Environmental and labour leaders echo calls from Grassy Narrows First Nation for immediate river cleanup
TORONTO, ONTARIO — (Marketwired — July 7, 2016) — Prominent labour and environmental leaders delivered a canoe filled with more than 35,000 letters and petitions calling on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to immediately commit to clean up Grassy Narrows' mercury-contaminated river.
"Last month Grassy Narrows youth and elders travelled 1,700 kilometers to call on Premier Wynne to clean up the mercury in their river. Today we carry the voices of 35,000 people who echo Grassy Narrows' cry for justice. Clean the river, clean it now," said Rachel Plotkin, Ontario Science Projects Manager, David Suzuki Foundation.
The signatures delivered today were collected from petitions and online actions from Leadnow.ca, the David Suzuki Foundation, Amnesty International, and the Council of Canadians.
"Premier Wynne has said cleaning up the mercury is too risky, but her government has failed to produce any evidence showing the methods proposed by scientists are unsafe. It's time for Ontario to stop making excuses and commit to cleaning the river," said Amara Possian, Leadnow.ca Campaign Manager.
On Monday, the Toronto Star reported that the government could provide no evidence to suggest that a "clean clay suspension" remediation effort would be unsafe, despite repeated comments from the Premier and senior government officials citing concerns about the safety of a cleanup as the reason for the province's inaction.
"Indigenous people deserve to live and work in safe communities. If non-Aboriginal people and families were being poisoned, there is no doubt there would have been action a long time ago. The decades of inaction by successive governments is a stain on Canada's human rights and environmental record," said Marie Clarke Walker, Executive Vice-President, Canadian Labour Congress.
Decades ago, 9,000 kg of mercury was dumped into the English-Wabigoon River system, which flows into the Grassy Narrows First Nation. The poisoning destroyed a local economy based on fishing, and caused an ongoing health crisis.
"People are dying and getting sick, and scientists tell us it's possible to make the river safe again. So why is it taking so long for the government to commit to a full river clean-up?" said Mark Calzavara, Ontario-Quebec Organizer, Council of Canadians.
"There are 107 MPP elected to Queen's Park. Do you think they would ignore it if people in their home towns were being poisoned?" asked CUPE Ontario Aboriginal Council chair Dawn Bellerose. "How can the Premier apologize for the past while turning a blind eye to the atrocities happening under her own watch? It's time to bring an end to government sanctioned abuses of First Nations people. It is time for Premier Wynne to deliver more than pretty words."
Media Contact: Jolan Bailey — National Organizer, Leadnow.ca — firstname.lastname@example.org — 604-441-6916
Neonicotinoid pesticides have been linked to mass bee die-offs and declining pollinator populations.
TORONTO, July 6, 2016 — Environmental groups are headed to court in a bid to protect pollinators from a harmful class of pesticides.
The David Suzuki Foundation, Friends of the Earth Canada, Ontario Nature and the Wilderness Committee have been tracking the scientific evidence linking neonicotinoid pesticides and pollinator deaths. Now, they say it's time for Canada to stop ignoring the risks.
Ecojustice lawyers representing the groups argue that a number of pesticides containing two neonicotinoid active ingredients (Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam) are unlawfully registered in Canada.
They allege that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) failed to live up to its legal responsibilities as a regulator. Specifically, the Agency failed to ensure for more than a decade that it had the scientific information necessary to determine the pesticides' environmental risks, in particular risks to pollinators. The federal Pest Control Products Act requires the PMRA have "reasonable certainty" that a pesticide will cause no harm to the environment before registering it.
They also point to a number of Thiamethoxam-based pesticides that have been registered for years in Canada without ever being subject to public consultation required by the Act.
The environmental groups are asking the court to declare the registrations of these Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam-based pesticides invalid. Only validly registered pesticides can be used in Canada.
Ecojustice lawyer, Charles Hatt, said: "The PMRA has taken a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil approach by repeatedly registering these neonicotinoid pesticides without important scientific information on their risks to pollinators."
