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HOUSE OF COMMONS PASSES ENVIRONMENT BILL TO IMPROVE RESOURCE PROJECT REVIEWS AND HELP REGAIN PUBLIC TRUST
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HOUSE OF COMMONS PASSES ENVIRONMENT BILL TO IMPROVE RESOURCE PROJECT REVIEWS AND HELP REGAIN PUBLIC TRUST

Ottawa, ON (June 21, 2018) —Today, the House of Commons passed Bill C-69—including a new law  the Impact Assessment Act—which should greatly improve environmental reviews of development projects as well as regain public trust. “Bill C-69 represents important reforms by emphasizing sustainability and a single-agency approach to assessing resource projects, and by eliminating rules restricting public participation in hearings” says Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel. “We are satisfied that an appropriate balance has been struck in this legislation and that it will assist in regaining public trust in reviews of natural resource development projects.” “The Senate now has the opportunity to consider Bill C-69, including amendments, as passed by the House of Commons.” said Hazell.  “Nature Canada notes that the current Parliamentary session will end 12 months from now, after which the campaign leading up to the October 2019 federal election will begin in earnest.  We expect that this schedule provides plenty of time for the Senate to complete its deliberations and pass the bill.”


For media commentary please contact:  Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel 613 724-1908 (cell) 613 562-3447 ext. 240 shazell@naturecanada.ca

Updated: Our Thoughts on Environmental Laws & Bill C-69
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Updated: Our Thoughts on Environmental Laws & Bill C-69

[caption id="attachment_36177" align="alignleft" width="150"] Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel[/caption] On April 12, Stephen Hazell, the Director of Conservation and General Counsel of Nature Canada was a featured guest on the Energy and the Environment segment with Before the Bell on the Sixth Estate. Appearing on the Energy and the Environment segment, Stephen discusses the concerns and issues surrounding Bill C-69, and the new environmental assessment review process. Click here to view the entire episode, with Stephen appearing between the 30:00 and 35:00 minute marks. After the segment, Before the Bell reporter Dale Smith highlighted Stephen's comment that “Having certainty at the political level is super important and we don’t have that with the bill,” Stephen noted that it makes it hard to judge intentions, and that while every government likes to have more discretion, the business and environmental communities like rules. “Impact assessment is about providing information for decision makers so that we can make sound decisions […] The Impact Assessment Act that has been proposed is a good step.” Although the bill is a good step,  Nature Canada's believes that the draft environmental assessment law is not nearly strong enough, and some industries are already lobbying to weaken it further. Nature Canada’s advocacy team is hard at work here in Ottawa standing up as your voice for nature. We testified in the House of Commons on April 18, and are working for amendments to better conserve nature in May and June. Over the summer, we will be preparing for additional debate of environmental law reform in the Senate this fall and working on the proposed regulations. In order to make sustainable, science-based decisions that will protect nature, wildlife and the health of all Canadians, here are some of the critical amendments to Bill C-69 we want included:

  • Expand the list of projects that trigger environmental assessment; merely evaluating the worst of the worst isn’t good enough.
  • Developments in National Parks and National Wildlife Areas, and in critical habitat for species at risk should be fully assessed as a matter of law.
  • The public must have a legal right to participate meaningfully in assessments, and the right to ask questions at hearings.
Click here to read our recent Letter to the Minister – outlining our concerns about “Project list” and how to improve and broaden consultation.
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Raising Our Voices For Our Environmental Laws
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Raising Our Voices For Our Environmental Laws

[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] Best Opportunity in a Generation for Real Change. Right now is the best opportunity in a generation for federal environmental law reform. In June, the government announced its decision to establish expert panels to review critical environmental laws gutted by the previous government. This decision shows that our voices were heard. Thank you! Together with your support, we’ll ensure nature’s voice is heard. Here are just a few crucial changes Nature Canada would like to see to strengthen our laws: Canadian Environmental Assessment Act

  1. Require assessment of climate change effects of all projects with large greenhouse gas emissions or new fossil fuel infrastructure. Require measures to reduce those emissions to meet our international commitments.
  2. Ensure assessment of the environmental effects of catastrophic events such as oil tanker spills.
  3. Engage indigenous governments and communities as partners in environmental assessments.
  4. Guarantee participants the right to be heard and the right to raise questions in hearings.
Fisheries Act
  1. Bring back protection of all fish habitat, not just habitat that supports commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fisheries; and
  2. Require environmental assessments of projects that would harm fish habitat before permits to begin construction are issued. Proceeding with construction without a permit should be unlawful.
You can read more about our comprehensive recommendations on all environmental laws under review by visiting our website.
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The Public Hearings Have Already Begun:  Have Your Say on our Future Environmental Laws!
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The Public Hearings Have Already Begun: Have Your Say on our Future Environmental Laws!

