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

Weaker environmental laws mean a weaker Canada

Devon PageLawyer

It’s not immediately clear what today’s budget will contain in terms of changes to Canada’s environmental laws. What we do know is that based on the recent comments out of Ottawa and other information Ecojustice has received, the federal government intends to roll back major aspects of Canada’s environmental laws.

These changes will likely result in less oversight of major projects that impact Canadians’ health and wellbeing. And that is a concern, not just for environmental groups, but people across the country.

From coast-to-coast, concerned Canadians — including doctors, First Nations, hunters, scientists, and even former Conservative ministers — are all saying the same thing: It’s the role of the federal government to protect the environment we all depend on. It is not the role of government to use environmental laws to rush
approvals and promote select industries at all costs.

Environmental laws are Ecojustice’s tools of choice in affecting on-the-ground change and promoting our vision of a healthy, sustainable Canada. You can see the good work these laws do all around us. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was the last line of defence when Taseko Mines wanted to open the controversial Prosperity mine project, which would have turned B.C.’s Fish Lake into a toxic pool. The Fisheries Act has stopped gravel extraction in the Fraser River, which would have destroyed important salmon spawning beds.

But the laws that protect Canada’s environment do more than protect our trees and lakes and animals. They safeguard the health and security of Canadians by conserving the things we need to survive, including clean water, air and land.

The environmental movement is grounded in one simple concept: If we take care of the planet, it will take care of us. Environment laws reinforce this ideal. They make all Canadians — citizens, government and industry — stewards of our environment, entrusting us to manage and sustain our natural resources. When this trust is violated, these laws hold offenders accountable.

These laws uphold the tenets of democracy — equality and freedom — and acknowledge that the desires of a powerful few do not trump the collective interests of Canadians. These laws enshrine the public’s right be consulted and informed of decisions that will impact them, promoting the kind of public discourse that empowers democratic societies.

The number one role of environmental laws is to make sure that as we develop as a country, we do it in a way that conserves the nature that all Canadians rely on. And not just for today, but for future generations too.

That’s why environmental laws matter and why you should care about what happens over the next few days. Keep checking this space to as we report back on where things stand and what you can do to help.

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