alberta believe many avian window fatalities are caused by "panic flight", a phenomenon that occurs when a bird is caught off-guard.

    Still, there are a number of ways homeowners can reduce risks:

    Keep bird feeders within three feet of a window. That way, birds won't be able to gain enough speed to seriously injure themselves, should they come into contact with a window

    Hang an ornament. A simple sun catcher is enough to let a bird know that they're about to fly into a wall.

    Add stickers or decals to your windows. Experts recommend keeping decals close together -- about a hand's width apart. Images that resemble hawks or raptors are sure to steer small birds away from windows.

    Keep plants away from windows. If this isn't possible, consider installing a protective mesh screen. There are a variety of companies that perform this service at a reasonable cost.

    Keep your blinds drawn or install frosted windows. While blinds can help, they're rendered ineffective when placed against a reflective window. Many hardware stores sell opaque films that can be easily applied.


  52. Canadas Maternal Health Aid Marred by Cheap Politics

    Harper's big pledge does nothing for the 50,000 women dying annually from unsafe abortions.

    By Devon Black, iPolitics October 10, 2013

    Our prime minister doesn't have a sparkling record on international development.

    Under his supervision, Canada's reputation as a humanitarian leader has been badly sullied. In February of this year, the government stopped funding anti-gay groups working in Uganda -- all well and good, until one starts to wonder why they got the funding to begin with.

    Our aid priorities have shifted; now they're less about helping the world's poor and more about helping Canadian companies get their hands on mineral wealth in the developing world. And then, of course, there was Bev Oda's penchant for handwritten annotations on funding documents.

    Yet despite Harper's miserable record on alleviating human misery, there is one development issue that seems to be near and dear to his heart: maternal mortality.

    Harper didn't step up to speak before the UN General Assembly at its opening last month -- but he did take the time to attend UN meetings on women and girls. There, Harper announced that the Canadian government is contributing an additional $203.55 million, beyond the $1.1 billion that Canada had already pledged, to the Muskoka Initiative to improve maternal, newborn and child health in the developing world.

    Normally this would be good news, and there's no doubt the money is badly needed. The World Health Organization estimates that 800 women die of pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes every day, but reducing maternal mortality has been one of the Millennium Development Goals that's seen the slowest progress.

    Unfortunately, last week International Development Minister Christian Paradis confirmed that the government is clinging to the position it established when the Muskoka Initiative was launched in 2010: No government money will be used to provide safe abortions -- ever. Not even child brides or rape victims get an exception. If they get pregnant, that's their problem.

    One of our best tools

    In 2010, Harper defended his reactionary position in the House of Commons by claiming that "Canadians want to see their foreign aid money used for things that will help save the lives of women and children in ways that unite the Canadian people rather than divide them."

    What Harper clearly failed to understand then, and still doesn't understand now, is that safe abortions do save lives.

    continued below

  53. Let's look at the numbers. A full 13 per cent of maternal deaths are caused by complications arising from unsafe abortions. Illnesses and disabilities caused by unsafe abortions are notoriously difficult to measure, but it's estimated that in addition to the 47,000 women who die from unsafe abortion every year, 8.5 million women experience complications from unsafe abortions that leave them in need of medical attention. We can't improve maternal mortality until we put an end to unsafe abortion.

    Ensuring that women have access to contraceptives would help reduce those numbers, but the only sure-fire way to make sure women stop dying from unsafe abortion is to make abortion legal and safe. That's not idle talk -- after South Africa liberalized its abortion laws, deaths from abortion complications dropped by 91 per cent. Women seek out unsafe abortions because they have no other options. If we make options available, women will use them.

    This is why it's hard to take our government seriously when they profess their concern for women around the world. We've known for decades that providing access to safe abortion is one of the most effective ways to protect women and their health -- so if the goal is to protect women, why aren't we using one of the best tools in our kit?

    Empower to protect

    Maybe it's because for the Conservatives, scoring political points is more important than making policy based on evidence.

    Reading through the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada splash page on maternal, newborn and child health, the tone is striking. There's no mention of women's reproductive rights at all -- but when women have the power to make choices about if and when to have children, they're better able to protect their reproductive health overall.

    Reproductive choice is fundamental to women's health but our government won't even acknowledge it as an issue. Instead, they choose to talk only about mothers -- while steadfastly refusing to acknowledge that many women getting sick and dying from pregnancy-related causes don't want to be mothers now, or ever.

    Part of the reason maternal mortality is still such a problem is that women aren't permitted to make the reproductive choices that are best for them. If we're serious about reducing maternal mortality, we can't just approach the problem with a new brand of paternalism. We need to make sure women have the freedom to make their own health care decisions -- whatever those decisions might be. [Tyee]

    Devon Black is studying law at the University of Victoria. In addition to writing for iPolitics, Devon has worked for the Canadian International Development Agency, Leadership Africa USA and RamRais & Partners.