[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] This is a critical time to press for better environmental laws in Canada. The federal government is seeking public input on potential changes to environmental laws such as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Fisheries Law, Navigation Protection Act and National Energy Board Act. Now is your chance, the best opportunity in a generation, to seek stronger environmental laws to protect the air, water, lands we need to survive and wildlife that we love. See the list below for upcoming hearings in a community near you.  It is recommended that you register in advance.Image of a button And if you are unable to participate, we assure you that Nature Canada will be speaking up on your behalf to ensure nature’s voice is heard at the public hearings to strengthen our laws. [custom_table style="2"]

Province:   City: Date: Time:
 Quebec  Montreal  October 26  7:00 – 10:30 pm
 Ontario  Sudbury   November 3  6:30 – 10:00 pm
Ottawa  November 8   6:30 – 10:00 pm
 Toronto  November 9  6:30 – 10:00 pm
 Thunder Bay  November 14  6:30 – 10:00 pm
 Manitoba  Winnipeg  November 16  6:30 – 10:00 pm
 Alberta  Calgary  November 21  6:30 -10:00 pm
 Fort McMurray  November 23  6:30 – 10:00 pm
British Columbia  Kamloops  November 28  6:30 – 10:00 pm
 Fort St. John  December 5  6:30 – 10:00 pm
 Prince Rupert  December 8  6:30 – 10:00 pm
 Vancouver  December 12  6:30 – 10:00 pm
 Nanaimo  December 14  6:30 – 10:00 pm
[/custom_table] Click here to read about the crucial changes Nature Canada is calling for to strengthen our laws. Also, why not consider writing a Letter to your Local Editor about stronger environmental laws? We have a simple and effective letter writing tool that you can easily use to spread our message in your local community. Together our voices will ring out in support of improved and strengthened environmental laws.
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Conserving Nature and Getting to Sustainability through Federal Environmental Law
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Conserving Nature and Getting to Sustainability through Federal Environmental Law

[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] In July, the federal government announced public reviews to consider reforms to four key environmental laws that had been gutted by the former Conservative government in 2012: Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Fisheries Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act, and National Energy Board Act. Here are some important changes that Nature Canada would like to see in these new laws: Fisheries Act

  1. Bring back protection of all fish habitat, not just habitat that supports commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fisheries.
  2. Require environmental assessments of proposed development projects that would harm fish habitat before permits to begin construction are issued. Proceeding with construction without a permit would be unlawful.
  3. Develop regulations that focus on preventing harm to fish habitat from bigger projects and cumulative harm from many small projects in threatened watersheds.
Navigable Waters Protection Act
  1. Bring back protection of the ecosystems of navigable waters as well as rights to navigate in all navigable water.
  2. Require environmental assessments and permits for works that interfere with navigation on navigable waters, with limited exemptions only for truly minor works on truly minor waterways.
Canadian Environmental Assessment Act Image of wetlands
  1. Require assessment of the environmental, social and economic sustainability of federal policies, programs and projects, and not just adverse environmental effects.
  2. Require assessment of climate change effects of all projects with large greenhouse gas emissions or that involve new fossil fuel infrastructure and require mitigation measures to reduce those emissions consistent with Canada’s international commitments. Also require assessment of the effects of global climate on proposed projects over the life-time of projects.
  3. Ensure assessment of cumulative effects of development, whether through strategic, regional assessments or project assessments.
  4. Ensure assessment of the environmental effects of catastrophic, if unlikely, events such as oil tanker spills and mine tailing dam failures.
  5. Engage indigenous governments and communities as governance partners in the environmental assessment process of projects, as is the case in Canada’s three northern territories.
  6. Guarantee minimum standards of procedural fairness to participants in environmental assessments, such as the right to be heard and the right to question proponents orally in hearings.
National Energy Board Act (and Nuclear Safety Act)
  1. Require that environmental assessments of pipelines and offshore oil and gas projects, be carried out by independent panels and not by the National Energy Board or the offshore oil and gas boards.
  2. Require that environmental assessments of nuclear energy projects also be carried out by independent panels and not by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
Federal Science and Compliance Capacity
  1. Rebuild federal science and compliance capacity to ensure protection of fish habitat and navigable water ecosystems, and carry out rigorous environmental assessments of proposed federal policies and programs, and projects requiring a federal decision.
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We Can’t Leave Canada’s Parks and Wildlife Areas Unprotected
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We Can’t Leave Canada’s Parks and Wildlife Areas Unprotected