Anne Bell, Director of Conservation and Education at Ontario Nature, said: "Pollinators are key players in our ecosystems, and their declines are extremely concerning. A stunning variety of plants — including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and 90 per cent of flowering plants — need pollinators to reproduce and thrive."
Gwen Barlee, National Policy Director at the Wilderness Committee, said: "Pollinator populations are plummeting and the science tells us that neonicotinoids play a big role in that decline. So why is the PMRA continuing to allow their use and sale? We need to get these bee-killing pesticides out of Canadian agriculture."
Beatrice Olivastri, Chief Executive Officer at Friends of the Earth, said: "Decision-makers in the European Union, France, and even Ontario have already opted to heavily restrict the use of neonicotinoids. It's time for Canada to join this push to protect pollinators."
Dr. Faisal Moola, PhD, Director General of Ontario and Northern Canada at the David Suzuki Foundation, said: "The Province of Ontario recently brought in strong restrictions on the use of dangerous neonicotinoid pesticides in agriculture. We're hoping that our court case will compel the federal government to take similar action in response to widespread public concern over the fate of pollinators in Canada."
• Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are the most-widely used class of insecticides worldwide.
• Neonics are systemic pesticides. Once applied to a plant they spread throughout its tissues — from roots, to leaves, to pollen. Neonics cannot be washed or peeled off of crops.
• Research suggests neonics have played a role in mass bee die-offs, and that the pesticides harm bees' metabolic, immune, and reproductive functions, and negatively affect bees' foraging and homing behaviour.
• Neonics can leach into the soil and water, where they can persist in the environment, exposing a wide range of land and water animals to toxic effects.
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Charles Hatt, lawyer | Ecojustice
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Anne Bell, Director of Conservation and Education, Ontario Nature
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Dr. Faisal Moola, PhD, Director General, Ontario and Northern Canada, David Suzuki Foundation
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Beatrice Olivastri, Chief Executive Officer, Friends of the Earth Canada
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Gwen Barlee, National Policy Director, Wilderness Committee
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The David Suzuki Foundation welcomes the federal government's announcement yesterday that it will review key pieces of environmental legislation, including returning provisions stripped away in 2012's omnibus budget bill.
Strengthening legislation such as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act provides an opportunity for the federal government to make Canada the environmental and climate action leader that Canadians want. "This is Canada's chance to be an international leader and build a credible assessment process that shifts us away from oil, coal and natural gas by 2050 as committed to in the Paris Agreement," said David Suzuki Foundation science and policy director Ian Bruce.
VANCOUVER — Today's transit-funding announcement by the federal and B.C. governments and Metro Vancouver mayors is a positive step on the road to securing long-term investment in transit. Although the Phase 1 funds only ensure funding for the first three years of the 10-year plan developed by the region's mayors, they are enough to guarantee that key infrastructure projects can begin to move forward.
Statement by Environmental Defence, David Suzuki Foundation and Ontario Nature on the amended Rouge National Urban Park Act tabled today in Ottawa
TORONTO, ON — We congratulate the federal government for tabling the amended Rouge National Urban Park Act that will ensure stronger ecological protection for the park's sensitive landscape and wildlife. The amended Rouge National Urban Park Act includes changes that enshrine the importance of managing the park to maintain its ecological integrity, which was absent from the original Act. This change and the increase in park land area, including the addition of Ontario's provincial land holdings will make the park a treasure all Canadians can enjoy. The federal government is also following through on the financial commitments for management promised by the former federal government.
This is a significant day for Ontario's Rouge watershed. The Act marks an important action to protect and invest in one of the province's most pristine remaining Carolinian forest ecosystems. We also look forward to working with the federal government over the coming year to improve and enlarge Canada's first urban national park. There is important work to be done to strengthen the management plan, encourage the cancellation of the unnecessary Pickering airport proposal and create a 30,000 acre Rouge National Urban Park by including all remaining 9,600 acres of federal lands within the park's boundary.