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ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE, CANADIAN FRESHWATER ALLIANCE, AND FRESHWATER FUTURE CANADA

For immediate release: July 12, 2018

Significant algae bloom in Lake Erie should serve as wake-up call for action, warn environmental groups

Toronto, Ont. – The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) significant algae bloom forecast for Lake Erie is a sad reminder that green slime is the new normal for the once-clear lake.

Over the last decade, Lake Erie has suffered from increasingly frequent and severe algae blooms, thanks in part to a lack of enforcement of existing pollution prevention laws. The blooms threaten drinking water, clog intake pipes, suffocate fish, and deter tourists – and without action may cost the local economy upwards of $272 million annually.

“Ontarians need clean water,” says Ashley Wallis with Environmental Defence Canada. “Lake Erie provides drinking water to millions of people and supports a multi-billion dollar economy. If governments don’t take action to keep nutrient pollution out of the lake, these blooms are going to keep happening.”

Algae blooms happen when there is too much phosphorus in the water. In Lake Erie, the majority of phosphorus enters the lake as runoff pollution from agricultural lands. Earlier this year, Canada and Ontario released a plan to tackle algae blooms in Lake Erie. But, the plan doesn’t adequately address agricultural runoff, relying mainly on voluntary actions from the agricultural sector.

“It’s great to see the agricultural sector taking voluntary action to curb nutrient pollution, but we know from Michigan and Ohio that voluntary programs aren’t enough,” says Raj Gill with Canadian Freshwater Alliance. “We need to enforce existing laws that limit runoff pollution from agricultural lands.”

In 2014, Ontario’s Auditor General found that less than three per cent of the farms with nutrient management plans were inspected by the province. And of those farms half weren’t following the rules.

“Once again the science is telling us that Lake Erie is in trouble. This year’s algae forecast should be a wake-up call for government,” says Jill Ryan with Freshwater Future Canada. “We aren’t going to clean-up the lake unless we take serious and sustained action to keep phosphorus out.”

Tomorrow, Environmental Defence will be hosting a Facebook Live panel discussion about what the announcement means, and what needs to happen next. Join us on Environmental Defence’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/EnvironmentalDefenceCanada) at 12pm EST on Friday, July 13th.

ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.

ABOUT FRESHWATER FUTURE CANADA (freshwaterfuturecanada.ca): Freshwater Future Canada works to ensure the healthy future of our waters in the Great Lakes region. We help citizens engage in efforts to protect our natural environment by providing grants and offering consulting assistance to diverse communities and collaborators.

About the CANADIAN FRESHWATER ALLIANCE (freshwateralliance.ca): The Canadian Freshwater Alliance builds, connects and supports freshwater initiatives across Canada. We work with NGOs, community groups, governments and businesses to strengthen citizen voices and participation in protecting our lakes and rivers. We are a project on the Tides Canada shared platform (http://tidescanada.org/).

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For more information or interview requests, please contact:

Rachel Kitchin, Environmental Defence Canada, (416) 323-9521, ext. 246, (416) 805-0026 (cell), rkitchin@environmentaldefence.ca

Jill Ryan, Freshwater Future (Canada and U.S.), (231) 348-8200, jill@freshwaterfuture.org

Raj Gill, Canadian Freshwater Alliance, (705) 329-3357, raj@freshwateralliance.ca

The post ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE Press Release: Significant algae bloom in Lake Erie should serve as wake-up call for action, warn environmental groups appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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Imagine kicking back on a sunny patio with a cold drink and good friends. You hear the soft lapping sounds of waves against the shore, and you’re looking forward to an afternoon paddle or swim. Or maybe you’re planning to get out on the water and catch some world-class walleye. Or hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the hundreds of species of songbirds that make a pit-stop here on their great migration journey. Imagine if instead, the fish are dead, the birds gone, and the water is too toxic to swim in.

This is Lake Erie. And this is what could happen if we don’t protect it.

