Friday, August 22, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tony Clement's Junk(ie) Mail

Resident's of Vancouver's impoverished downtown east-side recently started receiving flyers from the Conservatives promising to rid Canadian streets from the plague of "The Junkies" (cue the ominous music). In a truly Reaganesque demonstration of ignorance, Health Minister and general dumbass Tony Clement has determined that Vancouver's Insite safe injection centre for drug addicts is "unethical" and the start of a "slippery slope". Mental midgets like Clement don't often let facts interfere with their thought process.

Clement's recent attack on Insite has prompted swift rebuke from those who actually know a thing or two about medicine - doctors.

“As an expression of somebody who calls himself a minister of health, it's a very unhealthy statement,” [Insite physician Dr. Gabor] Mate said.

“The repugnant aspect is his attack on the morality and ethics of human beings who are trying to work with a very difficult population.

“I mean where does he come off? Where does he appoint himself as a moral judge of professionals who he doesn't understand and knows nothing about?”

Indeed. CMA President Dr. Brian Day has also chimed in, stating that 79% of CMA members believe that programs like Insite (which promote harm reduction) work. Yet Clement and the collective braintrust (and I use that word very lightly) of the CPC continue to susbscribe to the fantasy that the scourge of drug addiction can simply be eradicated by stiffer jail terms and tougher policing.

The flyers, approved by the PMO, promised to "clean up drug crime" and went one step further, claiming that "the Liberal dark decade is over".

“Too many Canadians have seen the ugly face of drug crime,” the double-sided page sent from the local MP declares.

Hmmm. The only ugly face I see is that of Stephen Harper. Go figure.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Asbestos: Our Secret Shame

Although it appears to have escaped wider attention, Canada has been playing a shameful role on the international scene with regards to the asbestos market. The Rotterdam Convention, adopted in 1998, exists to promote health and protect against the harm caused by certain chemicals and pesticides.
...the Rotterdam Convention gives countries the right to be informed about, and to refuse, extremely hazardous chemicals and pesticides.

After a rigorous scientific and legal process, a panel of experts (the chemical review committee) determines whether a particular chemical is so dangerous that it is a threat to public health and has already been banned or severely restricted by various countries.

If so, the experts call for the chemical to be placed on a list of substances that cannot be exported to another country without first obtaining the "prior informed consent" of that country. This means countries must be informed of the dangers and have the right to refuse the product.

Sounds reasonable, no? But, for the past two years, Canada has been blocking attempts by the committee to place chrysotile asbestos on that list.
Canada has been the world's third biggest exporter of asbestos in the past century. Today, asbestos is a dying industry with one last asbestos company in Quebec and about 700 asbestos miners. Yet, because of its friendly relationship with the asbestos industry and because of its concern over losing votes in Quebec, the government is destroying a convention that is desperately needed to protect people in developing countries from deadly chemicals.

Although some debate exists about the level of carcinogenicity of pure chrysotile asbestos, the Canadian Cancer Society supports the Rotterdam Convention, and has adopted the position that countries importing asbestos from Canada ought to be informed of the potential health hazards. Our opposition to adding asbestos to the PIC list puts us in some distinguished company, along with India, Krygyzstan, Iran, Peru, and the Russian Federation.

Why does our government insist on supporting the asbestos industry at the expense of some of the most impoverished labourers in the developing world? Surely federal money spent on marketing and support of the industry could be better used for retraining our remaining asbestos workers. After the Conservative's much ballyhooed Consumer Products Safety Act, our government's continued support of unfettered asbestos export is nothing short of hypocrisy, and a stain on our international reputation.