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From Coast to Coast, Canadian Groups Say Strong, Inclusive Federal Environmental Laws Are Needed

by NationTalk on March 1, 2012133 Views

Weak environmental laws jeopardize public health and safety and the integrity of First Nations consultation

VANCOUVER, BC and OTTAWA, ON (February 29, 2012) – Today over 40 groups, from internationally-known organizations like Council of Canadians and Greenpeace, to local citizens’ groups like Grand Riverkeeper Labrador, have endorsed a statement confirming their support for strong federal environmental laws that protect our national values.

The groups warn that they will not stand by if the federal government moves to short-circuit environmental reviews for projects like the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil tankers and pipeline project, and they have rallied behind a statement of 10 principles they say form the basis of environmental assessment for a healthy, secure and sustainable Canada.“Concern about ongoing cuts, and imminent threats to environmental laws, especially the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, is shared across the country,” says Rachel Forbes, Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law and an author of the report, A Checklist for Strong Environmental Laws, released last week. “Scientists, physicians, lawyers, advocates for democracy and citizens’ groups from rural, coastal and urban Canada have come together to say we need strong, principled environmental laws so that development is done responsibly and for the long term benefit of the economy, human health and environmental protection.”

A full list of endorsing organizations can be found at: www.envirolawsmattter.ca.

“Strong environmental laws protect the air, water and land we need to be healthy and keep us safe from pollution and toxic chemicals,” said Devon Page, Executive Director of Ecojustice. “These federal laws are the backbone of every Canadian’s right to a healthy environment, and are as important to our well-being as laws that promote peace and democracy.”

“The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) has endorsed the 10 principles because environmental assessment is meant to be, and can be, a tool to prevent harm and maintain a healthy, secure and sustainable Canada,” says Richard Lindgren of CELA. “Imminent rollbacks to public participation and the weakening of government programs and policies threaten to put all of that at risk.”

The principles endorsed by these groups include recognizing the legal imperative to involve Aboriginal governments in environmental assessment as equal decision makers.

“If the federal government is going to short-circuit opportunities for consultation and accommodation with Aboriginal peoples, it’s just going to pour salt on wounds that we, as societies, have spent decades trying to heal, from the Constitution itself to procedural fairness and access to justice,” says Jamie Kneen, Communications and Outreach Coordinator with MiningWatch Canada.

The Endorsement Statement, links to the endorsers’ websites, and background information on this issue are available at www.envirolawsmattter.ca.

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For more information contact:

Devon Page
Executive Director, Ecojustice
604.685.5618
dpage[at]ecojustice.ca

Richard Lindgren
Lawyer, Canadian Environmental Law Association
613.385.1686
r.lindgren[at]sympatico.ca

Rachel S. Forbes
Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law
604.601.2508 or 604.345.9129 (cell)
rachel_forbes[at]wcel.org

Jamie Kneen
Communications and Outreach Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada
Co-Chair, Environmental Planning & Assessment Caucus of Canadian Environment Network
613.569.3439 or 613.761.2273 (cell)
jamie[at]miningwatch.ca

About West Coast Environmental Law

West Coast Environmental Law is a non-profit environmental law and public interest organization, based in Vancouver, British Columbia. We believe in a just and sustainable society where citizens are empowered to protect the environment and environmental protection is enshrined in law. Since 1974, we have been recognized as British Columbia’s legal champion for the environment.

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