Ducks swimming in massive algae bloom. Lake Erie is under threat

Lake Erie is plagued by increasingly frequent, severe, and sometimes toxic algae blooms. These blooms threaten drinking water, clog intake pipes, suffocate fish, and deter tourists. And one study estimates that if we don’t do something about it, the blooms could cost the local Canadian economy upwards of $272 million annually.

This week, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its annual algae bloom forecast for Lake Erie. The verdict? While this year’s bloom might not be the worst on record (2015 takes the cake), it will be significant. Sadly, it seems that a lake blanketed in green slime is the new normal for the lake.

Aerial shot of Lake Erie toxic algae bloom. Photo taken September 25, 2017.
Photo credit: NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

All of the most notable blooms have happened in the last five years. In 2014, an algae bloom left nearly 500,000 Lake Erie residents without safe tap water for days. The 2015 bloom was the largest bloom every recorded. And last year, just when we thought we were in the clear, we were gifted a pre-thanksgiving bloom so big that it touched the shores of two U.S. states, and Ontario’s shoreline too.

Nutrient pollution feeds the bloom

One of the main causes of algae blooms is nutrient runoff. Farmers apply fertilizers and manure to their fields, but rain and snowmelt can flush these soil amendments into streams and rivers. Those streams then carry these nutrient-rich pollutants into the lake where they do what they do best – make plants grow. And with all those extra nutrients the algae grows out of control.

Ontario needs to do more

Earlier this year, the federal and Ontario governments released a joint plan to tackle algae blooms and curb nutrient runoff. The plan has some great stuff – including new federal funding for research and innovation, but it lacks concrete and enforceable actions to address nutrient runoff from agricultural lands. And that’s where the majority of the pollution is coming from.

What’s the solution

Algae are complicated organisms, existing in a complex ecological system. There is no silver bullet when it comes to cleaning up this green, slimy mess. We need to target the biggest sources of nutrient pollution and turn off the tap. The good news is we already have laws on the books to help keep nutrients out of Ontario’s waterways. The bad news is those laws are often not enforced.

Toledo algae crisis. Photo credit: Dave Zapotosky, The Blade, 2014

Act now, and tell Ontario to do more to protect the lake, starting off by enforcing existing pollution prevention laws.

Ontarians need clean water. And we need government leadership so we can continue to swim, paddle, fish, and bask along the shores of Lake Erie.

The post From blue to green: another year, another nasty algae bloom appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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Maybe we’ve finally seen enough photos of dead and dying animals choking on or entangled in plastic trash. Or maybe we’re rattled by reports that our bodies and drinking water (bottled and tap) are also contaminated with plastic bits. Whatever the reason, more people than ever want to do their part to help curb the flow of plastic into our lakes, rivers, and oceans. And that’s a great thing.

During Plastic Free July, millions of folks in more than 150 countries try to go the whole month without buying any single-use plastics.

But where to start? We all know about saying no to plastic shopping bags and straws, but what next? We’ve put together a list of ways to ditch plastics for good this #PlasticFreeJuly which you might not have thought of.

1. Say “No” to single-use

So let’s start with the obvious.  Single-use plastics are the kind of plastics you use for only a few minutes before throwing them in the bin. Items like plastic bottles, shopping bags, coffee cups and drink straws fall into this category, but so do most take-away containers and produce bags. You can make a huge difference by refusing to buy or use these items in the first place.

Plastic bottles and coffee cups can be replaced with stainless steel or glass alternatives. And you don’t need to get fancy. I’ve taken a regular, clean mug to my local coffee shop and they’ve happily filled it. If you’re looking for a more portable option, you can use a canning jar and buy or make a cloth sleeve to protect your hand from the hot drink inside.

And if you’re the kind of person who usually needs a “doggy bag” when you eat out, bring your own reusable containers to date night. Instead of leaving the restaurant with leftover spaghetti in a Styrofoam box wrapped in a plastic bag, you can bring your food home in a container you can wash and reuse over-and-over again.

