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Exemptions from federal environmental review for oil and gas projects unjustified, say environmental groups
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Exemptions from federal environmental review for oil and gas projects unjustified, say environmental groups

Ensuring federal assessment of high-carbon projects is critical if Canada is to step up Paris Agreement ambitions at COP 24.

For Immediate Release – December 6, 2018, OTTAWA – Some of Canada’s largest and most polluting industrial projects may get a free pass on federal review under a new law if the government capitulates to industry demands, warn leading environmental groups. The groups are calling on Canada to expand the list of projects it reviews to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental damage from proposed industrial development are minimized. Bill C-69, which includes the Impact Assessment Act, has been subject to intense lobbying in the Senate to weaken or kill the Bill. In recent weeks, the oil and gas and nuclear industries have also begun claiming that their projects – some of Canada’s riskiest – should be exempt altogether from the new law. The Impact Assessment Act mandates the government to weigh the positive and negative impacts of projects that affect the environment, considering factors such as climate change, potential harm to watersheds and endangered species, public safety, and Indigenous rights, in order to minimize harms and boost benefits. The environmental groups have developed a comprehensive list of major projects that should be reviewed under Bill C-69 if Canada is to meet its climate targets. Highlighted project categories include:
  • All projects that propose to emit more than 50,000 tonnes of GHGs per year until 2030, descending to 5,000 tonnes by 2040, including in situ oil sands projects, cement plants, and oil and gas pipelines;
  • All projects requiring permits under the Fisheries Act and Canadian Navigable Waters Act, including hydroelectric dams;
  • Projects located in National Parks, National Wildlife Areas or other federal protected areas, including new roads, ski hills and tourist attractions;
  • Construction or installation of nuclear reactors, including small modular reactors;
  • Projects that impact species at risk and their critical habitat; and
  • Projects that will induce further development, such as roads and transmission lines into relatively undeveloped areas.
How can Minister McKenna claim that Canada is stepping up its ambitions with respect to the Paris Agreement, when her government does not even plan to assess how to reduce pollution from high-carbon projects such as in situ oil sands projects and cement plants?” says Stephen Hazell, Director of Policy and General Counsel at Nature Canada. “The purpose of impact assessment is to look before you leap,” says Anna Johnston, Staff Lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law Association. “In this era of catastrophic climate change and mass extinction, we need to ensure we are making wise decisions that minimize environmental harm and benefit communities. Impact assessment is the right tool to do that, but only if it applies across the board.” -30-
For more information, please contact: Stephen Hazell | Director of Policy & General Counsel, Nature Canada 613-724-1908 (cell) 613-562-3447 ext. 240 (office) shazell@naturecanada.ca Anna Johnston | Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law Association 604-340-2304 (cell – on Eastern time zone) ajohnston@wcel.org Karine Péloffy | Legal Counsel, Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement 514-746-6597 (cell, available in FR and ENG) k.peloffy@gmail.com Patrick DeRochie | Climate & Energy Program Manager, Environmental Defence 416-576-2701 (cell) pderochie@environmentaldefence.ca Josh Ginsberg | Lawyer, Ecojustice 613-562-5800 ext. 3399 jginsberg@ecojustice.ca
View the recommended entries to the project list. Click here for the PDF version of this press release.

Beekeepers and ENGOs Fight to Protect Bees from Harmful Effects of Neonicotinoids
Bees Activities by Clay Ross
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Beekeepers and ENGOs Fight to Protect Bees from Harmful Effects of Neonicotinoids

In early December, I had the privilege of meeting representatives from the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association and the Fédération des Apiculteurs du Québec to hear about their advocacy work with respect to neonicotinoid pesticides. Since first experiencing wide-spread hive die-offs in 2012, beekeepers have been concerned about the excessive and unprecedented losses of colonies from the inappropriate use of neonicotinoid pesticide treated seeds. In response, the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association and the Fédération des Apiculteurs have urged provincial ministers to take action to rapidly and drastically reduce the amount of neonics in the environment. After years of inaction at the federal or provincial levels, the beekeepers associations have taken their fight to court. On February 20, 2018 the Superior Court of Quebec authorized a class action lawsuit on behalf of beekeepers of Quebec against Bayer CropScience Inc., Bayer Inc., Bayer CropScience AG, Syngenta Canada Inc., and Syngenta International AG in connection with neonics. The class action is based on allegations that the Defendants studied, designed, developed, produced, distributed, marketed and/or sold the neonics that would have caused the loss of bee colonies, resulting in financial damage or loss to beekeepers. Beekeepers of Ontario have launched similar action in Ontario court and await a decision certifying the class action. At the same time, David Suzuki FoundationOntario NatureFriends of the Earth Canada, and Wilderness Committee, represented by Ecojustice lawyers, are engaged in a lawsuit arguing that the way Canada currently regulates neonics is unlawful. They are asking the court to rule that the PMRA’s “approve first, study science later” approach is unlawful and that the practice of granting approvals without science cannot continue.

