Media Release

Top Court Confirms Ottawa's Right to Regulate Toxics to Protect Environment

Sep 18 1997

Today's Supreme Court decision to uphold the Government of Canada's right to regulate toxic substances was hailed as a victory for the environment by four groups that intervened in the Hydro Quebec PCB dumping case. "The Supreme Court clearly confirmed that the Government of Canada has the Constitutional authority to protect the environment from toxic substances," said Stewart Elgie of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund. "That's a landmark precedent," he said. "Amazingly, the government's fundamental duty to the people of Canada to protect the environment had been called into question by a lower court ruling, but the high court has set things straight today," said John Jackson of Great Lakes United (GLU). The Sierra Legal Defence Fund, the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), Pollution Probe and GLU intervened in the case on the side of the federal government. "We're gratified that the Supreme Court sustained the regulation-making powers of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) and, specifically, Ottawa's right to regulate toxic substances that negatively impact the environment," said Paul Muldoon of CELA.The Supreme Court also upheld the specific Interim Order regulating PCBs, avoiding a dangerous situation where there would be no national controls over PCB polluters."The high court has sent an important message today: No one shall be allowed to dump toxic substances into the environment and then hide behind legal hair-splitting," said Ken Ogilvie, executive director of Pollution Probe."The Supreme Court and the people of Canada agree--the federal government has the right and the duty to protect the environment from toxic substances. Parliament should keep this in mind as it re-drafts the Canadian Environmental Protection Act," Mr. Ogilvie said."This should be a signal to the Chretien government to re-think its plan to download environmental responsibilities to the provinces," Mr. Jackson said.The provinces are in no position to protect the environment after radically reducing their environmental spending in recent years. Since 1995, for example, Ontario has cut its environment ministry's budget by 31%. Quebec has reduced it environmental protection spending by two-thirds between 1992 and 1997.- 30 -For more information:Paul Muldoon,Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association, 416-960-2284Stewart Elgie, Counsel, Sierra Legal Defense Fund 416-368-7533Ken Ogilvie, Executive Director, Pollution Probe 416-926-1907John Jackson, Past-President, Great Lakes United 519-744-7503CELA Commentary(was a link)