Heather Conn Blogs

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Oil and asbestos: Canada’s stance a global embarrassment

Canada is an environmental embarrassment now that it’s become the first country to renounce the Kyoto Protocol against global warming. As comedian Stephen Colbert said recently, our country will soon be known as “the Great Grey North.” And why? Because prime minister Stephen Harper, an entrenched lover of Canadian crude, is determined to expand Alberta’s tar sands and extend their reach via pipelines within and beyond our borders.


The tar sands currently produce 1.5 million barrels a day – the third-highest rate after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. (To see how the tar sands’ tailing ponds are damaging nearby waters, lands, and the livelihood of First Nations communities downriver, see the documentary White Water, Black Gold.)


Canada is the number one producer of oil to the United States. Despite the spectre of peak-oil predictions, Canada expects to more than double its oil production by 2025. The Canadian government shows no concern about not meeting its targets for greenhouse gas emissions, as defined by the Kyoto Accord; it faced $14 billion in penalties under this agreement.


Canada’s stance on asbestos is equally disgraceful. Harper’s government refuses to list asbestos as a hazardous substance under the UN Rotterdam Convention. Yet, exposure to asbestos has been proven to be the the single largest contributor to work-related cancers (100,000 to 140,000 deaths annually worldwide). The World Health Organization estimates that between 5 and 10 million people will die from asbestos-related diseases, according to grassroots media site The Dominion.

The world health community has denounced Canada for taking its position regarding asbestos. Yet, its production and related cancers continue. That’s the human cost of operating the country’s only asbestos mine in – where else? – Asbestos, Quebec.

What can we do? Speak out. Educate yourself on the issues. Write a letter to Stephen Harper and your local MP. Be aware of how your life choices affect greenhouse gas emissions. Make a commitment to reduce your carbon footprint, using a specific percentage and a target date. Join an environmental group that strives to prevent the expansion of the tar sands and the construction of oil pipelines. Donate to these groups.

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December 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm Comments (2)