Unfortunately, many takeout restaurants refuse to fill personal containers, citing concerns over food safety. If that’s the case, you should seriously consider taking action number two…

2. Tell businesses they need to do better

A few fast food chains have recently announced plans to stop using plastic straws. This is a great first step, but there are lots of other problematic plastics businesses should kiss goodbye. For example, in many jurisdictions (including Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa) black plastic simply isn’t recyclable. That means coffee cup lids and takeout trays are destined for the landfill. If black plastic can’t be efficiently recycled, it shouldn’t be used.

“If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.” – Pete Seeger

And what’s with packaging bell peppers in cellophane and avocados in plastic mesh sacks? This kind of packaging doesn’t do anything to protect or preserve your produce. If anything it encourages shoppers to over-buy, which can lead to unnecessary food waste.

If you have concerns, write, tweet, or call the companies you think are the worst offenders, and ask them to eliminate unnecessary packing. Kicking up a stink works, especially if lots of people do it.  And use your wallet as a tool for advocacy by choosing to support companies and products that use less useless plastic.

3. Rethink what you wear

Peppers aren’t the only things wrapped in plastic. There’s a good chance you are too. Many of the common modern fabrics and textiles we wear are actually made from plastic. Performance fleece, stretchy athletic wear, and really anything with polyester, spandex or nylon is made with plastic.

The polyethylene terephthalate (PET) industry has been singing its own praises for transforming used plastic bottles into performance fleece. But huge quantities of textiles end up in landfills every year. And before they even get there, these fabrics shed millions of microfibers into our rivers, lakes and oceans through laundering processes.

To decrease your impact, choose high-quality, durable clothes made from natural fibres like wool and hemp. And buy less, because all of this stuff inevitably ends up in the landfill, incinerator, or environment.

4. Join a beach clean-up event

Wondering where littered single-use plastics end up?  Last year, over 80,000kg of litter was collected from shoreline clean-up events across Canada. And most of the commonly collected items were – you guessed it – plastic.

If you want to get involved with a shoreline clean-up, Environmental Defence is hosting one with Surf Ontario at Woodbine Beach in Toronto on July 27. And if the timing or location doesn’t work out for you, you can join an existing clean-up or lead your own through the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.

While shoreline clean-ups on their own won’t get us out of this mess, they’re a great way to roll-up your sleeves and help your local environment. They also provide vital data on the amount and types of plastic that are out there. But if we really want to end plastic pollution, we need to change the way we use, collect, and recycle plastic. And the best way to accomplish that is through point number five: government action.

5. Tell government to do more

As individuals we have important choices to make, but the biggest change happens when we change the way a system operates. Over the last several decades, we’ve established a system that ignores massive costs to people and the environment. If it doesn’t have a price tag, it doesn’t seem to matter. Governments need to write new rules that make businesses financially responsible for the polluting plastics they put on the market. And we need a unified approach from coast-to-coast-to-coast.

We need federal, provincial, municipal, and Indigenous governments to work together to establish a national framework that moves Canada to a zero plastic-waste future.

If you agree, take action and tell government you want a plastic-free environment now.

The post Already got your canvas shopping bag? Here are five other ways to ditch plastic this #PlasticFreeJuly appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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 You’ve arrived at the beach. You feel the wind in your hair, the sun on your face, and- the crinkle of a chip bag beneath your feet? Unfortunately, your beach day isn’t the only thing that’s being ruined by the presence of trash. That’s why the benefits of a beach cleanup is more than just skin deep.

“I wish this beach had more trash on it” said no one ever Where does it all come from?

The story of how litter came to crash your beach bash is a familiar one. Sometimes it starts with litterbugs at the beach. Other times, improperly disposed of items, like shoes, lighters, straws, and other members of Canada’s Dirty Dozen find themselves swept into waterways. They flow into the open arms of rivers and waterways, as if on a quest to wreak havoc on coastlines near and far. But wait- there’s an easy way to salvage your beach holiday, and the environment as a whole while you’re at it!

 

Canadians across the nation are getting together this summer to work towards turning the plastic tide. The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is an initiative that has helped collect and properly dispose of more than 1.2 million kg of waste, across 19,000 clean up events.