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="320"]Image of a Whimbrel Whimbrel, like those found at NWT's Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary[/caption] Canada’s national parks, national wildlife areas and migratory bird sanctuaries may be more vulnerable than ever before to development inside their borders. Under the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012, many developments in federal protected areas would no longer require environmental assessments or be subject to public scrutiny.  Developments like:

  • Building a ski resort
  • Building a golf course
  • Constructing bridges and roads other than public highways
  • Conducting military field exercises
  • Offshore drilling
  • Underwater seismic testing
Golf courses and ski lodges should not be given a green light inside Canada’s national parks without an automatic environmental assessment. Nearly 3,000 environmental reviews have already been tossed out since the law was put in place last month. It appears that not even our federally protected areas will escape the government’s so-called streamlining. Our federal protected areas deserve the highest level of protection by law, and there needs to be careful, legally binding scrutiny of developments inside our most precious and vulnerable protected spaces. That's what we argued in recommendations we submitted today to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, proposing amendments to regulations in the new Act passed by Parliament this spring.  These new regulations would allow a number of so-called “physical activities” inside national parks and other federal protected areas to proceed without triggering an independent environmental review.  Under the new law, only activities designated as “projects” would require an environmental assessment to ensure that the activity does not cause lasting environmental damage. The list of activities considered “projects” has been reduced under the new legislation.  When it comes to whether an activity triggers a review, the new law does not currently treat federal protected areas, such as national parks or national wildlife areas, any differently than other federal lands, like military bases, or even downtown federal office buildings. It should not be harder to build a golf course at an office park in downtown Ottawa without a formal review than it would be at Point Pelee National Park.    And just think: with this new law, developments like expanding gas drilling in Alberta’s Suffield National Wildlife Area or NWT’s Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary could move ahead – all without environmental assessments or public input. Fewer than 10 percent of Canada’s lands and seas are legally protected through designations like parks and reserves. About one third of all protected areas fall on lands held by the federal government. As a result, one third of Canada’s exceptionally important protected areas are put at risk by changes in federal environmental assessment rules announced in CEAA 2012. We're asking Canadians to tell Canada’s government that national wildlife areas and other federally protected spaces are no place for ski resorts, mines or oil drilling operations. You can send a letter supporting our recommendations to the Environment Minister, Peter Kent. In a report we published earlier this year, The Underlying Threat, we highlighted the types of developments that currently threaten some of our federal protected areas, most of which provide crucial habitat for Canada’s species at risk. The list is long, the pressures mounting. Addressing these threats requires stronger environmental regulations, not weaker ones that open up our protected spaces for irresponsible resource development.

Five Reasons to Speak Out on Dismantling of Canada’s Environmental Laws
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Five Reasons to Speak Out on Dismantling of Canada’s Environmental Laws

Right now, Parliament is pushing through a bill to weaken most of the country’s most important environmental protection measures and silence Canadians who want to defend them. Far from a traditional budget bill, this "statutory juggernaut", amends, or repeals nearly 70 federal laws -- and instead of using the usual process for sweeping changes, which allows for thorough debate, these changes are being shoehorned into law in a way that could be without precedent.
It's time to speak out. Many groups and charitable organizations who are devoted to the cause of nature conservation have launched Black Out Speak Out -- and we hope many more individuals and organizations who cherish both nature and democracy will join us.
Here are the top five reasons to Speak Out:
  1. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is being replaced with a totally new law, which is weaker. It’s also being done retroactively—so projects in the works, like the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, could get an easier ride.  Under it, Ottawa will play a much smaller role in protecting people from many harmful projects.  But it retains the right to basically rubber-stamp big projects that powerful oil interests want.
  2. Citizen groups could well be shut out of environmental reviews of big projects like oil pipelines. Key government agencies with expertise will also have less input. Backroom and political operatives will have more.
  3. The government is adding $8 million in new funding for the Canada Revenue Agency to audit charities – including environmental groups – because they use their legal right to advocate for things like fighting global warming. This will have a chill effect on democratic debate.
  4. Right now, the National Energy Board decides whether major energy projects should go ahead, especially big ones involving oil.  The government is taking away that authority and giving it to Cabinet instead – so politicians can overrule the expert energy regulator if they don't like their decision.  Permits that allow the destruction of habitat for fish and threatened or endangered species will now be issued behind closed doors without public scrutiny.
  5. Many lakes, rivers and streams that provide habitat to fish will be at greater risk of destruction. Healthy fish habitat is important for fish and for the people and businesses that depend on them.

