Ecojustice Blog – Healthy communities Posted on November 28, 2012 (updated: February 17, 2015)

Bill C-38 – Ecojustice just got a whole lot busier

Devon PageLawyer

If the omnibus budget bill just passed by the federal government guts Canada’s key national environmental laws, does that mean it’s time to shutter Ecojustice’s four offices across Canada? Well, if some folks in Ottawa had their way, that would be the case. For the 20 years that Ecojustice has been using the law to protect and restore Canada’s environment, who has been the number one defendant? The federal government.

Indeed, Ecojustice’s bread and butter is using the courts to force the federal government to honour and enforce Canada’s laws in face of a continued blatant failure to do. And we’ve been successful.

But do fewer federal environmental laws mean that Ecojustice is now suddenly out of business on the national front?

Not likely.

Gutting Canada’s environmental laws doesn’t release the federal government of its broad responsibilities to protect the environment (despite recent comments from the Environment Minister that thousands of environmental assessments won’t go ahead thanks to the budget legislation). Ecojustice lawyers are actively examining the bill in detail to identify litigation opportunities to mitigate the extremely harmful effects this omnibus legislation will have on our communities and planet.

Working alongside hundreds of other Canadian organizations that seek to defend nature and democracy, Ecojustice is committed to standing up for strong, effective environmental laws that protect the air, water and land all Canadians rely on. We intend to go to the courts with the most environmentally protective interpretations of these changes to the law before the environment, and us, is put at more risk.

And judging by the size and scope of the gargantuan bill – 425 pages in total – you can expect there to be issues. In a rush to move away from protecting the environment, the federal government seems to have forsaken the principle that law making is better served by scalpel than sledge hammer. The giant bill is such a tangled web of reforms (to more than 70 different laws) that lawyers of all stripes will be mining it like gold. Where the
environment is risked by emerging interpretations, Ecojustice will be there.

Our elected officials have a responsibility to ensure that as we develop as a country, we do it in a way that conserves the nature we all rely on. And not just for today, but for future generations too. No matter what happens with Bill C-38, we will continue to hold them to it.

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