Did you know? Cigarette butts are made of plastic, and are actually the number one form of beach litter Why join a beach cleanup?

There are many reasons to get active and join a cleanup event. First and foremost, now more than ever we need to collect the trash that harms wildlife and pollutes our environment. We have created more than 8.3 billion tons of plastic since 1950, and the vast majority of it ends up in landfills or finds its way into every nook and cranny of our natural environment. That’s a lot of garbage, which means that we need a lot of hands if we want a chance at keeping up.

Secondly, by taking part in a beach cleanup you come face-to-face with everyday products that end up polluting our environment. This confrontation with trash may have you thinking twice about using plastic cutlery, a straw, or a plastic shopping bag. In a place like Canada, we are often separated in time and distance from some of the worst effects of plastic pollution. Making the choice to confront our sometimes trashy consumer and disposal choices might have a positive impact on our future decision making.

 

It doesn’t take much to make a difference

Let’s all pitch in to make sure on our next beach visit- it’s just sand beneath our feet.

Are you in Toronto and keen to do your part to keep our shoreline clean? Join the Blue Flag Canada Beach Clean Up on July 27th. Bonus: this event features free yoga, live music, and snacks!

Join us at the Toronto Beach Cleanup! Visit www.blueflag.ca/cleanup to register

The post In the Wake of Waste: Why beach cleanups are more than just a quick tidy appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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This is a guest blog by Claire Malcolmson, the Responsible Aggregate consultant for Environmental Defence

Changes in government bring uncertainty, and the aggregate (sand, stone and gravel) file is no exception. At this point, we have no idea whether or not Ontario’s new provincial government is going to be tough on the aggregate industry. It’s a reminder that we shouldn’t always rely on governments to make progress.

In that context, let’s take a moment to appreciate the positive momentum we have in Ontario’s aggregate industry with the Cornerstone Standards Council’s (CSC) Responsible Aggregate Standard. It’s a good example of making environmental gains outside of the regulatory environment. It seems an appropriate time to explore the benefits of this kind of change-making.

CSC convened a multi-stakeholder panel to create a voluntary certification standard that reduces aggregate activity’s impacts on communities and the environment, and that consults with and compensates those communities with some benefits. Aggregate site operators can demonstrate that they have met the Standard’s requirements through an extensive audit and become CSC certified sites. CSC now has certified five pits and quarries in Ontario, including the most recently certified, CBM’s Codrington Pit, between Rice Lake and Belleville.  CSC anticipates that its certified sites will provide 25 percent of the aggregate supply in the Greater Golden Horseshoe by 2020.

The site operators that achieved CSC certification have a common interest in becoming better neighbours and land stewards.  For CBM’s Codrington pit, this is demonstrated by addressing transportation needs through the upgrading of County Rd. 30; building an internal haul road with significant separation distances from surrounding neighbours to reduce any potential impacts; beautifying the site with a substantial investment in landscaping and signage; and rehabilitating historic extraction areas of the Archer Pit, allowing it to blend seamlessly into the natural landscape.

The communities that have CSC certified sites in their backyards have good things to say about CSC certified operations. The Mayor of Brighton (near Codrington), Mark Walas, says that CBM’s commitments to operate in a socially and environmentally responsible manner help Brighton meet its employment and healthy-lifestyle goals.

Near Dufferin’s CSC certified Acton quarry, Town of Erin Councillor Jeff Duncan spearheaded Erin’s decision to purchase CSC certified aggregate when locally available and competitive. Councillor Duncan says, “Supporting CSC Standards from a local municipal perspective is important because I see it as the evolution of the aggregate industry. CSC will bring it in line with other resource-based sectors, such as food production, fishing practices and the timber trade, to name a few, that have implemented similar programs. Municipal support of CSC can help push the boundaries of better local resident engagement and communication over the life of an operation. I hope this will [in of itself] provide a mechanism to improve operations and practices.”

