Media Release

Environmental Groups Go to Ottawa to Oppose Harper Government's Proposals to Weaken Federal Environmental Law

May 13 2010


Toronto - Today the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) will be joining national and regional environmental groups in Ottawa to testify against the Harper government’s proposed amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA).

The environmental groups are appearing as witnesses in televised proceedings of the Standing Committee on Finance, which is currently holding hearings on Bill C-9. This omnibus budget bill proposes to amend numerous federal statutes, including the CEAA.

“We are fundamentally opposed to the Bill C-9 amendments to Canada’s national environmental assessment law,” stated Richard Lindgren, the CELA lawyer who will make a presentation to the Standing Committee. “In our opinion, the proposed amendments seriously weaken or rollback important safeguards within the CEAA, and the proposals do not address the priority matters that require improvement or strengthening under the Act.”

Enacted in 1992, the CEAA is one of Canada’s most important environmental planning statutes, and it requires environmental assessment (EA) of projects or activities (i.e., mines, oil/gas development, tar sands projects, nuclear facilities, etc.) which may cause significant adverse environmental effects. Public participation and government accountability are important aspects of EA processes under the CEAA.

If passed, however, the Bill C-9 proposals, among other things, would: (a) exempt many undertakings from CEAA coverage; (b) enable substitution of regulatory proceedings for EA processes; (c) facilitate “project-splitting” so that core components of undertakings may escape EA scrutiny; and (d) generally diminish or undermine public participation rights.

“Given the scope and significance of the proposed amendments, we do not believe that they should be buried in a budget bill,“ said Mr. Lindgren. “Instead, any proposed amendments to the Act should be only considered during the mandatory Parliamentary review of CEAA that is about to commence. Thus, it is premature and inappropriate for the Harper government to ram through the Bill C-9 amendments just prior to the formal start of the 2010 Review.”

The Standing Committee hearings on the Bill C-9 amendments to CEAA will commence at 3:30 p.m. in Room 237-C, Centre Block, Parliament on May 11, 2010.


For more information:
Richard Lindgren (613-385-1686; cell 613-540-1849).