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press release

STATEMENT: Feds miss opportunity to use law to tackle plastic pollution, Ecojustice says

September 20, 2018

OTTAWA – Ecojustice lawyer, James Gunvaldsen Klaassen, made the following statement in reaction to Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna’s failure to address a request to add plastics to the Priority Substances List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act:

“We are disappointed that the minister has ignored her legal duty and delayed her response to our request to add plastics to CEPA’s Priority Substances List. This is a missed opportunity for government to get on with the task of assessing the harm caused by certain classes of plastic products and packaging that are devastating Canada’s marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems, and move forward with legally binding solutions to address plastic pollution.

“While we are cautiously optimistic that government has signalled during G7 talks in Halifax that it will be taking steps to address plastic pollution in other ways, the government must use the legal tools it has at hand do its part now to tackle plastic waste.

“Plastic pollution is a major global issue impacting the environment, biodiversity and human health. In Canada, tiny particles of plastic are already showing up in our drinking water, the air we breathe and our food chain. It’s paramount that government be doing all it can to prevent plastic pollution from continuing to wreak havoc on our soils, waterways and oceans ­— and sparing communities from bearing the brunt of the harm.

“The Priority Substances List under CEPA requires the minister to provide a response that directly addresses the request submitted — Minister McKenna failed to do this. We will be requesting that she provide a clearer, more detailed response on how the government plans to address our request.”


In June 2018, Ecojustice lawyers, on behalf of the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), Citizens’ Network on Waste Management, David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre, Environmental Defence, Équiterre, Greenpeace Canada, Living Oceans Society, Sierra Club Canada Foundation, and Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA), filed an application urging Minister McKenna to add plastics — including microplastics, microfibers and single-use plastics — to the Priority Substances List under CEPA.

Addition to the Priority Substances List requires the government to look at whether plastics meet the legal definition under CEPA of “toxic” to the health of Canadians and/or the environment. If they are found to be “toxic” the government must take measures to prevent or control the risk presented by plastic to human health and the environment.