We should join the elected officials of affected communities and give these companies credit for cautiously steering the aggregate sector in a direction that is more sensitive to communities and the environment. These companies are not perfect all of the time, but we should recognize that they are voluntarily making the operational changes required by the Cornerstone Standard.

CSC is one of those programs that demonstrates how stakeholders working together can make progress outside of the regulatory environment. Now, in a climate of uncertainty and changing government priorities, we should seize opportunities to work with everyone that can help move the needle on reducing the impacts of aggregate extraction.

To read more about CSC certification and certified pits and quarries go to www.CornerstoneStandards.ca

To learn about municipal procurement of CSC material, contact info@environmentaldefence.ca

Claire Malcolmson is a seasoned campaigner who cut her teeth on an Environmental Defence partnership that championed the Lake Simcoe Protection Act. Claire also led campaigns for the Great Lakes Protection Act, and for changes to campaign contribution rules for municipal election candidates under “Campaign Fairness”.  She lives in Innisfil, Lake Simcoe, with her husband and wee boys.

The post Improvements to aggregate practices rely on voluntary efforts from the industry appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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Another incredible Pride weekend in Toronto has come and gone. All the colours of the rainbow filled Church St. as people everywhere flocked to the city in celebration of the history, courage, and diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. But this year, there was another message to celebrate too – sustainability, and we were proud to be a part of it.

#LoveIsLove at Yonge-Dondas Square, Photo by Nick Laferriere

This year Pride’s organizers were taking steps to recognize that a healthy community relies on a healthy environment, and they invited us along to be part of that change. We worked with local Toronto artist Rebecca Jane Houston to create an interactive sculpture made from over 12,000 used plastic bottles.  That’s the amount thrown away every four minutes in Ontario.

Photo by Nick Laferriere

Ontario has a huge, and growing plastic pollution problem, and we desperately need to do something about it. As one of only two provinces in Canada without a deposit return program for plastic bottles (the other is Manitoba), we have the lowest plastic bottle recycling rate in the country! In fact, Ontario only recycles half of its single-used plastic bottles. That means, 1.5 billion bottles are not being recycled, and instead end up in landfills, waterways and often the Great Lakes.  

For more information, and to learn how you can help stop these bottles flowing into our waterways, check out our Cash it! Don’t trash it! campaign and sign the petition asking for Ontario to implement a deposit return program for plastic bottles.

Where did all these bottles come from?

For four days we offered people in the GTA 10 cents for every single-use plastic bottle they delivered to us, and before we knew it, we had nearly 30,000 used plastic bottles. All the bottles that didn’t make it into the sculpture were properly recycled, of course.

“Over Our Head” – Photo by Nick Laferriere

Pride goers were impressed, shocked, disturbed and in awe of what they were seeing. Being confronted by the mountain of plastic bottles thrown away in Ontario every four minutes is overwhelming!

Where next for Ontario’s plastic pollution problem?

The good news is there are things you can do to help us turn this plastic tide:

  1. Buy a reusable stainless steel water bottle and avoid buying single-use plastic bottles
  2. Sign and share our petition asking Ontario to implement a deposit return program for plastic bottles
  3. Sign our and share our petition asking Canada to take action on plastic pollution and get us to zero plastic waste by 2025
  4. Make a charitable donation to help us continue to tackle plastic pollution

The conversations we had at Pride left us feeling confident that Ontarians see the big picture. They’re interested in learning about the solutions and are ready to see change in order to protect our environment, waterways, and the Great Lakes.

We’re proud and thankful to have participated in Toronto Pride this year and look forward to participating in years to come as they transition towards a zero plastic waste future.

Didn’t get a chance to see the sculpture? No worries, it will live on at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada later this summer, so be sure to check it out!

The post Pride, Sustainability, and a Sea of Plastic Bottles appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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You may have seen that Environmental Defence has joined a group of leading Canadian organizations working to preserve and enhance the role of Canadian charities in public policy discussions, through the Protecting Canadians’ Free Speech initiative.

