Media Release

Federal Announcements Confirm Government's Intent to Weaken Canada's Environmental Laws

Apr 17 2012

Toronto - Today’s announcements by the federal government regarding “Responsible Resource Development” will significantly weaken Canada’s environmental laws and are contrary to the public interest, says the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).

The Harper Government’s plan, announced by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, contains few specific details, but nevertheless calls for:

  • “streamlining” the federal environmental assessment process for major projects, and exempting unspecified “minor” projects from federal environmental assessment requirements;
  • substituting so-called “equivalent” provincial environmental assessment processes for the federal environmental assessment process;
  • reducing alleged overlap and duplication across federal and provincial governments; and
  • setting fixed time limits on environmental hearings and assessments, regardless of the nature of the issues in dispute, the scale or complexity of the projects, or the number of Canadians or First Nations interested in, or potentially affected by, such projects.

“This is a recipe for irresponsible resource development, and sets back federal environmental law by about 40 years,” stated CELA staff lawyer Richard Lindgren. “It is abundantly clear that the Harper Government is trying to reduce or eliminate the environmental safeguards that are currently in place at the federal level to protect ecosystems and public health.”

"We are particularly alarmed by the Harper Government’s proposal to arbitrarily establish time limits on environmental hearings,” said Theresa McClenaghan, CELA Executive Director. “Meaningful public participation is an essential component of good environmental decision-making, and we are unaware of any compelling reason to restrict or limit participatory rights so that risky projects can be fast-tracked or rubber-stamped.”

For more information about proposed changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, please go to: http://www.cela.ca/collections/justice/canadian-environmental-assessment-act

For further information, please contact:
Richard Lindgren (Counsel, CELA) 613-385-1686
Theresa McClenaghan (Executive Director and Counsel, CELA) 416-960-2284, ext.219