  54. Laureen Harper dismisses missing Indigenous women issue while speaking at cat video festival (VIDEO)

    "If you'd like to donate to animals, we'd love to take your money," Harper shot back at an audience member who asked why the Prime Minister wasn't taking action over Canada's missing and murdered Indigenous women.

    by Jenny Uechi, Vancouver Observer April 18th, 2014

    Sporting furry black cat ears, the Prime Minister's wife, Laureen Harper, dismissed an audience member's call for action on missing and murdered Indigenous women at an Internet Cat Video Festival in Toronto.

    "Mrs. Harper, raising awareness of about cat welfare is a good look for your husband's upcoming campaign strategy," shouted activist Hailey King, disrupting Harper's speech.

    "Don't you think supporting an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women would be a better look?"

    "We're raising money for animals tonight," Harper shot back. "If you'd like to donate to animals, we'd love to take your money."

    "We'd love to take your money!" Harper's co-host shouted as King was escorted out.

    Addressing the crowd, Harper continued:

    "That (murdered and missing Indigenous women) is a great cause, but that's another night. Tonight, we're here for homeless cats."

    The Conservative government has been under pressure for an inquiry into Canada's 800 missing and murdered Indigenous women over the past few years, but has so far made no move to respond. Last August, the Prime Minister was questioned by an audience member during a visit to New York why he wasn't investigating the violence against Indigenous women. He said he was "skeptical" about the effectiveness of an inquiry, and suggested more efforts needed to be made to raise the status of women in general, and not just First Nation women.

    James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, was in Canada last October to investigate what he called a"disturbing phenomenon" of violence against Indigenous women. He had also urged a federal inquiry into the problem.

    After the confrontation, Activist group Sh*t Harper Did released a video of the recorded dialogue.


  55. Harper wont fund abortion globally because it is extremely divisive

    'You can't rally a consensus on that issue,' PM says

    By Trinh Theresa Do, CBC News May 29, 2014

    When the Canadian government took on maternal, newborn and child health as its flagship program in 2010, it unwittingly waltzed into the contentious issue of abortion.

    And though the government has expressed no desire to talk about abortion, the issue continues to rise, especially amid the inaugural global summit on maternal and child health this week, with critics demanding the government focus more on reproductive health.

    in an exclusive TV interview with the CBC's Hannah Thibedeau, Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed why he's choosing not to fund global abortion services.

    "We're trying to rally a broad public consensus behind what we're doing, and you can't rally a consensus on that issue, as you know well in this country," he said.

    "It's not only controversial here, it's controversial and often illegal in many recipient nations."

    Harper doesn't agree with the suggestion that he is exporting his beliefs abroad to other countries by not funding abortion services.

    "We're really not taking a position on that. We have taxpayers' money and we have great needs," he said to Thibedeau.

    "And frankly, there's more than enough things that we can finance, including contraception, without getting into an issue that really would be extremely divisive for Canadians and donors."

    Melinda Gates, who spoke with the CBC's Thibedeau alongside Harper, asked why women had to be put in a situation where they consider abortion in the first place.

    "One of the things we don't invest in enough, as a world, are contraceptives. We put women in that situation because they don't have access and when you talk to them in the developing world, they say, 'I want that tool, I want that shot I used to get,'" she said.

    "We can work upstream on these issues to help women where they are, so you don't ever put them in that situation, and to me, that's the smart investment to make."

    continued below

  56. Saving every woman

    But many, including Canada's opposition parties, disagree.

    New Democratic Party critic for international development Hélène Laverdière challenged the government on its summit theme of "Saving Every Woman, Every Child."

    "Well, there’s 47,000 women who die each year from unsafe abortions,” she said in an interview with CBC News.

    "So, if we want to save every woman, we have to address that issue too.”

    According to the World Health Organization, 21.6 million women experience an unsafe abortion worldwide each year. The 47,000 who die make up about 13 per cent of annual maternal deaths.

    As part of Millennium Development Goal No. 5, which aims to reduce the maternal mortality rate by 75 per cent from 1990 to 2015, the United Nations secretary general came up with a global strategy for women and children's health. Among other things, it includes saving the lives of women who experience unsafe abortions.

    But the hot button issue of abortion is not what critics are necessarily zeroing in on. Abortion just falls under the umbrella of reproductive and women's rights, which critics said have not been addressed nearly enough by the current government.

    In a letter sent to Harper on May 28, the Canadian Association of Parliamentarians for Population and Development called on the government to support a "human rights-based, post-2015" plan that ensures gender equality and sexual education.

    "Global parliamentarians recommend that women's reproductive health can only be achieved when the human rights of women, girls and youth are realized. Women do not only need health care when they're pregnant. Their overall health as girls, adolescents and youth determine the outcomes of pregnancy, post-partum and neonatal health and survival," the letter reads.


  57. A Canadian asbestos legacy in London

    by Hamish Stewart, Vancouver Observer December 10, 2014

    The other week I made the mistake of replacing the flooring in our London apartment.