The ability of charities to participate in public policy development in Canada is limited by an out-of-date law. The current law is complicated and there is limited awareness about how it works and why it needs to change. That’s why we have put together some answers to some common questions on this issue.  We hope they are helpful.

Q: What is the charity law and who enforces it?

The ‘charity law’ is part of the Income Tax Act and it is the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) that is responsible for interpreting and enforcing it. The Canadian Department of Finance is responsible for the Income Tax Act

Q: Are Canadian charities allowed to conduct political activities?

Yes, within certain restrictions. The Income Tax Act restricts Canadian registered charities in the type and quantity of political activity. Charities can be involved in non-partisan political activities as long as it helps accomplish the charity’s purposes. See below for a definition of what “political” activities actually entail. You will be surprised.

Q: What’s the difference between “political” and “partisan political” activities?

The current law limits the amount of time charities can take part in “political activities.” However, this use of “political” is different from the way most people use the word. To most of us, “political” means electoral politics, and the back and forth between Conservatives, Liberals, the NDP, etc.  However, according to the current law, “political” means working on any public policy issues. This means that when a charity works on drinking and driving and asks its supporters to write to their Member of Parliament (MP) about the need for better laws or when a health charity asks for new investments in life saving equipment, this activity is called “political”. We are asking the government to update the law to allow charities to take a greater role in public policy discussions.

In contrast to “political” there is “partisan” which refers to supporting one political party over another. We agree that charities should remain non-partisan, which means that charities cannot promote any political parties.

Q: Isn’t lobbying “bad”? Shouldn’t it be banned?

“Lobbying” is when someone meets with their MP or senior civil servant to discuss a public policy issue. These conversations are how MPs and government find out a lot of their information about the implications of a law or policy that they may be considering. If lobbying is banned, politicians may not have the information that they need to make smart policy decisions. Your MP is not an expert on health care or the environment, that’s why these meetings are essential.

Q:  How is corporate lobbying different from what’s done by charities?

Corporations and industry associations spend millions on lobbying and are doing so to convince governments to enact policies that favour them and their industries (they are required to do this by the nature of their own legal obligation to make money for their shareholders). There are no legal restrictions on the amount of lobbying they can do. In contrast, charities must, by law, undertake lobbying that is in the broader public interest, and are currently highly restricted in the amount of lobbying they can do, which limits the voice of their supporters.

Q:  Do charities pay taxes and what does that have to do with free speech?

Charities do not pay corporate income taxes but their employees pay income tax like any other worker. Charities are also prohibited from making a profit.

The free speech issue is related to the current rules which prohibit charities from engaging the public to seek better laws and policies to protect human rights, health and the environment.  This means that the citizens that donate to the charity have very little ability to have their voice reflected in advocacy for appropriate laws and policy.

It is critical that supporters of a charity’s efforts be able to write to their Members of Parliament (MPs) or Members of the Provincial Parliament (MPPs) to ask for action. If charities cannot inform their members about these issues, Canada will be a less democratic and less successful country. The playing field is not even because corporations face no such restrictions.

Q: What is the difference between how charities and corporations are treated concerning public policy advocacy and tax breaks?

Citizens get to reduce some of their income tax that they have to pay by donating to a charity (you would have seen this on your income tax form when you filed it after giving to a charity). The more donations a charity receives, the more resources it has to work on public policy issues.

Corporations, by contrast, can spend unlimited amounts of money opposing or supporting a public policy issue and deduct these expenses from their gross income, and therefore, lower the amount of income tax they are paying. This is similar in the scale of tax benefit to what a citizen gets from contributing to their RRSP — that it is a larger tax benefit than what would be received from donating to charity. Citizens are subsidizing this corporate activity because of these rules.

Q: Why does the law need to be updated?

Canada’s charity law is behind most other western countries. Charity laws in places like Australia, the United Kingdom, Europe and New Zealand enshrine the ability of charities to undertake advocacy to further their charitable purpose. Philanthropy is able to fund policy (not partisan electoral) advocacy with few exceptions. This is important, as funding advocacy is one of the most effective ways for philanthropy to protect the environment, human health and human rights.

