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Environmental lawyers tell NAFTA Commission that Canada Is Violating International Commitment to Maintain Environmental Laws

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Canadians invited to comment on Canada’s weakening of environmental protection laws

Vancouver – Almost 20 years after NAFTA came into effect, environmental lawyers say that Canada risks becoming the “pollution haven” that Canada’s obligations under the environmental side agreement to NAFTA were supposed to prevent. In response to an invitation for public comment from a NAFTA-affiliated agency, the West Coast Environmental Law Association is urging Canadians concerned about recent slashing of federal environmental laws to express their views. 

In an open letter sent today to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, lawyers for West Coast Environmental Law claim Canada is in violation of its obligations under the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation.

“The environmental side-agreement was meant to ensure that NAFTA did not result in an incentive to weaken environmental laws at the request of industry, and an environmental race to the bottom,” says Andrew Gage, Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law. “We’re inviting Canadians to tell the Commission that that’s just what has happened in Canada in recent years.”

West Coast Environmental Law argues that amendments to Canada’s environmental laws in last year’s budget bills, C-38 and C-45, amount to a weakening of environmental protections contrary to the NAFTA side-agreement.

“Bills C-38 and C-45 gutted environmental protection in Canada,” says Gage.  “Canada’s only law for reducing greenhouse gases was repealed, thousands of environmental assessments were eliminated, and our legal protection of fish, lakes and rivers were significantly weakened. That’s not improvement, it’s a backward slide.”

To mark its 20th anniversary, the CEC is conducting a public review of NAFTA and its environmental side agreement to determine their effectiveness in fostering environmental protection and improvement in North America. A joint advisory panel is currently accepting written comments from the public.

See for West Coast Environmental Law’s letter to the CEC and to send your own comments to the CEC.

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For more information contact:

Andrew Gage

Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association
250-412-9784 or 604-601-2506

Jessica Clogg
Executive Director and Senior Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association