    We had wanted to replace old carpets with new flooring that would improve the air quality.

    After sending my wife to stay with neighbours, I pulled out an ancient carpet, only to discover that the subfloor was composed of a layer of carcinogenic asbestos tiles sitting on concrete. Consulting the appropriate health and safety manuals, and donning a hazmat suit, I set to work about removing and disposing of the toxic tiles.

    While sweating heavily underneath a sealed work suit and ventilator mask, I could only question if it was not poetic justice for a Canadian to be faced with removing carcinogenic chrysotile asbestos floor tiles.

    From 1900 through 2003, Canada was responsible for one-third of all worldwide production of all types of asbestos, with only Kazakhstan and Russia producing more.

    Since 2006, there have been unified calls for a global ban on the use of all forms of asbestos, and the WHO estimates that globally more than 107 000 deaths each year are attributable to occupational exposure to asbestos.

    In spite of most forms of asbestos being listed as hazardous materials under international law, Canada continued to oppose the listing of chrysotile asbestos, the type of asbestos mined in Quebec and exported around the world, until 2012.

    Today in Canada, asbestos in new and existing buildings and products remains the largest cause of workplace fatalities. In spite of well-established dangers to human health, Canada still imports large amounts of asbestos and asbestos containing products, including vehicle brake pads.

    Unlike 52 other countries, from Australia and Japan to Sweden and the United Kingdom, Canada has never banned imports or exports of asbestos. The federal government’s decision to export asbestos long after the rest of the developed world had acknowledged its deadly nature, and to continue to permit the import of asbestos-laden products, calls into question their respect for Canadians’ health and well being.

    Saboteur in Chief of International Agreements

    As I peeled back tile after tile from our floor, I wondered how it could have taken so long to regulate the trade in something that everybody had agreed was a dangerous carcinogen?

    Between 2006 and 2011, Canada was the only developed nation to oppose bringing asbestos under the control of the Rotterdam Convention, the United Nations-sponsored treaty signed in 1998, that requires exporters of hazardous substances to disclose the risks. The Convention requires unanimity and until 2012, Canada’s opposition blocked any form of agreement on the regulation of asbestos.

    In particular, until 2011 Canada fought against the listing of chrysotile asbestos as hazardous and carcinogenic, which was exactly what was in my floor tiles. Even though chrysotile asbestos has been listed as a hazardous substance under Canadian law since 1985, Canada has long argued that once it left Canada (as virtually all of it did because Canadians did not want to be exposed to asbestos), it should no longer be treated as a hazardous substance by importing countries, like India.

    At the same time, asbestos industry associations in Canada continue to promote the falsehood that chrysotile asbestos can be safe, perhaps because they are afraid of one day being sued by the thousands of people afflicted with asbestos cancer (“mesothelioma”).

    continued below

  58. In contrast to the apparent immunity of Canadian asbestos producers, exporters, and financiers, in 2012 an Italian court sentenced two asbestos industrialists to 16 years in prison for criminal complicity in covering up the hazards of asbestos. As a result of the cover-up, thousands of workers and nearby residents of an asbestos-cement factory died from asbestos-related diseases, with deaths continuing up to the present. Perhaps a criminal conviction awaits an erstwhile Canadian asbestos magnate?

    Ignoring deadly environmental toxins – a Canadian habit?

    While my and my family’s brush with ancient chrysotile asbestos tiles was mercifully brief, the incident raises the issue of what other products and processes harmful to human health continue to be ignored by our government.

    In British Columbia, the continued push for increased hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the northeast of the province, with little to no regard for water and soil contamination or human health impacts echoes the federal government’s erstwhile approach to asbestos. Just last week, The Guardian reported recent academic research on fracking in the United States that concludes:

    “People who live near fracking operations should be monitored for chemical contaminants and health problems, according to researchers who surveyed the risks posed by substances used in the process… many of the 750 or so chemicals that are pumped into the ground at high pressure to fracture shale rock were associated with fertility and developmental problems.”

    Peer reviewed science suggests that fracking chemicals can lead to acute human health problems, including damaged semen, endocrine problems, miscarriages and low birth weight, among others.

    Yet in BC, almost nothing is publicly known about the type and levels of chemicals that people are exposed to as a result of fracking operations. Instead, the BC Oil and Gas Commission, alongside the federal government have resisted publishing lists of fracking chemicals, and protect those companies found to be violating provincial environmental laws from public scrutiny.

    Following intense public pressure, since 2012, the BC Oil and Gas Commission has required companies to provide the Commission (not members of the public) with lists of chemicals used in the fracking process, and provides broad exemptions for substances deemed to be “trade secrets,” and does not require the publishing of any chemicals used prior to 2012.

    Given the provincial government’s negligence in not taking steps to protect citizens’ health, what are we to do? David Suzuki and others suggest that one form of protection could come via a constitutional right to a healthy environment.

