Waterkeeper filed comments last week on two important environmental protection issues: the Pesticides Act and the Fisheries Act. Here is an overview:
Legislative amendments to the Pesticides Act
The ongoing struggle to keep toxins out of our waterways is one of Waterkeeper's primary concerns. The Great Lakes, four of which are in Ontario, provide drinking water for the surrounding 40 million residents. The chemical toxins that we apply to our lawns and gardens, agricultural lands, and forests run directly into our drinking water, leading to environmental harm and health concerns. Waterkeeper supports every initiative intended to reduce the introduction of toxic chemicals into our environment.
For these reasons, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper was enthusiastic when the provincial government provided notice of its intent to introduce a cosmetic pesticides ban in Ontario in January of 2008. Waterkeeper can no longer support the province's proposal, however, given the amendments released for public comment on April 22, 2008.
As expressed in a comment submitted last week to the Ministry of the Environment, Waterkeeper has serious concerns about the latest amendments to the Pesticides Act, in particular Section 7.1(5), which renders municipal by-laws inoperative. The creation of maximum standards as opposed to minimum standards for municipalities is a regressive move for environmental protection. Communities will be prevented in the future from adopting bolder initiatives regarding toxic chemical bans, being forced instead to adhere to the provinces modest initiatives.
Municipalities have fought long, hard legal battles to gain the right to enact pesticide bans. Thirty-two municipalities in Ontario already have pesticide bans, accounting for half the population of Ontario. Efforts at the community level inspired the province-wide "ban"; to limit this community-based momentum would be a disservice to those movements. Worse yet, it may actually offer citizens of Ontario less protection from pesticide pollution than they currently enjoy.
Waterkeeper's comment to the MOE is available here
Proposal to remove Fisheries Act from Environmental Bill of Rights
The Environmental Bill of Rights was enacted in 1994. The EBR, as it is known, recognizes the need for government to provide transparency and accountability when making decisions that will have an impact on the environment. This legislation provides procedural requirements and legal mechanisms that enable the public to participate in government decision-making. The MOE's proposed changes add new ministries and legislation to the EBR, update references to amended legislation, and remove the Fisheries Act from the application for investigation provisions of the EBR.
Waterkeeper was particularly concerned about the proposal to remove the Fisheries Act from the EBR. With this change, Ontarians will no longer have a statutory right to request an investigation when they find pollution impacting fish and fish habitat.
In our submission, Waterkeeper argued that there is no compelling reason to take this right away from Ontarians. Legal precedent and provincial policy support provincial involvement in fish and fish habitat protection.
Waterkeeper's entire comment to the MOE is available here.
Listen to Living at the Barricades.
This week's Living At the Barricades Podcast presents Part 2 of our fishing special. Part 2 throws out the bait and tackles key questions about fishing on Lake Ontario with advice from full-time fishing guide Craig Vance of Wolfe Island. Vance shares seasonal fishing tips and stories. Plus, a delicious recipe for freshwater fish from Lake Ontario. Lawyer for the Canadian Environmental Law Association, Rick Lindgren, also shares his love for fishing on the Eastern end of Lake Ontario while paying heed to the imminent threats to fish and fish habitat on the Lake.