Anti-asbestos activists from several Asian countries have travelled to Quebec this week to urge the province to get out of the asbestos industry.
The activists, who have come from Japan, South Korea and India, will meet with provincial officials on Thursday as part of a protest against expanding production of the Jeffrey Mine, once the largest open pit asbestos mine in North America.
The Quebec government is considering giving a $58-million loan guarantee to expand production at the mine in Asbestos, Que.
Kazumi Yoshizaki, who made the trip from Japan, said the Quebec government needs to know about the international implications of increased production of asbestos and its carcinogenic fibres.
He said his father died of an asbestos-related illness after handling the material for two years.
"We were shocked because we didn't know about asbestos at all … so I didn't even know asbestos was hazardous," he said.
'I know I have seen people, they're using it in a very unsafe conditions.' — Anup Srivastava, India-based asbestos activist
Canadian asbestos producers have argued they will only export the material to countries that agree to use it safely.
However, a trade union representative on the tour said that often doesn't happen.
Anup Srivastava, an India-based representative of Building and Woodworkers International, said workers are still being exposed to asbestos during building construction.
"The country I'm coming from, India, I know I have seen people, they're using it in a very unsafe conditions. When it is not being used here, then why do they want to send it to elsewhere?" said Srivastava, whose organization represents 13 million workers around the world.
The activists' visit to Quebec comes as a prestigious medical journal has criticized Canada for exporting asbestos to developing countries.
The British-based Lancet journal published a report Thursday that calls Canada hypocritical for virtually banning the use of asbestos while exporting the mineral abroad.
Minister to meet activists Thursday
Quebec Economic Development Minster Clément Gignac will meet with the delegation on Thursday.
He insisted this week that the government has not finalized a deal to provide the loan guarantee to the mine.
He said the government is still waiting for recommendations from elected officials in the region.
A consortium of international investors is planning to buy the mine and convert it from an open pit into an underground mine. The proposal involves expanding production more than 10-fold, to 180,000 tonnes in 2012 and 225,000 eventually.
Supporters of the mine expansion have said the project could create 400 direct jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs in the region.
Mine officials defend the expansion, saying that there is a large international demand for the material, also known as chrysotile, and that it is safe when handled properly.