    This would enable citizens to challenge environmental health and contamination issues on constitutional grounds, and would be a powerful tool in helping citizens to keep their environment and their bodies free of toxic substances.

    Like all constitutional law-making, their project could take a while, so in the meantime, get on the phone to your MLA and the Oil and Gas Commission and demand that the government investigate the health and environmental impacts of fracking chemicals in British Columbia.

    Or, if you could take inspiration from Jessica Ernst in Alberta, and sue the government regulator or not doing its job and endangering public health.


  59. Abortion drug decision pushed back by Health Canada

    Mifepristone under consideration at Health Canada since December 2012

    By Laura Payton, CBC News January 13, 2015

    Health Canada has pushed back its decision on whether to approve the abortion pill mifepristone, according to a stakeholder group following the process.

    Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, says Health Canada has requested additional information from the drug's manufacturer, a request that will delay until next fall a decision on whether to approve mifepristone.

    Once the manufacturer supplies that information, "Health Canada would undergo their normal review process of the additional information that's submitted," Saporta said in an interview with CBC News.

    If approved, mifepristone would be available by prescription to terminate pregnancies of up to nine weeks. It's different from the morning-after pill, which is used within a few days after sex to prevent pregnancy.

    Another drug, misoprostol, is used after mifepristone to complete the process.

    "We cannot comment on whether Health Canada will accept or refuse the application," an emailed statement from a Health Canada spokesman said. "However we will say that Health Canada makes all drug approval decisions based on a detailed scientific review."

    Saporta said she's disappointed, but "very optimistic that at the end of the day, Health Canada will approve mifepristone as a safe and effective method of early abortion, and that Canadian women will then be able to use it with confidence that there has been a very thorough review of the medication, its safety and efficacy."

    Health Canada has had the application to approve the drug, also known as RU-486, since December 2012. It usually takes about nine months for pharmaceuticals to work their way through the approval process, but a request for additional information resets the clock on the application.

    If the drug were to be approved in the fall, it wouldn't hit the market until 2016.

    Drug in use since 1988

    Mifepristone was first approved for use in 1988 in France and has been used by millions of women in 57 countries, including the U.S., the U.K., in western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

    The National Abortion Federation says access to mifepristone doesn't increase the rate of abortion in a country, but changes the distribution of surgical versus medical terminations, reducing demand for surgery.

    While there are no legal restrictions on terminating pregnancies in Canada, access to surgical abortion varies across Canada. There are no facilities on Prince Edward Island that terminate pregnancies, for example.

    Approval of the drug would provide greater access to medical abortion for women in rural or remote parts of Canada.

    "Having this pill approved, I think is really, really important to a lot of women who need to have access to reproductive choice. There shouldn't be any holdup as far as I'm concerned," New Democrat health critic Libby Davies said a year ago in an interview with CBC News.​

    Opponents, however, argue that the drug has caused several deaths in the U.S.

    Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer for the anti-abortion Campaign Life Coalition, told CBC News last year that she's concerned about reports of fatal sepsis.

    "It's just not something that should be brought into Canada," Douglas said.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in 2011 that sepsis is a risk related to any abortion and that it's not known whether using mifepristone and misoprostol caused those deaths.

    "Reports of fatal sepsis in women undergoing medical abortion are very rare [approximately one in 100,000]," the FDA said in a fact sheet posted on its website.


  60. Asbestos at federal building was a surprise to electrician

    Denis Lapointe filed access to information requests to learn extent of problem at his workplace

    By Julie Ireton, CBC News March 09, 2015

    Ottawa electrician Denis Lapointe says he was exposed to asbestos and other toxins at work for 16 years, and only recently learned the full extent of his potential exposure after filing access to information requests.

    The 54-year-old licensed electrician and former public servant had a right to know he was working around hazardous substances.

    Now he wonders how many other workers at the Canada Revenue Agency buildings at 875 Heron Rd. may have been inadvertently exposed to asbestos.

    Lapointe worked for the CRA from 1992 to 2008 and over that time, the Heron Road taxation facility accommodated thousands of workers.

    His job involved drilling and pulling wires through walls, floors and ceilings. He says since he didn't know he could be disturbing asbestos all those years — his fellow workers wouldn't have known either.

    "I was exposed and I wasn't properly protected, and here I was walking through this place, using air hoses and whatnot and blowing it to other people, so I have a conscience…That eats me up," says Lapointe.

    Lapointe has obtained documents that show the asbestos contamination was and continues to be present on all floors of the building where he worked. Lapointe says he had to get the reports through access to information requests.

    Denis St. Jean, the national health and safety officer for the Public Service Alliance of Canada, says Lapointe should have been informed of the dangers in his workplace.

    "Since 1986 the Canada Labour Code applies. There should have been at least some risk assessments on whether or not these buildings have asbestos containing materials … so they can have readily available that information for their workers," St. Jean says.

    Years of asbestos reports

    Decades of asbestos assessment reports for 875 Heron Rd. show contamination in certain areas that would be of concern to tradespeople or maintenance workers.

