OTTAWA, ONTARIO AND VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – On the eve of the federal budget, groups representing tens of thousands of Canadians are urging the federal government to stop its plan to weaken long-standing environmental laws that keep communities safe from toxic chemicals and safeguard our air, water, land and species.
Groups speaking out to support effective federal environmental laws include the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Climate Action Network (representing 74 faith, First Nations, labour, civic and environmental groups), Nature Canada, WWF - Canada, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, Canadian Society of Environmental Biologists and the Council of Canadians.
"The gutting of Canada's federal environmental laws would turn the regulatory clock back several decades and allow the immediate interests of big industries to trump those of communities, who want to see their air, water, land and species safeguarded," said Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians. "These changes are further proof that our country is moving recklessly in the wrong direction at the cost of public health and safety."
Leaked documents and government statements indicate that the federal government is preparing to claw back legal protections for fish habitat, as well as legislation that requires environmental reviews of major industrial projects – including mines and oil pipelines – as part of budget legislation.
"Effective environmental laws allow us to balance economic growth with the need to leave Canada – which is fortunate enough to still have a great deal of intact and healthy nature - in good shape for future generations," said Devon Page, Executive Director of Ecojustice. "But promoting certain industries at all costs isn't the same as building a sustainable economy. And it definitely doesn't get us closer to protecting the clean air, water and land we all need to survive."
In recent weeks Canadians from coast to coast including lawyers, doctors, First Nations, hunters, scientists, former Conservative MPs, fishers and scores of others have expressed their opposition to the imminent rollback of federal environmental laws. Many are raising concerns about the threat many of these changes pose to jobs and businesses that depend on healthy fish habitat and a protected environment.
"More than 50 organizations across the country have endorsed a common set of principles that outline how Canadians can work toward a clean, healthy and sustainable future," said Jessica Clogg, Executive Director and Senior Counsel at West Coast Environmental Law. "We submitted the principles directly to the Prime Minister's Office, Minister Kent and Minister Oliver weeks ago as a way to engage with government and deepen understanding, but unfortunately all signs show that this budget will serve the will of big industries at the expense of citizens," said Clogg.
See http://envirolawsmatter.ca/index.php/endorsers for that list and links to media on the hundreds of scientists and groups that have spoken up to save Canada's federal environmental laws.
Visit http://envirolawsmatter.ca/index.php/publications for background, including:
- A Checklist for Strong Environmental Laws, co-authored by West Coast Environmental Law, MiningWatch Canada, Ecovision Law, and Dr. John Sinclair. The 10 principles for strong environmental laws that have been endorsed by 50 organizations are further explained in this paper.
- Ecojustice's Fisheries Act Backgrounder and Canadian Environmental Assessment Act Backgrounder.