Nature Canada sends its best wishes all of these advocacy organizations in their fight to protect Canada’s bees – and all other critters – from the harmful impacts of neonicotinoids.

European Union Neonic Ban to Protect Bees
Photo by Sandy Nelson
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European Union Neonic Ban to Protect Bees

The EU’s ban on neonicotinoid pesticides is set to come into force on December 19, 2018; giving bees and other critters a chance to thrive in the New Year. The EU has adopted a near-total ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. The use of all three neonics across the EU has been restricted to non-flowering crops since 2013. The new ban would go further, completely prohibiting their use outdoors. The ban is in response to a science review conducted by the European Food Safety Authority – Pesticides Unit, which concluded that the outdoor use of neonics harms bees. Exposure of both honeybees and wild bees (bumblebees and solitary bees) to neonics was assessed via three routes: residues in bee pollen and nectar; dust drift during the sowing/application of the treated seeds; and water consumption. The ban does not extended to all neonics or uses of neonics. Two neonics - sulfoxaflor and thiacloprid - are not covered by the ban. In addition, farmers may still use clothianidin, imiacloprid and thiamethoxam in greenhouses.

It is a step towards protecting bees and birds from the harmful impacts of neonics. It is time for Canada to follow suit!

Exempt Oil and Gas projects from Federal Law?
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Exempt Oil and Gas projects from Federal Law?

Nature Canada supports passage by Parliament of Bill C-69, which includes the proposed Impact Assessment Act. This law mandates the government to weigh the positive and negative impacts of projects that affect the environment, considering factors such as climate change, potential harm to watersheds and endangered species, public safety, and Indigenous rights, in order to minimize harms and boost benefits. The oil and gas industry has been lobbying in the Senate to weaken or kill the Bill, which was passed by the House of Commons in June. The oil and gas industry has also been lobbying to ensure that in situ oil sands projects, most pipelines, and fracking projects should be exempt from the new law even if it is passed. Nature Canada and other environmental groups are calling on Canada to expand the list of projects it reviews to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental damage from proposed industrial development are minimized. In particular, Nature Canada is arguing that federal assessments should be required for all projects that propose to emit more than 50,000 tonnes of GHGs per year, that require permits under the Fisheries Act and Canadian Navigable Waters Act and projects located in National Parks, National Wildlife Areas or other federal protected areas (e.g., new roads, ski hills, tourist attractions).

Here is the link to the joint media release and comprehensive list of project categories that should be assessed.  

Chinook Salmon, American Bumble Bee and Black Ash Populations at risk of extinction say scientists
Photo by Meryl Raddatz.
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Chinook Salmon, American Bumble Bee and Black Ash Populations at risk of extinction say scientists

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) is recommending changes to the status of species at risk following its semi-annual Wildlife Species Assessment meeting in Ottawa last week. “Nature Canada is very concerned that the Fraser River populations of Chinook Salmon, the American Bumble Bee, and Black Ash, among others, have been added to the growing numbers of species at risk in Canada” said Stephen Hazell, director of policy at Nature Canada.  “Nature Canada urges the government of Canada to proceed with the legal listings of species recommended by COSEWIC so that recovery strategies and action plans can begin as soon as possible.” The Black Ash, a tree that is common to swampy woodlands in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador has been designated as Threatened. The Black Ash is susceptible to a number of pests (especially the invasive Emerald Ash Borer) and diseases. Due to its close proximity to rapidly expanding human populations, Black Ash is also threated by human development. Moving out to the West Coast of the country, the committee found 13 populations of Chinook salmon to be declining, with eight assessed as Endangered, four as Threatened and one as Special Concern. Only the large population that lives in the Thompson River is stable. The interconnectivity of ecosystems, and importance of all wildlife species is especially evident with this designation in that the Chinook Salmon are a critical food source for the Endangered Southern Resident Orca, that Nature Canada believes is in need of urgent emergency protection. American Bumble Bees are now listed as Special Concern in Canada. Threats to the American Bumble bee include habitat loss, pollution, mites and pesticide use. Since June, Nature Canada has been campaigning to ban the use of neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics) in Canada and are calling for the Federal Government to take swift and urgent action. This pesticide is currently used on farms, despite causing millions of pollinators, aquatic insects and other beneficial species to disappear in staggering numbers around the world. “COSEWIC’s science-based recommendations for designating wildlife species at risk under the Species At Risk Act is critical to their survival  and to protecting biodiversity and ecosystem protection”  said Ted Cheskey, Nature Canada’s naturalist director. The Polar Bear, with populations in Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and northern parts of Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador, was another species whose status was being considered by COSEWIC, and whose designation as Special Concern in 2017 did not change in this year’s assessment.


