Canadians treasure this country’s magnificent rivers. Not only do they provide us with water to drink and fish to eat, they also sustain entire ecosystems — wonderfully diverse collections of flora and fauna that live in harmony with one another.
That’s why we have such grave concerns about the proposed Lower Churchill Project. The hydroelectric project would dam the free-flowing lower reaches of Labrador’s Grand River — the seventh largest river in Canada — threatening fish and fish habitat, wetlands and local caribou.
Today, we announced that we are helping Grand Riverkeeper Labrador Inc. and Sierra Club Canada challenge the Lower Churchill project in Federal Court. We’re seeking a court order that would block the federal government from issuing permits or financial guarantees until the environmental assessment process is completed in full.
Before a project of this scale can go ahead, it must receive a federal environmental assessment. The joint review panel tasked with assessing the Lower Churchill project acknowledged that it would cause significant adverse environmental impacts, but failed to assess or reach a conclusion on key issues like whether the project is needed and whether better alternatives exists. In August the panel came back with an incomplete final report, which was — in our view — unlawful.
Despite this, the federal and provincial governments yesterday announced their support of the project. In backing the project, we believe the Government of Canada has acted unlawfully, and we will seek to overturn their endorsement in the Federal Court.
Projects like Lower Churchill — ones that will have far-reaching and long-lasting impacts — illustrate why strong environmental laws are so important. But in recent weeks, there have been rumblings in Ottawa that Canada’s environmental laws, like the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), will be “modernized.”
Why does this matter?
Sustainable development — which requires the integration of environmental, social and economic goals — and CEAA go hand in hand. If you care about one, you must care about the other. This law plays a critical role in ensuring that we respect both environmental and economic interests when considering big projects, like Lower Churchill or Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline.
CEAA is the tool that allows Ecojustice to stand up to mining, oilsands, and energy projects and give the environment — and the public at large — a voice when major decisions that affect them are made. This law is one of our most powerful tools in ensuring environmental protection and a key building block in the success we’ve achieved over our 20-year history.