    A consultant's report from October 2014 reads: "Based on the findings of the reassessment, the facility is not in compliance. In order to bring the subject facility into compliance with applicable regulations, GEC [the consultant] recommends repair and or removal of damaged ACMs [asbestos containing materials] as well as asbestos-containing debris."

    It is not clear what policy or code the building does not comply with.

    Public Works and Government Services Canada owns the building.

    In a statement, the department says it "proceeds regularly with assessments of all building conditions including asbestos-containing materials. This report pertaining to 875 Heron Rd. is part of our regular due diligence, to ensure that the building conditions comply with all codes and regulations."

    continued below

  61. The department says there are only small amounts of asbestos in remote areas of the building. But as a tradesperson, Lapointe assesses it differently.

    "It's everywhere. It lines all kinds of piping, it lines ventilation piping, it's in plaster, it's in grout that finishes the walls, it's in the cement where you're chipping, and the tiles. It's identified everywhere," he says.

    Bob Kingston, a health and safety expert and national president of the Agriculture Union, a component of the country's biggest public service union, says the federal government is too often allowed to get away with safety breaches.

    "In the federal public service they just say we're working on it and that's good enough. They come back every year, and as long as they have some report saying they're working on it everything is fine," Kingston says.

    Lapointe sent for health testing in 1998

    For years, Lapointe, a non-smoker, has suffered from poor health and breathing problems, although he has not been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease. He's been searching for answers from his former employer – CRA – as well as other departments, including Public Works and Health Canada.

    He's trying to figure out what he was exposed to in the workplace and what could be making him sick. He knows the latency for asbestos-related disease can be 10 to 40 years.

    During Lapointe's sleuthing, he says he discovered correspondence showing his employer knew he'd potentially been exposed to asbestos as far back as 1998, when he and three other electricians were sent for chest X-rays and pulmonary tests.

    The letter from CRA to Health Canada reads: "There is a possibility that in performing their duties over the past few years that one or all of them could have been inadvertently exposed to asbestos-containing material."

    Lapointe says he wasn't told about the potential asbestos exposure. He thought he was tested because of chemical exposure in the building.

    "What other reason would there have been? I can't say what I thought then because I really didn't know. Just the fact I wasn't being provided [the information] is a pretty good start that I wasn't supposed to know."

    Lapointe says he was never given the results of those medical tests, but documents he's received show he was diagnosed with pulmonary restrictions on several occasions. The testing stopped in 2004 without explanation, he says.

    "They never told me there was any concerns," he says.

    Labour Canada now investigating

    Lapointe's concerns about the building and his health issues have now led to an investigation by the federal Labour Department.

    A health and safety officer is now looking into asbestos, air quality and other potential safety issues. Lapointe and two other workers filed joint grievances detailing their health concerns and took their issues to the Public Service Labour Relations Board.

    Occupational health and safety specialist Laura Lozanski says in her experience there's a lack of enforcement and political will when it comes to protecting workers.

    The former nurse who oversees occupational health for the Canadian Association of University Teachers says this case raises serious issues.

    "Workers have the right to go into a workplace and expect their workplace to be safe. That's the law," she says.


  62. Maternal health funding the right thing to do - but what comes next?

    Canada winning praise for work to end child marriage, but concerns remain about amount and focus of aid

    By Laura Payton, CBC News June 27, 2015

    When Bhoke Peter was 14, her uncle married her off to a 55-year-old man. Her husband paid a bride price of 30 cows and set her to work in his field in a remote part of northern Tanzania, where he would whip her with a stick if she made a mistake. When they got home, he would beat her for not making his lunch fast enough.

    He also raped her.

    "I didn't have much option because the bride price was already paid and the way the culture here is, once the bride price is delivered, you really have no choice but to obey your husband," Peter told CBC News, sitting on a wooden chair in the shop where she now sews clothes with other former child brides.

    When Peter was 17, she took the two children she'd had with her husband and ran away to her grandmother's house. She eventually divorced him.

    "I even heard that he is dead and I didn't even go to his funeral because he was torturing me," she said through a translator.

    Stories like Peter's are what prompted former Canadian foreign affairs minister John Baird in 2012 to speak out against what's known variously as child, early and forced marriage. Last fall, Baird announced Canada would put $10 million toward programs to fight child marriage around the world.

    Rob Nicholson has since replaced Baird at foreign affairs, but officials say the focus on ending child marriage continues.

    It's an issue not unrelated to Canada's maternal, newborn and child health focus established at the 2010 G8 summit in Muskoka. Women who give birth before they turn 15 are five times more likely to die during delivery, according to British-based NGO Girls Not Brides. Young women, particularly those without medical care, can have serious complications. Giving birth too young also puts the baby at greater risk.

    It's a horrifying reality in many countries, and one that's difficult to defend. But it makes up only a single target among dozens included in next set of global development goals.

