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e-4375 (Health)

Initiated by Mary Ann SjogrenBranch from Regina, Saskatchewan

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • It is well known that asbestos is a highly toxic carcinogen;
  • Scientific evidence indicates that asbestos is harmful when ingested as well as when inhaled;
  • Canada does not regulate asbestos in drinking water;
  • Asbestos cement water pipes deliver water to millions of Canadians via municipal water systems;
  • Legacy asbestos cement water pipes are in use across Canada, particularly in older neighbourhoods that may be home to more vulnerable, lower income populations;
  • Asbestos cement water pipes were exempt from a ban on asbestos in Canada; and
  • The Government of Canada is currently conducting Canada’s first National Infrastructure Assessment.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to
1. Take urgent steps to assess health risks of asbestos in drinking water, in order for the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee to establish a drinking water quality guideline;
2. Include an inventory of asbestos cement water pipes, and assessment of their condition, as a part of ongoing infrastructure assessment;
3. Release this data publicly in accessible formats;
4. Develop a plan to replace and dispose of asbestos cement water pipes safely, including worker protection;
5. Advance prior and informed consent for trans-boundary transportation of asbestos-containing waste; and
6. Establish an Asbestos Eradication Agency to evaluate and address asbestos in the natural and built environment, including occupational settings.

Response by the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Chris Bittle

The federal government remains committed to launching Canada’s first ever National Infrastructure Assessment: "Building the Canada We Want in 2050". It sets out the purpose and benefits of undertaking a National Infrastructure Assessment and seeks input from the public, Indigenous peoples, provinces, territories, municipalities, and stakeholders on three main priorities of the assessment: Assessing Canada's infrastructure needs and establishing a long-term vision; improving coordination among infrastructure owners and funders; and determining the best ways to fund and finance infrastructure.

On July 29, 2021, the Government of Canada released Building Pathways to 2050: Moving Forward on the National Infrastructure Assessment, following public engagement with over 300 organizations and individuals. This Report highlights key recommendations that will help guide the design of the National Infrastructure Assessment. It will be a foundational tool for infrastructure decision-makers across Canada to support the identification of needs and priorities in the built environment towards a net-zero emissions future.

Since 2016, Infrastructure Canada has been proactive in gathering data on Canada's core public infrastructure assets. Data collection on the amount and location of asbestos cement pipes in Canada is currently being addressed through Canada’s Core Public Infrastructure (CCPI) survey. The CCPI survey is conducted by Statistics Canada, on behalf of Infrastructure Canada, on a bi-annual basis. The questionnaire is sent to governments of all levels (municipalities, provinces and territories, and federal) that own or lease public infrastructure, to collect data on the stock, condition, and performance of Canada’s core public infrastructure assets.

Throughout 2021 and 2022, Infrastructure Canada undertook an extensive outreach process to improve the survey. As a result of the outreach process, the 2022 survey includes a question on asbestos in water:

“What was the total length in kilometres of asbestos cement water pipes as of December 31, 2022?”

Data from CCPI 2022 will be released in late 2024, subject to an evaluation of its fitness for use. More information about the survey can be found at Canada's Core Public Infrastructure Survey.


Response by the Minister of Health

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable Mark Holland

In Canada, the responsibility for drinking water quality is shared between the provincial, territorial, federal and municipal governments. The Federal Government, through Health Canada, develops the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality in collaboration with the provinces and territories, which then use the guidelines to set regulations and standards based on their needs and context. Provinces and territories generally have the responsibility for ensuring the safety of drinking water, including setting regulatory, monitoring and testing requirements. Municipalities tend to oversee the day-to-day operations of treatment facilities and distribution systems. Infrastructure owners, including municipalities, are responsible for assessing the condition of pipes and conducting any maintenance and remediation, as necessary.

Health Canada continuously monitors research on asbestos in drinking water. In 2023, as part of its work on regularly assessing drinking water guidelines, Health Canada, in collaboration with provinces and territories, began a reassessment of the asbestos drinking water guideline to consider any new scientific evidence on the impacts of ingested asbestos on human health. Health Canada’s drinking water guideline for asbestos was established in 1989 and, at this time, there is no consistent scientific evidence that asbestos ingested through drinking water was harmful. As a result, no maximum acceptable concentration for asbestos in drinking water has been set. Health Canada undertook further assessments of new scientific data on asbestos in 2013 and 2018, and again concluded that there was no consistent scientific evidence that asbestos ingested through drinking water is harmful, including if pipe failure, construction or repair were to increase levels of asbestos in drinking water. Other international organizations, including the World Health Organisation, European Commission and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, have reached the same conclusions as Health Canada.

The current reassessment of asbestos in drinking water will include a careful review of data on exposure to asbestos through drinking water, including monitoring results of asbestos in drinking water from Canadian cities. It will also include any available studies on the impacts of ingested asbestos on human health, including cumulative effects of exposure through drinking water. Health Canada considers all available science when it develops guidelines, including information for groups such as infants, children, people of reproductive age and populations who may be disproportionately impacted. Should the reassessment indicate that asbestos in drinking water is harmful to human health, Health Canada will update the drinking water guidelines and develop a maximum acceptable concentration for asbestos in drinking water.

As set out in sections 14.1 (1) and (2) of the Hazardous Products Act, hazardous products that contain asbestos are prohibited from being sold or imported in Canada. This prohibition is part of the government-wide strategy on asbestos, which eliminates the need to establish an Asbestos Eradication Agency.

Open for signature
April 3, 2023, at 2:58 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
June 2, 2023, at 2:58 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
November 9, 2023 (Petition No. 441-01914)
Government response tabled
January 29, 2024
Photo - Elizabeth May
Saanich—Gulf Islands
Green Party Caucus
British Columbia