It isn’t all bad news however – there are actions that you can take today to help recover these species at risk , and many others, from coast to coast to coast:
  • Save the Turtles! Read up on what to do when you see a turtle crossing the road before heading to cottage country this Spring and Summer;
  • Say no to neonics and yes to birds and bees! Support the work we’re doing, along with 13 other environmental organizations, to ban the use of neonics in Canada, which is a deadly pesticide causing harm to birds and bees;
  • Use your voice for Orcas! Sign our petition and raise your voice to restrict Chinook salmon fisheries and protect the Endangered Southern Resident Orcas;
  • Become an advocate for nature! Join the nature nation to stay up-to-date with the important work we’re doing to protect the incredible wildlife species and landscapes from coast, to coast, to coast.
COSEWIC's next scheduled wildlife species assessment meeting will be held in April 2019 in St. John's, Newfoundlandand Labrador.

Why Canada needs to say no to Oil and Gas Drilling in Marine Protected Areas
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Why Canada needs to say no to Oil and Gas Drilling in Marine Protected Areas

The federal government is committed to protecting at least 17 percent of terrestrial areas and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas by 2020. These measures of protection are crucial to conserve the important habitats of species at risk in our lands and waters. Protection of Canada's natural places is a vital component of our culture, heritage, economy and our future, as well as of global importance in terms of biodiversity conservation and mitigating climate change. Since 2015, Canada has made significant progress on marine protected areas and now protects nearly 8% of its oceans. Despite those advances, the federal government is still considering allowing oil, gas and mining in some marine protected areas. Oil and gas drilling in marine protection areas?  Many, if not most, Canadians would ask: what’s up with that? Surely creating a ‘marine protected area’ means that oil, gas and mining projects are no longer permitted. Surely these important habitats cannot risk environmental catastrophes similar to the oil spill we recently saw off the coast of Newfoundland that released 250,000 litres of crude oil into the ocean.


The public controversy as to whether to allow of oil and gas drilling in protected areas led to the establishment of an expert panel on standards for marine protected areas. The good news is that the panel recommended strengthening ocean protections. The bad news? The government is under pressure from oil and gas interests to keep these protections weak.  Industry wants to see oil and gas drilling still allowed in some types of marine protected areas. Fortunately for all nature lovers, there is something that can be done. It is not too late to strengthen the protection of important marine habitats and to ensure that marine wildlife species like the Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtle and beloved Atlantic Puffin continue to thrive.

Share our petition with your family and friends to raise awareness around the protection of marine areas today! If we raise our voices for nature in Canada today, we will be able to protect it for generations to come.


Stephen spoke to reporter James Wilt from The Narwhal, stating that “I reject the idea that greenhouse gas emissions are not a matter of federal interest and authority,” and that “Given that climate change could destroy human civilization, maybe it might be a good idea to include high-carbon projects for assessment under the new legislation,” Read this story here.

Noise Monitoring won’t save the Orcas
Photo by Eileen Redding
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Noise Monitoring won’t save the Orcas

The federal decision last week to monitor underwater ship noise in BC's Salish Sea to aid the recovery of endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales recover is long-overdue. The Southern Resident population was listed as endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act in 2003 but the plan to help them recover wasn't finished until 2017. Transport Canada will work with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority's Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) program, which is looking at ways to reduce underwater noise in key areas for the whales. An underwater hydrophone will be installed at Boundary Pass in the Salish Sea to collect individual vessel and mammal noise profiles.  Transport Canada will also carry out a four-year project with support from the National Research Council of Canada to better predict propeller noise and hull vibration of a vessel. These measures will cost $1.6 million and are part of a $167.4-million federal Whales Initiative aimed at improving prey availability and reducing disturbance of the whales. But underwater noise monitoring and modelling will clearly not be enough as the number of vessels navigating the Salish Sea increases.  Urgent and mandatory reduction in shipping traffic and noise among other measures are essential if the extirpation of the Southern Resident Orca population is to be avoided.