    Sustainability the new focus

    The world has spent 15 years working to reach the UN's Millennium Development Goals. First set in 2000, they come to an end on Dec. 31, 2015. The next set of targets, the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, will be set this fall at the UN.

    The new regime will have have twice as many goals and dozens more subtargets.

    It raises the question of whether the world is losing focus on women and children, and the number of preventable deaths: 6.3 million children and 289,000 women a year.

    Guillermo Rishchynski, Canada's ambassador to the UN, acknowledges the challenge to keep the world focused on the needs of women and children.

    "The challenge of course is to keep this as high a priority as possible. And I can tell you without any hesitation that that is the singular preoccupation for myself and our mission here in New York."

    While it's hard to find an organization that won't praise Canada's work, some would like to see adjustments to the next round of funding, already announced at $3.5 billion for 2015-2020.

    continued below

  63. Shannon Kowalski director of policy at the International Women's Health Coalition, says the Canadian government was a political leader on ending forced marriage, including on leading discussions at the UN, but some maternal health polices "undermine the goals that they're espousing internationally."

    "One thing that we've noticed with Canada over the last several years is that they've really regressed on their commitments to addressing sexual health and rights, particularly in adolescent girls," Kowalski said in an interview.

    "And you can't talk about ending child marriage without also talking about young women's access to sexual and reproductive health services and to comprehensive sexuality education," she said.

    "So we feel that's a really missing element that's part of the Canadian response that could actually prevent them from achieving what they want to achieve."

    'The right thing to do'

    The Conservative government has pledged additional billions over the next five years. But it's also pulled back on overall international development funding, bringing it down to its lowest level since 2005. Official development assistance, or ODA, has fallen from $5.7 billion a year in 2011 to $5.4 billion in 2013 to $4.9 billion last year.

    Mickey Chopra, UNICEF's chief of health, says the organization — which receives millions in funding from Canada — would like to see an increase.

    "Not just because it's the right thing to do, but we also do feel it's a very efficient and effective investment to be made," he said.

    "The investments that were made in the development of countries such as China, Malaysia and now India do reap benefits in the medium-to-long-term in increasing the market for Canadian goods or increasing the knowledge base for innovation."

    Some money has already been allocated under the 2015-2020 funding, although there's been no announcement so far on the $370-million partnership program that gives money directly to NGOs.

    With a federal election coming this fall, there's always the possibility of a new leadership, which could pull back, redirect or otherwise change Canada's development goals.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper and International Development Minister Christian Paradis turned down repeated requests for interviews on their signature policy.

    Tom Mulcair, leader of the NDP, said last month the New Democrats would increase aid to 0.7 per cent of gross national income, which would nearly triple it from the current 0.24 per cent. That 0.7 per cent is a global target that few countries have actually met, although the UK reached it this year.

    The NDP said it would also maintain the current focus on maternal, newborn and child health, but expand it to put more money toward family planning, including abortion.

    Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he would keep maternal, newborn and child health a priority, and expand the family planning element, including offering abortion. The party would reverse the cuts the Conservatives made, but isn't making any promises about hitting the 0.7 per cent target.

    The organizations delivering aid around the world will be watching.


    The CBC's Laura Payton is this year's R. James Travers Fellow. The Travers Fellowship provided $25,000 in funding for her pitch to look at whether Canada's maternal, newborn and child health program was working.​ Read more about the project here:


    Tuesday: Has Canada delivered on maternal health?
    Wednesday: Budgets, time crunches limit help
    Thursday: Canada's family planning problem
    Yesterday: Haiti sees progress - but when can it stand on its own?

  64. Ottawa reverses stand on health risks of asbestos in landmark shift

    by TAVIA GRANT, The Globe and Mail July 01, 2015

    Health Canada has strikingly revised its position on the health risks of asbestos exposure, bringing the federal government more in line with other developed countries.

    The recent changes to the department’s website are significant, with the page about asbestos replacing information that was dated from 2012.

    Among the shifts, the site no longer says one form of asbestos – chrysotile, the type that Canada mined and exported for years that is still most commonly used – is “less potent” and does less damage than other types. The World Health Organization and other medical bodies have long said all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic.

    In addition, Health Canada no longer says the danger comes when asbestos is inhaled in “significant quantities” (the WHO says there is no safe threshold); and it now clearly says that “breathing in asbestos fibres can cause cancer and other diseases.”

    The last line represents “a landmark shift” by the government, “an important fact that was not previously acknowledged on the website,” said Linda Reinstein, an asbestos widow and president of the Washington, D.C.-based Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. The changes are “promising, but it is just the first of many steps required to protect the public from asbestos.”

    The revisions come after The Globe and Mail has reported that asbestos is the single largest cause of workplace death in Canada, accounting for almost 5,000 death claims since 1996.

    Unlike dozens of other countries, such as Australia, Germany and Japan, Canada has not banned asbestos use, and trade data obtained by The Globe show imports of asbestos-containing products, such as brake pads and pipes, continue to enter the country.

