Independant inquiry exposes Canada’s lax enforcement on water pollution

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For immediate release

Press release
February 5, 2007

Independant inquiry exposes Canada’s lax enforcement on water pollution

(Toronto, February 5, 2007) Environmental groups commend the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC) for the integrity of its work in the independent inquiry into Canada’s lax enforcement of the Pulp and Paper Effluent Regulations (PPER). The Factual Record released today, documents byzantine processes and questionable decisions in what should be straightforward measures to enforce a pollution law in place since 1992.

As far back as 2002, the Sierra Legal Defence Fund submitted a formal request for investigation to the CEC asserting that the Federal Government was in breach of its commitment under the environmental branch of NAFTA to effectively enforce federal anti-pollution laws governing Canada’s pulp and paper industry.

Submitted on behalf of Friends of the Earth Canada, Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Ecology Action Centre (Nova Scotia), Union Saint-Laurent, Grands Lacs, and Environment North, the demand for investigation showed that many pulp mills in central and eastern Canada continued to violate the federal Fisheries Act and the PPER with impunity for a decade.

The meticulous Factual Record reveals on a mill by mill basis the Government of Canada decisions and rationale to rarely, if ever, prosecute key polluters targeted by the environmental groups.

“This Factual Record shows the underbelly of environmental regulation today — and its not a pretty sight. Its message is that industry self-reporting and lack of allocation of government resources emasculates the Federal Government’s duty to protect the environment and take timely and effective enforcement action against polluters,” says Robert Wright, legal counsel with Sierra Legal.

The Factual Record details the ineffective Canada-Quebec Agreement on enforcing the pulp and paper effluent regulations and rings a loud warning bell today for the pending discussions between Canada and the provinces on the proposed Clean Air Act.

“The agreement between Canada and Quebec to enforce the pulp and paper law is clearly dysfunctional — not one prosecution of a polluter, and chronically late delivery of violation reports that should have led to action. This is what happens when the Federal Government abandons its duty to protect the environment. Given this shameful track record, we call on the Federal Government to explain why it plans to use similar agreements with the provinces to combat climate change and dirty air,” says Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth.

“I think Canadians will find it beyond belief that both the federal and provincial governments rarely prosecute pulp and paper companies when they break the laws,” commented David Coon, Policy Director, Conservation Council of New Brunswick. “Governments have to set clear targets and schedules for polluting industries and strictly enforce them, rather than hold their hands and offer gentle words of encouragement.”

Under Article 14 of the NAAEC, signed by Canada, the United States and Mexico as a side agreement to NAFTA, citizens can submit complaints if one of the member countries fails to effectively enforce its environmental laws. After reviewing the 2002 complaint, the CEC Council directed the preparation of a Factual Record of Canada’s failure to effectively enforce the Fisheries Act in relation to the pulp and paper industry.

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For more information, contact:

Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth, (613) 724-8690

Robert Wright, Counsel, Sierra Legal Defence Fund, (416) 368-7533, ext. 31

David Coon, Policy Director, Conservation Council of New Brunswick, (506) 458-8747

Mark Butler, Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre (Nova Scotia), (902) 429-5287

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