"The democratic process means involving people in setting the direction that our laws take,” said West Coast Environmental Law Association’s Josh Paterson. “In order to develop environmental legislation that will actually be effective, you need everybody at the table. This process doesn’t come close."
Ottawa (6 Dec. 2011) - Environmental groups are expressing shock over the abrupt termination of the Parliamentary review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). Committee hearings scheduled for Nov. 29 were cancelled without warning, and written submissions are no longer being accepted.
“The House of Commons Environment and Sustainable Development Committee has apparently been told to abandon half-way the job that it is legally required to do,” said MiningWatch Canada’s Jamie Kneen. “It seems the government has now given its MPs – and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency – marching orders to implement its agenda of eliminating federal environmental assessment requirements. We can only conclude that the hatchets are being sharpened behind closed doors to dismember this key federal law.”
West Coast Environmental Law Association’s Josh Paterson, added, “The CEAA Seven-year Review was a superb opportunity for the Environment Committee and the government to engage Canadians in a discussion about how to use environmental assessment to address issues such as climate change and biodiversity that are critical to the health and prosperity of Canadians. It is truly discouraging that this opportunity is being thrown away.”
It could be disastrous if the government goes ahead with legislative changes without serious public consultation according to the environmental caucus engaged with the parliamentary review. “Given the measures that the government has already taken to limit the application and effectiveness of the federal process, there is no reason to doubt that it will suffer even greater damage,” said Kneen.
The process had already been criticized for lacking direction and public accountability when its cancellation was announced with no explanation. The direction the review was headed was clearly marked by amendments limiting the need for environmental assessments while speeding up decision-making without regard for public participation.
“Environmental assessment is the cornerstone of sustainable development,” said Ecojustice lawyer Stephen Hazell. “A federal law requiring environmental assessment of development projects with guarantees for public participation is essential if Canada is to make the transition to sustainable communities."
The NDP has gone on record with its opposition to the cancellation of the review while the other parties have yet to make statements.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE