Ontario government revokes MZO following pressure from local, environmental and Indigenous Groups
Toronto, Ont./ Traditional territories of several First Nations including the Williams Treaties First Nations, Huron-Wendat, the Anishnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Chippewas, and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation – Ecojustice, Environmental Defence and Ontario Nature are celebrating an important victory for the Provincially Significant Wetlands at Lower Duffins Creek following the release of a regulation by the Government of Ontario that revokes the Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) for the area.
The area at Duffins Creek now returns to zoning laws applied by the City of Pickering and its status as an “urban reserve” with environmentally protective zoning is restored.
In late 2020, the Ontario government authorized an MZO for the construction of a warehouse and other facilities on this important coastal wetland complex. This move was met with strong opposition from environmental organizations, Indigenous groups, and the local community.
MZOs are meant to be an extraordinary tool that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing can use to fast-track a planning application that is in the provincial interest. In the past, they were rarely used and were reserved for exceptional circumstances. But in 2020 alone, the Ontario government issued more than 30 MZOs to fast-track routine development applications.
In November 2020, Environmental Defence and Ontario Nature, represented by Ecojustice, sued the Government of Ontario over the unlawful use of an MZO for proposed developments at Lower Duffins Creek. In March 2021, the groups secured a halt on any development on the wetlands until the lawsuit was resolved. Amazon Canada abandoned it as a potential site for their warehouse, and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing stated their willingness to revoke or amend the MZO.
The MZO has now been revoked thanks to the dedication of environmental activists, the local community, Indigenous groups, and media that covered the story.
Ecojustice and its clients are now reviewing their next steps for the ongoing lawsuit of the Government of Ontario’s issuing of an MZO for development at Lower Duffins Creek.
Laura Bowman, Ecojustice lawyer, said:
“This is a victory for Lower Duffins Creek wetland, an area of huge importance to local communities, that also helps mitigate flooding, stores carbon, filters water and provides habitat to wildlife.
“The Ontario government should never have threatened the destruction of the site with an unlawful MZO and we will be reviewing the next steps in our ongoing lawsuit.”
Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, said:
“This is a huge win for both local residents in Pickering and other Ontarians who refused to stand by while the Municipal and Ontario governments tried to destroy a Provincially Significant Wetland and run roughshod over due process and long-standing protection rules.”
Dr. Anne Bell, director of conservation and education at Ontario Nature, said:
“Using MZOs to fast-track the destruction of a provincially significant wetland or any other natural area is simply wrong. Ontarians understand the importance of protecting natural places as we strive to address the crises of biodiversity loss and climate change. This victory shows that when people stand up together, we can make a difference.”
Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.
Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.
Ontario Nature protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement. Ontario Nature is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters, and more than 155 member groups across Ontario.
Sean O’Shea, communications specialist, Ecojustice,
firstname.lastname@example.org, 416-368-7533 ext. 523
Allen Braude, senior communications manager, Environmental Defence, email@example.com, cell: 416-356-2587
John Hassell, director of communications and engagement, Ontario Nature,
firstname.lastname@example.org, cell: 416-786-2171