West Coast Environmental Law Association

West Coast Environmental Law Association

October 14, 2015 09:00 ET

Media Release: In Wake of Systemic Dismantling of Canada's Environmental Laws, Political Parties vie for Environmental High Ground

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA and MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwired - Oct. 14, 2015) - Approaching an election in which the environment will be a concern for many Canadians, a new report by environmental lawyers from across the country assesses the federal government's environmental track record, painting a grim picture that highlights the repeal or amendment of most of Canada's foundational environmental laws since 2011. An accompanying comparison of the major national parties' platforms on environmental law issues suggests while the ruling Conservatives promise more of the same, other national parties are taking voters' desire for strong environmental legal protections seriously.

"The environment matters to Canadians," says the report's author, West Coast Environmental Law Association staff counsel Anna Johnston. "Based on our analysis of changes to federal environmental laws since 2011, and our day-to-day work as public interest lawyers working with impacted communities, there is little question that Canadians are being negatively impacted by the rolling back of our environmental legal protections. And looking at the various environmental platforms, it appears that several of our national parties get it. They have heard Canadians' concerns and they're responding."

The legal report examines changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, Fisheries Act, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Species at Risk Act and other core pieces of federal environmental assessment legislation since 2011. It reveals a systematic dismantling of Canada's environmental laws over the past four years, as well as how the impacts of those changes are being felt on the ground in Canada.

As a result of the changes, 99% of Canada's lakes and rivers have lost important legal protection, as have many fish species, including species at risk. The government also repealed Canada's only law setting mandatory targets for reducing greenhouse gasses or requiring monitoring of progress in achieving those reductions. According to the report, the weakening of environmental laws threatens Canadians' health and livelihoods, increases uncertainty for the industry, and has eroded public confidence in environmental decision-making.

"Our waters, species, and our very democracy have been put at risk by changes made to our environmental laws since 2011," said Karine Peloffy, Director General of the Quebec Environmental Law Centre. "When these legal changes were first brought in, we could only speculate about the impacts they would have on Canadians and the environment. Unfortunately, our analysis indicates that our fears have been borne out on the ground."

The platform comparison summarizes the Conservative, Liberal, NDP and Green Parties' main statements regarding key environmental law reform priorities developed by ten of Canada's leading non-profit environmental organizations working on national policy issues. Promises to strengthen laws governing environmental assessment, protection of fish, fish habitat and Canada's waters, and environmental and democratic rights have been made by all parties except the Conservatives.

The report, along with the table summarizing the parties' platforms on key environmental law priorities and links to the voting record of all parties on C-38 and 45, may be found at: envirolawsmatter.ca/election_resources.

For the report and platform comparison: www.envirolawsmatter.ca/election_resources


Contact Information

  • Canada-wide
    Anna Johnston
    West Coast Environmental Law Association

    Karine Peloffy
    Centre québécois du droit de l'environnement