Calling All Bloggers: Black Out, Speak Out for Nature and Democracy
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Calling All Bloggers: Black Out, Speak Out for Nature and Democracy

Today, the country’s leading environmental organizations launched a campaign to protest against unprecedented attacks on two core Canadian values: nature and democracy.
Known as Black Out Speak Out (or Silence, on parle, in French) the campaign invites organizations, businesses and anyone with their own website to darken their websites on June 4, and speak out against the dismantling of Canada’s environmental laws.
Check out our full-page ads in the Globe and Mail, La Presse and Ottawa’s Hill Times. And go to www.blackoutspeakout.ca or  www.silenceonparle.ca to learn more.
Silence is not an option for Canadians who care about the protection of nature and democratic discussion. Changes introduced in the federal government’s budget act (C-38) are placing the future of our land, water and climate at risk. The changes are making it easier to rush headlong into potentially damaging industrial projects, and harder for Canadians to have any say.
If you have a blog, and you care about nature and democracy, help us spread the word about our cause. For the next month, you can also speak out on Twitter using #blackoutspeakout, and share our facebook page, at www.facebook.com/BlackOutSpeakOut. And, we invite you to join in our nationwide action, and darken your site on June 4. 
Participating environmental organizations include CPAWS, David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, Equiterre, Greenpeace, Nature Canada, Pembina Institute, Sierra Club of Canada, West Coast Environmental Law, and, WWF Canada.
We hope you'll participate in the campaign.

The results are in! Canadians don’t want their water bodies wasted, even at the expense of jobs
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The results are in! Canadians don’t want their water bodies wasted, even at the expense of jobs

Image of a canoe on a lakeWhat do you think about metal mining companies getting an 'okay' from government to destroy water bodies with toxic mine tailings?
If you're thinking "I disagree with that!" then you share an opinion with 96% of Canadians, according to the results of a Léger Marketing national opinion poll* commissioned by Nature Canada earlier this month.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise to you that Canadians overwhelmingly oppose the a legal loophole that permits metal mining companies to dump mine waste into natural lakes. The opinion poll showed that 96% of Canadians either "somewhat" or "strongly" disagree with metal mining companies converting natural water bodies into ‘impoundment areas’ for toxic mine tailings using the Schedule 2 loophole in the federal Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (created under the Fisheries Act). Without the Schedule 2 loophole, which is actually a list of water bodies in which tailings of any toxicity can be deposited, this practice of wasting lakes would otherwise contravene the Fisheries Act.
Another amazing result from the poll showed that even in these difficult economic times, nearly all Canadians are more concerned with protecting natural water bodies than they are the potential cancellation of a valuable mining project. Fully 98% of respondents stated they would still be opposed to dumping waste in a lake even if prohibiting the practice meant a mine project – and the associated jobs – might be cancelled.
I think these results overwhelmingly demonstrate that Canadians love their waterscapes. Water bodies define Canada culturally, spiritually, historically and emotionally and are readily accessible to all Canadians. Lakes and waterways shape our nation literally and figuratively. For these and many other reasons, Canadians inherently recognize that purposely destroying a living lake with toxic waste just isn’t responsible.
Image of a tree and a lakeLet us know what you think about this, too. Sign the Love My Lake Declaration now and tell us about your favourite water body and why it should never be deliberately polluted. We're also inviting 'lake-lovers' to put a face on their declaration by submitting a 'video signature'**.
What worries Nature Canada and others about the Schedule 2 loophole is that wasting natural water bodies seems to be turning into a normal part of business for mining companies. One of our key concerns with this loophole is that it overlooks the true ecological value and function of Canada’s water bodies. As a result, we're running the Stop Wasting Our Lakes campaign to engage Canadians on this issue and encourage government to close the “Schedule 2 loophole”. You should check it out, and consider tweeting about it or liking the campaign on Facebook.
In the face of lots of recent media on the weakening of Canada's important environmental regulations, our poll results are a clear indication that Canadians value their lakes, rivers and wetlands over development at any cost, and government needs to listen. Again, help us send this message by signing the Love My Lake Declaration, or by sending us a video signature**.
The poll also suggested that Canadians expect more cooperation and innovation between industry and government to find better tailings disposal solutions. A full 67% of poll respondents said alternatives to lake disposal should be explored or developed in order for mining projects to proceed.
And don't forget: signing the Love My Lake Declaration is a great gift to the Earth if you forgot to celebrate Earth Day yesterday! ----- *Léger Marketing polled 1, 507 Canadians between April 2 and April 4. **To send a video signature for the Love My Lake Declaration, please contact us first at admin (at) stopwastingourlakes.ca and we'll help you from there!

