Amid mounting pressure, the Canadian Red Cross likely will ask for the resignation of executive board member Roshi Chadha next month because of her strong link to the asbestos industry.
Mesothelioma is the deadly cancer caused by the inhalation of asbestos.
Chadha is an executive for Seja Trade Ltd, a shipping company that exports raw asbestos from Quebec. Seja Trade also is a subsidiary of Balcorp., which is awaiting a controversial, $58 million government loan guarantee to re-open an asbestos mine in Jeffrey. The president of Balcorp is Baljit Chadha, the husband of Roshi.
“It’s really hypocritical of her to be on the board of the Red Cross, which is a wonderful organization. If she doesn’t resign, they should remove her,” anti-asbestos advocate Stacy Cattran told The Mesothelioma Center on Tuesday. “I think the Red Cross will do the right thing.”
The Red Cross is considered the world’s leading humanitarian organization, providing much-needed disaster relief both at home and abroad, often to developing countries where the asbestos is being shipped.
The Red Cross also has been assisting victims of mesothelioma in Canada, including the father of Cattran, who died in 2008, just three months after being diagnosed. Her father died at age 72 after working much of his career as an electrician, where he was exposed to asbestos for many years.
“Having someone on the board who supports the export of asbestos just flys in the face of their mission,” Cattran said. “They support saving lives, not ending them with asbestos.”
Although the use of asbestos has been restricted dramatically in both the United States and Canada, Balcorp is hoping to capitalize on the growing demand for it in India and Asia. The last two asbestos mines in Canada were temporarily closed in November, although Balcorp is making plans to reopen at least one of them again.
Much of the asbestos production in the world now comes from Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Brazil. Canadian asbestos often has been viewed as a higher quality than that coming from other countries.
The mining of asbestos stopped in the United States in 2002, but 820 metric tons were imported in the first half of 2010, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and much of it came from Canada.
Cattran is a co-founder of Canadian Voices of Asbestos Victims, which joined with the U.S.-based Asbestos-Disease Awareness Group to present an official Declaration to both President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to support a North America ban on asbestos.
Christopher Hilton, a spokesman for the Canadian Red Cross, told the Vancouver Sun that his organization will consider the concerns raised by anti-asbestos activists at a board meeting in January.
“It’s a matter for the board,” Hilton said. “I’m not going to presuppose what the board is going to do.”
According to the Sun, Chadha was elected to the Red Cross Board of Directors in 2008. She is one of four at-large members on the 16-person board. She also is on the board of directors for St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation and at McGill University Health Centre.
The asbestos issue in Canada generates considerable more debate than it does in the United States, at least partially because the Conservative Party has supported it with subsidies. The Canadian government also blocked the listing of chrysotile asbestos on the Hazardous Materials list of the Rotterdam Convention this summer in Geneva, Switzerland.
Putting asbestos on that list would have made it more difficult to export, allowing importing counties to refuse acceptance of it if they thought the asbestos could not be handled safely.