News / Edmonton

Union campaign to ban asbestos hits close to home for some Edmontonians

Canadian Labour Congress filmed new anti-asbestos video in West Edmonton Mall.

Sandra Azocar's father died from an illness caused by exposure to asbestos in Edmonton.

Kevin Tuong/For Metro

Sandra Azocar's father died from an illness caused by exposure to asbestos in Edmonton.

In 1975, Sandra Azocar's father Medardo fled persecution in Chile for a new life in Canada — only to die 40 years later, in Edmonton, from exposure to asbestos.

"My father was placed in a concentration camp for being in a union after the 1973 military coup in Chile," said Azocar, who's one of several Edmontonians featured in a new Canadian Labour Congress anti-asbestos video filmed in West Edmonton Mall.

“You come from that and you try and look for a safer place to live in, and yet 20 years later – or however long it was – you get diagnosed with something that could've been prevented." 

Azocar and the group are calling for the Trudeau government to live up to its promise to impose a comprehensive ban on asbestos, including stopping the import of any products containing the substance.

She said those who are diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses have been exposed long ago as it takes decades for the illnesses to manifest. 

Her own father was exposed to asbestos while working in an Edmonton machine shop. 

“Until that product is actually banned, from either import or export, it's not going to be addressed,” she said.

While Canada has stopped exporting asbestos we still import products containing asbestos, such as brake pads for automobiles. 

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Labour Congress, said that loophole needs to be closed. 

“For every day we delay bringing in a comprehensive ban, there are so many workers who are exposed to asbestos-made products in our country, and we know that if they are exposed it to it without proper protection, it's likely to do harm to their health,” he said.

Yussuff said the federal government needs to deliver on its 2016 promise to ban asbestos.

“We want them to bring in legislation, not regulation, to establish this ban as many other countries in the world have done already,” he said. “ We know right now there are about 2,000 people who die from this substance every year.”

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