Media Release

Mohawks and Local Residents get their Day in Court to Oppose Mega-Dump Proposal

Feb 04 2003

The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte ("MBQ"), and Tyendinaga Township residents living close to the Richmond Landfill near Napanee, have recently asked Ontario's Divisional Court to quash the environmental assessment ("EA") process currently underway in relation to a controversial proposal to significantly expand the landfill site. From January 27 to 29th, the Divisional Court in Toronto heard oral arguments from lawyers representing the MBQ and local residents. Lawyers for the Ministry of the Environment and the landfill proponent (Canadian Waste Services Inc.) also participated in the court proceedings.The court case focused on the proposed 25 year, 18 million tonne expansion of the Richmond Landfill to receive waste from an all-Ontario service area. Despite the environmental significance of the proposal, the Minister approved Terms of Reference for an EA process that:

  • does not require the proponent to demonstrate there is a need for the mega-expansion;
  • does not require the proponent to consider "alternatives to" the mega-expansion (e.g. reduce, reuse, recycle) that are more environmentally friendly; and
  • does not require the proponent to undertake a site selection process to identify a landfill location that is more suitable than the existing Richmond Landfill (which sits on fractured bedrock and is close to surface watercourses that drain towards MBQ territory and Tyendinaga Township).

"My client's position is that the Ontario government failed to discharge its fiduciary duty towards the MBQ," stated Patrick Schindler, a Toronto lawyer who represents the MBQ. "In our view, the Minister's approval of a narrow EA process does not adequately consider or protect the Mohawk interests that may be adversely affected by the landfill expansion." "Our fundamental argument is that the Minister approved a narrow EA process that does not comply with the Environmental Assessment Act," said Richard Lindgren, a lawyer with the Canadian Environmental Law Association, which represents the local residents. "Moreover, my clients maintain that adequate public consultation did not occur prior to the Minister's approval, which is also contrary to the Environmental Assessment Act."After oral argument was completed, the Divisional Court reserved its decision. It is anticipated that the Court's decision may be released in the spring. The decision will likely serve as an important legal precedent, especially since the relevant provisions of the amended Environmental Assessment Act have not yet been interpreted by the courts. Similarly, the nature and scope of Ontario's fiduciary duty towards First Nations has not yet been addressed in the environmental context by Ontario courts to date. In the meantime, the landfill proponent has undertaken not to file the EA until mid-May at the earliest. - 30 -For further information, please contact:MBQ Chief R. Donald Maracle 613-396-3424 or Patrick Schindler 416-410-0809 LOCAL RESIDENTSStephen Geneja 613-969-0286 or Richard Lindgren 613-385-1686