    Health experts, including doctors and researchers, have long criticized Health Canada for playing down the risks of asbestos exposures.

    “This is a big move forward in actually characterizing asbestos as a known carcinogen,” said Trevor Dummer, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health.

    Health Canada’s changes bring it “much more in line with current thinking and current messaging that other governments are placing on this product,” he said.

    “There’s more to be done … but this is a good start.”

    continued below

  65. The federal Conservatives have long maintained a policy of “safe and controlled use” of asbestos in Canada, which was once one of the world’s largest exporters of the mineral; its last mine closed in 2011. Canada’s position on asbestos has long been at odds with approaches in other countries, such as Australia and Britain, which have had clearer warnings about health risks.

    In May, Health Canada told The Globe it had identified its asbestos information as a “priority” for review amid a broader effort to provide more “plain language” health information. In an e-mail Tuesday, it said diseases caused by asbestos exposure “can and should be prevented” and that the goal of this update is to “communicate this more clearly.”

    Stacy Cattran, whose father died of mesothelioma in 2008 after workplace exposure in the Sarnia, Ont., area, said she is grateful for any progress made in protecting people from the dangers of asbestos. But she says regulations have not prevented people from being exposed, and questions why the federal government “still allows products containing asbestos [such as toys, drywall and pipes] to be sold in Canada in 2015.”

    The change “represents a positive step by Health Canada,” said Paul Demers, director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre at Cancer Care Ontario at the University of Toronto. He supports the move to stop “the differentiation of different types of asbestos, which I don’t think is useful from a prevention point of view. Even if you feel as though there’s a quantitative difference in risk, the fact is, when a member of the public or somebody in the workplace encounters asbestos, they just know it’s asbestos. And there’s no way to tell what kind until you put it under a microscope – so you’ve got to treat all of it as equally hazardous.”

    The new page also now emphasizes the risk of exposures stemming from do-it-yourself home renovations and from car parts, such as brakes and transmission components. The Globe reported in March that imports of asbestos-containing brake linings and pads hit a seven-year high last year, which raises concern that mechanics and others who fix cars and trucks could be unknowingly inhaling dangerous dust.

    The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a request for comment on whether the federal government’s stand has changed, instead referring all questions to Health Canada.

    Ms. Reinstein and Ms. Cattran, along with Prof. Demers and Prof. Dummer, all say more measures are needed to protect people from the health risks from exposure, including an asbestos ban in Canada. Both main opposition parties favour a ban of asbestos use in the country.

    “It’s time asbestos is banned so future generations don’t have to watch their fathers and mothers cringe in pain as they suffocate to death as we watched our electrician father do,” Ms. Cattran said.


  66. Liberals under fire for delay on asbestos ban

    by TAVIA GRANT, The Globe and Mail October 11, 2016

    A year after the Liberals were elected with a promise to ban the use of asbestos in Canada, no such move has been made – inaction that is dismaying to health experts, labour groups and families affected by asbestos-related diseases.

    “Our position, and the evidence, is as clear as it can be: that asbestos is a carcinogen that is a major cause of cancer, including lung cancers, that kill many Canadians,” said Gabriel Miller, director of public issues at the Canadian Cancer Society.

    A ban “should be an as-soon-as-possible priority for the federal government,” he said.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the federal government is “moving forward on a ban,” although he gave no timeline and it was not an official announcement. “We are moving to ban asbestos,” he told a conference of building trades unions on May 10. “Its impact on workers far outweighs any benefits that it might provide.”

    Six months later, the government says it is “examining” a ban, but provides few details. Questions on asbestos policy were referred to the Minister of Science. But the office of Science Minister Kirsty Duncan declined a request to speak with her.

    More than 50 countries around the world have banned asbestos, including Britain, Germany, Japan and, as of this month, New Zealand. Canada – which continues to allow imports and exports of the known carcinogen – was once one of the world’s largest exporters of asbestos, before closing its last mine in 2011. Asbestos was commonly used in such things as roofing shingles, insulation and fire blankets. It is still used in replacement brake pads for cars.

    Recent trade data show that asbestos and asbestos-containing products continue to be imported into the country: $4.3-million in the first eight months of this year, according to Statistics Canada. These include pipes, brake pads and raw asbestos.

    Meanwhile, more than 2,300 Canadians a year are diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases. The latency period for mesothelioma – a cancer caused almost exclusively by asbestos exposure – is long, typically from 20 to 40 years, and health experts estimate that these cases have not yet peaked.

    The science ministry did not respond to questions on the scope of any review, nor did it provide a timeline of when it will make an announcement. It also would not say if it has the lead on the asbestos file.

    In a statement to The Globe and Mail, it said the Science Minister is working with colleagues, “using a government-wide approach” to review the strategy on asbestos.

