Intervenor: vol. 26, no. 2 - 3, April - August 2001

Cela In The Courts - Victory for Pesticide Reduction and Local Democracy

A unanimous Supreme Court of Canada decision released June 28th, 2001 upheld Hudson, Québec's by-law banning cosmetic (purely aesthetic) use of pesticides on public and private property. The Court held that the municipal by-law did not conflict with provincial legislation and complements federal legislation. In total, "these laws establish a tri-level regulatory regime." The Court also stated that By-law 270 "respects international law's "precautionary principle". In the context of the precautionary principle's tenets, the Town's concerns about pesticides fit well under the rubric of preventive action."

The decision gives municipalities across Canada a green light to enact similar by-laws. Some municipalities are taking the initiative directly, many others are being urged by environmental and health groups inspired and elated by the Court's decision. At CELA, we have been contacted by grassroots groups for nearly 15 years, almost always women with young children concerned about pesticide spraying in parks, schools, playgrounds and on private property. These groups, many of which were involved as intervenors represented by CELA in this case, have worked tirelessly to encourage local restrictions and bans on the use of pesticides on public lands and especially in focusing on alternatives to pesticide use.

Since June of this year, several useful on-line and listserve resources have been created or expanded to assist groups in obtaining information about pesticides, alternatives, and assistance with individual by-law campaigns.

We are referring many inquiries to the on-line information, extensive links and new listserve provided at the Responsible Pest Management website (www.pestinfo.ca) set up by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and maintained by the Canadian Centre for Pollution Prevention. The site contains the full text of the Hudson by-law, among other by-laws. For information on alternatives, see also the Pesticide Free Naturally materials on the Green Communities Association website at www.gca.ca. The Sierra Club of Canada website (www.sierraclub.ca/national) has model by-laws for all provinces and will soon be posting a new site with current and historical information produced by the Campaign for Pesticide Reduction (CPR!) the national effort hosted by the Sierra Club that has been instrumental in linking groups across the country working towards pesticide by-laws in local communities.
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Kathleen Cooper is a researcher at CELA