Fisheries Act

New Report Shows “Systematic Dismantling” of Canada’s Environmental Laws Under Conservative Government

A new report released Wednesday chronicles the changes made to Canada’s environmental laws under the federal Conservatives since they formed government in 2011.

The report, released by West Coast Environmental Law and the Quebec Environmental Law Centre, highlights “the repeal or amendment of most of Canada’s foundational environmental laws since 2011” and suggests many of the changes were a “gift to industry.”

The record suggests that industry lobbied hard for removing environmental protections that it believed were impeding business,” the report states.

Major changes include the weakening of the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which removed 99 per cent of Canada’s lakes and rivers from protection, as well as changes to the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act.

Weakening of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act means approximately 90 per cent of major industry projects that would have undergone a federal review no longer will, according to the report.

Karine Peloffy, director general of the Quebec Environmental Law Centre, said Canada’s environmental legislation is intrinsically tied into the fabric of the country’s democracy.

Our waters, species, and our very democracy have been put at risk by changes made to our environmental laws since 2011,” Peloffy said.

Canada’s Fight Against NAFTA Investigation of Oilsands Tailings Gets Political, Wins Allies

tailings pond, suncor, tar sands, oilsands, alex maclean

The U.S. and Mexico appear to have joined Canada in its fight to prevent a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) investigation of the more than 176 square kilometres of tailings ponds holding waste from the Alberta oilsands near Fort McMurray.

In 2010 a group of citizens and environmental groups petitioned NAFTA’s Commission on Environmental Cooperation to investigate whether Canada is breaking its own federal laws, in particular the Fisheries Act, by failing to adequately manage the massive tailings ponds which hold a toxic mixture of water, silt and chemicals.

It was important for us to know whether this was happening and whether environmental laws were being broken and whether the government is upholding those laws or ignoring them,” Dale Marshall from Environmental Defence, one of the organizations behind the compliant, said.

A 2012 federal study confirmed the tailings ponds are seeping waste into the local environment and Athabasca River. In 2013 an internal memo prepared for then Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver confirmed groundwater toxins related to bitumen extraction and processing are migrating from the tailings ponds.

Harper Government Took Industry Advice, Ignored Environmental Groups, on Controversial Fisheries Act Changes

Salmon spawning sign in Port Coquitlam

The Harper government followed the advice of industry associations when making controversial changes to the Fisheries Act in the 2012 omnibus budget bills, documents relased through access to information legislation reveal.

Gloria Galloway writes for the Globe and Mail that in 2010, “the High Park Group consulting firm was commissioned by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to gather industry and business observations about the habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act.”

The released documents show that phrasing regarding changes to fisheries protections “suggest that wording was offered by industry associations,” according to Galloway.

Conservatives Say Fisheries Act Was Not Meant to Protect 'Puddles'

The Great Lakes from space

Almost a full year after the fact, the Conservatives are changing their tune regarding the reasons behind changes to the Fisheries Act and major water pollution legislation.

A statement on the Conservatives' website outlines the administration’s commitment to Canadian fisheries which entails spending millions of dollars to support scientific activity relevant to the industry, such as “eliminating paperwork for low-risk projects to ensure we can dedicate more resources to protecting real fisheries from major threats.”

The site suggests the real reason for the changes to the Fisheries Act was due to the impracticality of treating all bodies of water “from puddles to the Great Lakes” as if they were the same. The site claims opposition parties are propagating the wrong message about the change.

Harper Hurts Science: Michael Harris on the Closure of ELA

MICHAEL HARRIS is an award-winning author, investigative journalist, and documentary filmmaker.

The Harper government knows and cares as much about science as it knows and cares about telling the truth.

That’s what the recent decision to close Canada’s world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) tells anyone who is paying attention.

Two Oil Spills in Alberta Due to Inadequate Monitoring

Companies responsible for two separate oil spills in Alberta failed to provide adequate oversight for their operations, according to federal government documents released by Environment Canada through Access to Information legislation.

The documents detail how Devon Canada and Gibson Energy violated environmental laws, including the federal Fisheries Act, when their operations cause two oil spills into fish-bearing waterways in 2010.

Gibson Energy, a midstream pipeline operator, spilled a few hundred litres of oil into an Edmonton creek after failing to properly abandon an unused pipeline. According to a warning letter issued to the company from Environment Canada, “Gibson Energy ULC made a business decision to keep the Kinder Morgan lateral full of crude oil and to not purge it with nitrogen.”

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