    “Our government has been clear that we are taking a different approach [from the previous federal government] to supporting science and protecting the health and safety of Canadians,” said Véronique Perron, the minister’s press secretary. “That’s why we are examining a series of potential science-based actions to further strengthen management and controls, including a ban on the import, manufacture and use of asbestos-containing products.”

    continued below

  67. The federal government has taken some steps, including measures that will help to prevent accidental exposure by tradespeople, employees and the public. Last month, one federal department – Public Services and Procurement Canada – posted a “national asbestos inventory” of the buildings it owns or leases from. It said other federal departments will follow suit by publishing their own inventories “within the next 12 months.”

    The list reveals just how prevalent asbestos is. Of the 2,168 buildings listed, 716 of them have a “known presence of asbestos.” These include buildings across the country, from the RCMP headquarters in Halifax to the stock exchange tower in Montreal, a Statistics Canada building in Ottawa, a Toronto passport office and Vancouver’s international airport.

    The inventory list is a “good start,” said Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, noting that it is not yet a full list of all public buildings.

    However, Mr. Yussuff is surprised that the federal government has not moved more quickly on a ban, given the dangers to human health. He called on Ottawa to introduce a comprehensive ban on all asbestos products, a move he would like to see tabled in the House of Commons by the end of the year.

    “The government campaigned on respecting the knowledge of science and allowing that to guide them in public policy, so this fits with its own approach. It is critical that this be done as a next policy move.”

    The World Health Organization says all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans. The most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases “is to stop the use of all types of asbestos,” it says.

    Stacy Cattran, whose father died of mesothelioma in 2008 after workplace exposure in the Sarnia, Ont., area, is frustrated at the slow pace of change.

    “It is disappointing that more could not have been done in this first year. They keep making comments that yes, they are planning to move forward with it, but of course just talking doesn’t do it. … If they ban it, that’s going to prevent more deaths in the future.”

    Many groups are lobbying for a ban. The Canadian Cancer Society sent a letter to the Prime Minister earlier this year, asking him to ban asbestos. Canadian unions are asking for a ban. At the local level, regional councils and mayors in Niagara, St. Catharines, Sarnia and Essex County in Ontario support a ban. Last month, a petition with 572 signatures calling for a ban was presented to the House of Commons.

    Many, including Mr. Miller of the Cancer Society, see a ban as part of a wider strategy to better protect the health of Canadians. This means ending its current use, and more transparency on where existing asbestos is. He would like to see a public registry extended to provinces and municipalities, so that schools, universities, hospitals and all government buildings are included.

    continued below

  68. This also means tasking one minister who is accountable for developing coordinating and implementing a comprehensive strategy. “The asbestos issue has a way of hiding in plain sight, partly because it ends up hiding in the spaces between political portfolios and between silos within government,” he said. “And with a busy agenda … it would certainly be easy for this sort of issue that requires work across government to get put off. And we absolutely can’t allow that to happen.”

    Wally Rogers, in Kamloops, B.C., is one of many workers who were exposed to asbestos on the job – in his case, as a labourer at a smelter and as an auto mechanic. He recalls using gloves with asbestos padding to handle hot zinc ingots. No employer ever warned him about the health risks of exposure.

    He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in June, 2015, and has been going through rounds of chemo, his plans for the future “shattered.”

    He wants to see more public education on the dangers of asbestos, a better system of receiving compensation for those who do get sick – and a ban.

    “There’s a lot of talk, a lot of flash, but I’m not seeing the delivery I was hoping for,” he says. “I’m extremely disappointed.”

    “I’m sitting here with meso, but this asbestos should have been outlawed 50, 60 years ago – apparently they knew it was carcinogenic in the 1920s.”

    “I worked hard all my life and did honest work all my life, with the idea of having a good retirement. My relatives lived to their 80s, so I was expecting a good lifestyle into at least my 80s. And that’s probably been eliminated. And it’s unjust. And I’m really upset with it.”

    By the numbers

    2,331: Annual estimate of the number of newly diagnosed cancers from asbestos exposures (mostly from occupational exposures) in Canada, by the Institute for Work and Health and based on 2011 cases. This is made up of 1,904 new cases of lung cancer and 427 of mesothelioma. Of the total, 2,097 or 90 per cent of the cases were among men

    580: Number of new cases of mesothelioma, which rose to a record in 2013, according to Statistics Canada. The number of new cases has more than doubled since record-keeping began in 1992

    34.5: Percentage of all fatality claims filed to the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board over the past decade that involve mesothelioma, making it “the most common occupational disease” (2006 to 2015)

    $1.7-billion: Economic estimate of the toll of asbestos-related cancers on society, per year in Canada, from the Institute for Work and Health

    $4.3-million: Total dollar amount of imports of asbestos and asbestos-containing products that entered Canada in the first eight months of this year (January to August), according to Statscan’s trade division

    716: Number of federal buildings that have a known presence of asbestos, of a total 2,186 properties listed in Public Services and Procurement Canada’s new national asbestos inventory

    467: Number of deaths from mesothelioma rose to a record in 2012, according to Statscan The number rose by 60 per cent from 2000 to 2012.