Add your voice to demand that the federal cabinet issue an Emergency Order under the Species at Risk Act to help the Southern Resident Orcas today!


To read recent coverage of this topic, consult the following

Why oilpatch suits are trying to boot Bill C-69
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Why oilpatch suits are trying to boot Bill C-69

Bill C-69 is a modest piece of legislation designed to improve how the federal government assesses and approves major development projects such as pipelines and  hydro dams, and restore public trust at the same time. Bill C-69 was passed by the House of Commons in June, after over two years of public consultations, expert panel reviews, and House of Commons debate and committee hearings. But now “Suits and Boots”, an oil and gas industry campaign, is lobbying Senators to defeat Bill C-69 by delaying final votes on the bill so it dies on the order paper in June when Parliament adjourns. In an article published in the Hill Times on October 24,  Stephen Hazell, Nature Canada’s director of policy and general counsel, explains why the arguments put forward by Suits and Boots are rubbish, and why Bill C-69, while far from perfect in terms of nature conservation, represents a significant improvement on the current failed law.

Click here for the entire article.

Nature Canada reiterates call for Emergency Order to save Orcas
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Nature Canada reiterates call for Emergency Order to save Orcas

Nature Canada is reiterating its call for the federal government to issue an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act to implement a revised Recovery Strategy for the Northern and Southern Resident Orcas. Time is short if these Orcas are to be  saved. The Recovery Strategy was first issued in 2008 and amended in 2011.  Now the government is consulting Canadians about designating additional critical habitat for these populations, as well as measures to protect this critical habitat. The deadline for submissions is Saturday November 3, 2018 Some key actions that must be taken to protect critical habitat in the Salish Sea include:

  • Restricting Chinook salmon fisheries in areas where these Orcas feed, and closing Chinook fishing on the Fraser River;
  • Enforcing the 200-meter buffer between marine vessels and Orcas and implementing better rules for whale-watching boats
  • Imposing a 10 knot speed limit on marine vessels and slowing down BC Ferries;
  • Reducing noise and disturbance for commercial vessels travelling in or near Orca foraging areas; and
  • Establishing the Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area.
The government has announced a new program to monitor and model underwater noise in the Salish Sea. This clearly will not be enough as the number of vessels—including oil tankers—continues to increase. In addition to our submission setting out in more detail why these key actions are needed, Nature Canada will be submitting the petitions signed by nearly 10,000 of our members and supporters calling for an emergency order to save the Orcas.

There is still time to sign our petition and save the Southern Resident Orcas.

Feds reject Emergency Order for Orcas
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Feds reject Emergency Order for Orcas

Nature Canada is disappointed that the federal government has declined to issue an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act that nature groups are saying is needed to protect the endangered Southern Resident Orcas of  British Columbia’s Salish Sea. A November 1, 2018 order-in-council indicates that the government has already taken measures to assist recovery of these Orcas (e.g., monitoring ship noise, imposing a 200-metre buffer to keep marine vessels away from Orcas). This is certainly true; the problem is that they are not in themselves adequate to save these whales. Nature Canada continues to believe that an emergency order is the most efficient way to coordinate and direct the work of federal departments such as Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada, Parks Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada that are working on saving the Orcas from extirpation.


Some key actions that must be taken to protect critical habitat in the Salish Sea include:

  • Restricting Chinook salmon fisheries in areas where these Orcas feed, and closing Chinook fishing on the Fraser River;
  • Enforcing the 200-meter buffer between marine vessels and Orcas and implementing better rules for whale-watching boats
  • Imposing a 10 knot speed limit on marine vessels and slowing down BC Ferries;
  • Reducing noise and disturbance for commercial vessels travelling in or near Orca foraging areas; and
  • Establishing the Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area.

Lets keep up the pressure: sign our petition and save the Southern Resident Orcas.


For more details on the work that Nature Canada is doing, please consult the following:

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