The federal government is considering a ban of asbestos in construction projects in Canada, but for now it's "monitoring the situation" according to Maryann Mihychuk, the federal minister of employment, workforce development and labour.

Mihychuk made the comments Tuesday outside the House of Commons, in response to a CBC report confirming the government still allows the use of asbestos in new, government construction.

Asbestos is a known carcinogen that's already been banned in Australia, New Zealand and the European Union, but it's still allowed under Canada's national building code.

"I think we're going to have to look at it, it's still being used in a lot of circumstances, for example, sewer systems, for insulation around pipes," said Mihychuk. "We're considering the ban, but we're not there yet." 

The World Health Organization recommends replacing asbestos with safer substitutes.

Labour group wants 'unilateral ban'

But in Canada, the Canadian Labour Congress says the use of asbestos cement pipe is actually on the rise in Canada and is increasingly being installed in federally-funded infrastructure projects in Ontario and Quebec through the former federal government's New Building Canada Fund.

The CLC also said that importation of asbestos-related items is increasing in Canada.

CLC Yussuff 20140509

Hassan Yussuff, the newly-elected president of the Canadian Labour Congress, wants to see a total ban on all asbestos-related products. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Hassan Yussuff, President of the CLC, is urging the government to "make the right decision." He said too many Canadians are dying after exposure to asbestos fibres in their workplaces.

"I hope the government will do a serious review, and hopefully the [labour] minister will consider bringing in a unilateral ban on all forms of asbestos products that are having an impact on human health in this country," said Yussuff.

Inside the House of Commons on Tuesday, NDP MP Sheri Benson asked the government if it would put an end to using asbestos in new construction.

Asbestos still issue with older infrastructure

The minister of Public Services and Procurement, Judy Foote, said the government "will undertake a review to make sure that asbestos is not a product that's used on an on-going basis."

Outside the house Mihychuk went further, acknowledging the ongoing issues with asbestos across the country that must still be addressed.

Sheri Benson

Sheri Benson, the NDP MP from Saskatchewan, is calling for the government to end the use of asbestos in construction. (CBC)

"It's not only new, but look at the old infrastructure we have on some reserves where the conditions of the housing make it airborne. There's a lot of implications and we're studying it very closely."

Benson says there's an opportunity now for the federal government to play a leadership role and announce future projects will no longer use asbestos.