Posted on May 10, 2019 (updated: May 9, 2019)

Senate committee threatens to undermine C-69

OTTAWA, 10 May 2019 – Members of the Senate committee reviewing Bill C-69 have unleashed a tsunami of 240 amendments that threaten to destroy the integrity of the bill, say environmental groups. The package of amendments revealed today tilt the bill in favour of oil and gas interests to an unacceptable degree, and, if adopted, would hamper Canada’s ability to make progress fighting climate change.

Environmental groups including Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, and Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement have been supportive of Bill C-69, as it promised greater transparency and more clearly defined criteria as to whether a project is in the public interest, including a consideration of a project’s impact on Canada’s climate commitments. Thousands of Canadians participated in extensive consultations on Bill C-69 and worked together to shape a law reflecting a delicate compromise among  industry, environmental, and Indigenous interests.

Discussion of the amendments proposed by Senators began on May 9 in a Senate committee. Deliberations will resume on Monday, May 13 at 6pm in room C-128 in the Senate building in Ottawa.

The amendments made public yesterday will tilt the Bill too far in favour of oil and gas industry interests. Concerns about the amendments proposed include:

  • Allowing offshore oil and gas companies to bypass the federal review process for exploratory wells, if a regional assessment has been conducted.
  • Adding more discretion to exempt potentially harmful activities from review
  • Backsliding on the original intent of the bill to give less power to industry-captured regulators, by undoing changes that would have restricted their role on impact assessment review panels. The amendments would allow regulators, including offshore boards, to both chair the review panels and represent a majority on these panels.
  • Restricting the ability of people to go to court when the assessments fail to follow the law.
  • Giving equal consideration to “investor confidence” alongside fostering sustainability, which prioritizes profit over the best outcomes for Canadians and the environment.
  • Undermining the bill’s reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, giving it weight only after “the full legal implications of this declaration have been adequately studied and are generally agreed upon.”
  • Removing language requiring the approvals process to consider Canada’s climate commitments made under the Paris Accord.

Joshua Ginsberg, lawyer for Ecojustice, said:

“What we saw yesterday was the oil and gas industry running riot in the Senate. Most of the 240 amendments proposed would disrupt the integrity of Bill C-69 and derail what it was trying to achieve. This would be a clear overreach by the Senate, an unelected body, on a bill that months of consultation had shaped into a compromise among the interests of industry, First Nations, communities and the environment. This balanced bill is about to be sharply tilted towards industry, threatening Canada’s best chance to put in place a fair law that works for industry while protecting nature, our health, and our climate.”

Julia Levin, Climate and Energy Program Manager with Environmental Defence, said:

“At a time when the impacts of climate change are being felt across the country and leading scientists have warned that Canada is warming at twice the global rate, it is irresponsible for Senators to modify Bill C-69 in ways that facilitate the expansion of the fossil fuel sector. If these amendments are accepted, we will be left with legislation that is weaker than current laws – a huge departure from the original intent of this bill. These amendments come just a week after the government released proposed regulations which would exempt major oil and gas projects from federal assessment.  The oil and gas industry seems to have hijacked Canada’s democratic processes.”

Karine Peloffy, legal counsel to Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement, said:

“The extremely high number of amendments just now being proposed to a Bill that was referred to the Senate nearly a year ago, with the timing so close to Parliament rising before the federal election, makes us fear this Bill will die on the Order Paper if it is not entirely gutted. Only about a dozen amendments were considered but not voted on by the committee in one sitting. It does not seem humanly possible to sift through 240 amendments in the three sittings scheduled before the committee has committee to report back to the Senate. With no set date for Bill C-69 to return to the House, a situation also faced by bills C-48 and C-68, environmental protection is being held hostage in the Senate.”

Jessica Clogg, Executive Director and Senior Counsel at West Coast Environmental Law Association, said:
“Introducing this barrage of amendments at the final hour, many of which pander to big industry, jeopardizes both the intent of the bill and its chances of passing. Canadians were promised a stronger impact assessment law that ensures meaningful public involvement, addresses climate change and advances reconciliation – not more rules written by the oil and gas sector.”

Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment for all.

Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

The Quebec Center for Environmental Law is Quebec’s only independent organization offering legal expertise on environmental issues to citizens, participating in public consultations on law reform and representing an environmental citizen perspective in public interest litigation before all courts.

West Coast Environmental Law harnesses the power of law to solve complex environmental challenges. We are transforming environmental decision-making and strengthening legal protection for the environment through collaborative legal strategies that bridge Indigenous and Canadian law. 

For media inquiries

Catharine Tunnacliffe, Communications Manager |Ecojustice, 416-368-7533 x 542

Karine Péloffy, Legal Counsel |Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement;  514 746 6597 available in FR and ENG

Barbara Hayes, Communications Manager | Environmental Defence;

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