4 Myths about Changes to Canada’s Environmental Laws
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4 Myths about Changes to Canada’s Environmental Laws

There's been a whole lot of talk these past weeks about the future of Canada's environmental laws. Are the Prime Minister's proposed changes a much-needed streamlining of environmental reviews? Or are we witnessing the gutting and slashing of a generation's worth of environmental protections?
After releasing a budge that clearly placed resource exports over environmental health, the government has followed through with legislative changes that severely weaken the environmental safety net that Canadians have long depended on for clean air, water and land.
Among other changes, the Conservative government will significantly reduce federal environmental oversight of natural resource development projects, impose limits on who can participate in environmental reviews and reduce the time permitted to review projects.
To defend these moves, the government has offered a variety of arguments that are, well, highly arguable. Here are just some of the myths circulating out there, along with a reality check:
 
[separator headline="h2" title="Myth 1: Streamlining “environmental reviews for major projects will increase certainty for project investors”."]
 
On the contrary, denying adequate public review of development projects and abandoning the federal government's role in reviewing such projects are a recipe for conflict, litigation, and a patchwork of conflicting provincial measures that will result in uncertainty and unpredictable delay for projects.
Already, First Nations leaders have reacted to plans to cut short the approvals process for the Northern Gateway Project with threats of legal action, and law experts predict a raft of law suits that will tie up the project for years.
Pushing projects through, and limiting public involvement, will only serve to erode the public's confidence in the project's safety, a lack of support few investors would welcome.
 
[separator headline="h2" title="Myth 2: Environmental reviews can be handed over to the provinces because “one project, one review” is all Canada needs."]
 
It is the federal government's number one job to protect the safety and security of its citizenry. Canadians depend on the federal government to safeguard our families and nature from pollution, toxic contamination and other direct threats to our physical well-being.
Eliminating or limiting federal environmental reviews means eliminating the environmental safety net for things like fish and fish habitat, which are the federal government’s legal
responsibility.
Provincial environmental assessment processes are inconsistent from each other and often weak, lacking key safeguards of the federal process.
 
[separator headline="h2" title="Myth 3: Environmental review of projects hurts the economy, so strict time limits are needed to push projects through more quickly"]
History has taught us that rushed and superficial public review of megaprojects risks leaving taxpayers on the hook for multibillion dollar clean-up costs when things go wrong later. Think Giant Mine in Yellowknife. Or the pulp and paper mills of Dryden, Ontario.  Or radiation clean up in Port Hope.
The key purpose of environmental assessment is to “look before you leap” – that is, to carefully consider the long-term environmental consequences of a development proposal before deciding whether or how to proceed. While other federal laws are more reactive and not engaged until after damage to the environment has already occurred, environmental assessment is one of the few institutionalized processes Canada has developed to prevent environmentally harmful activities or projects from being approved in the first place.
By preventing problems before they start, environmental assessment is good for the economy. Making sure a project is environmentally sound before it begins is alot easier -- and cheaper – than after the fact.  Just ask BP whether preventing an oil spill is a better option than having to clean one up.
Canada needs a measured and thoughtful approach that ensures that we approve projects that make the greatest contribution to a sustainable economy and put them in the right place, not a ‘rubber stamp’ for development at all costs.
  [separator headline="h2" title="Myth 4: Proposed legal changes “modernize” the regulatory process."]
Dismantling Canada’s environmental laws, if done as planned, turns back the clock several decades. Canadians have spent 30 years working to build up our environmental laws so that the disasters of our past – the Sydney Tar Ponds, the death of Lake Erie, the Bennett Dam flooding – are not repeated. We are still paying for these disasters with compromised health and with taxpayer dollars.
(Thanks West Coast Environmental Law for sharing background material that helped me put this post together).
 

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