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Environmental groups, First Nations join in opposition to omnibus Bill C-45

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Massive bill before Parliament further undermines Canadian democracy and environment, groups say in open letter

TORONTO –First Nations and environmental, recreation and grassroots groups supported by more than half a million Canadianstoday issued an open letter opposing the federal government’s controversial second omnibus bill, C-45, as the proposed legislation enters final rounds of debate in Parliament this week.

“The changes proposed in this omnibus bill would further weaken Canada’s environmental laws, remove critical federal safeguards, and reduce opportunities for the public to have their say about major industrial projects that could threaten the air, water, soil and natural ecosystems on which all Canadians, and our economy, depend,” they said in the letter.

The signatories include the BC Assembly of First Nations, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, leading environmental organizations, including the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, Équiterre, and the World Wildlife Fund, and groups from different sectors, nationwide (see below).

The organizations are speaking out against Bill C-45’s deregulation of some of Canada’s key environmental laws, including major changes being proposed to the Navigable Waters Protection Act that would see just 97 of Canada’s approximately 32,000 major lakes protected by the stripped-down act. Major pipelines would also be exempted under the new law, meaning that the scope of impacts considered during environmental reviews will be narrower.

“Simply put, lakes, rivers and streams often stand in the path of large industrial development, particularly pipelines. This bill, combined with last spring’s changes, hands oil, gas and other natural resource extraction industries a free pass to degrade Canada’s rich natural legacy,” said Devon Page, executive director of Ecojustice.

The latest omnibus legislation would further undermine the protection of Canada’s environment by making changes to the Fisheries Act and the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act — critical laws that are used to steward a sustainable environment, clean water and healthy oceans for all Canadians.

Meanwhile, organizations argue the bill represents a two-pronged attack on Canada’s democratic processes, seemingly designed to short-circuit parliamentary discussion of major legislative changes that would significantly reduce opportunities for public consultation.

“This week may be the last time that Members of Parliament will be able to prevent the further loss of environmental protection and public participation that this bill contemplates,” said Jessica Clogg, executive director and senior counsel, West Coast Environmental Law.

“That’s why we’re asking our elected officials to stand up, for Canada’s environment and their constituents who depend on it, and oppose this bill.”

Tabled in October, Bill C-45 follows a drastic overhaul of Canada’s federal environmental laws in the spring omnibus budget bill, C-38. The negative impacts of C-38 are already being seen on the ground and in massive staffing cuts to federal environmental departments.

In their open letter, the groups argue that Bill C-45 “further demonstrates a pattern of recklessness by the federal government that puts the long-term safety and health of Canadians in jeopardy. These are major changes that, if not stopped now, will ripple out across communities everywhere in Canada -- putting our water, air, food and quality of life at risk.”

The signatories are:  l’Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique (AQLPA), BC Assembly of First Nations, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, Équiterre, Greenpeace Canada, Greenpeace Québec, Idle No More (Saskatchewan Grassroots Advocacy Group), Leadnow, Nature Canada, Paddle Canada, Pembina Institute, Ontario Rivers Alliance, Sierra Club Canada, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, West Coast Environmental Law Association, Wilderness Committee, World Wildlife Fund.

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For more information, please contact:

Devon Page, Executive Director, Ecojustice: 604-685-5618 ext 233; 778-828-5512;

Jessica Clogg, Executive Director and Senior Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association: (604) 601-2501; mobile: 778-327-8964;

Karel Mayrand, Directeur général, Foundation David Suzuki (Montreal); 514-871-4932;