Summary

Canadian charities are currently banned from participating in election processes or partisan activities and we do not think that should change. What needs to change is the law that highly limits charities from speaking up about protecting the environment, stopping drinking and driving or protecting vulnerable people. And, we need to level the playing field between charities and corporations, who currently gets a huge tax subsidy for their lobbying.

If you agree that charities should have the right to participate as freely as corporations and that the current law that muzzles charities and the people it supports need to be updated ASAP, please send a letter here.

The post Charities and Public Policy: Answers to your Frequently Asked Questions appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE

For immediate release: July 3, 2018

Statement from Ashley Wallis on Canada’s ban on the sale of toxic microbeads in toiletries

Toronto, Ont. – Starting this month, Canadians no longer have to worry about the presence of plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products. As of July 1st, Canada’s ban on the sale of toiletries containing microbeads took effect and put an end to a troubling practice that resulted in the pollution of our lakes and rivers with uncountable bits of microplastics.

We applaud the Canadian federal government for demonstrating international leadership by being one of the first countries to ban microbeads in products. But the work to protect our oceans and waterways is far from over. Microbeads are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Canada’s plastic pollution problem. 

Currently only 11 per cent of the plastics used in Canada are recycled. The rest end up burned in incinerators, dumped in landfills or littered in our environment. Canada needs to develop a national plastics strategy and mirror the quick and decisive action it took on microbeads for three other polluting plastics: single use plastics, microfibres and other microplastics.

The Canadian government has committed to taking bold action by signing onto the G7 Ocean Plastics Charter to tackle plastic pollution. The government needs to translate these international promises into domestic action.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Sarah Jamal, Environmental Defence, sjamal@environmentaldefence.ca, 416-323-9521 ext. 251 (work), 905-921-7786 (cell)

The post Statement from Ashley Wallis on Canada’s ban on the sale of toxic microbeads in toiletries appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE, DAVID SUZUKI FOUNDATION, ECOJUSTICE, ÉQUITERRE, CANADIAN ASSOCIATION OF PHYSICIANS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, WOMEN’S HEALTHY ENVIRONMENTS NETWORK, BREAST CANCER ACTION QUÉBEC

For immediate release: June 29, 2018

Statement from environmental and health groups on government’s proposed path forward for strengthening Canada’s toxics law

On the right track, but taking too long to get there

Ottawa, Ont. – Environmental and health groups welcome the federal government’s commitment to starting the process of updating Canada’s toxics law and introducing reforms as early as 2020. However, we are concerned that until the law is strengthened, avoidable threats to the environment and public health will continue.

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA), is nearly 20 years old and has largely failed to adequately address today’s sources of pollution and risks from toxic chemicals. In June 2017, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development completed a comprehensive review of the act and made 87 recommendations for strengthening it. Today, the federal Environment and Climate Change and Health Ministers officially responded to the recommendations, making a commitment to overhaul the act and bring the law into the 21st century.

The ministers agreed with the intent of many of the committee’s recommendations and have promised to continue to consult with stakeholders and experts as they prepare for introducing legislative reforms. Although we are concerned about further delays to improve protections from toxics, the federal government’s response outlines a strong roadmap that would ensure meaningful and comprehensive reforms to this important law. The Ministers acknowledged that many Canadians would like to see the right to a healthy environment enshrined in federal law and committed to an engagement process to further study this issue over the next two years.

Environmental and health groups, scientists, community groups and chemical industry leaders called on the government to implement the committee’s recommendations and strengthen the law to protect human health and the environment and help position Canada as a world leader in green chemistry.

CEPA has been neglected for too long. Modernizing this cornerstone environmental law needs to be a priority to better protect Canadians and the environment from toxic chemicals and pollution.

“While stalling action until 2020 is disappointing, the federal government has finally vowed to overhaul the toxics law and has outlined a robust plan to do so,” said Muhannad Malas of Environmental Defence. “But until legislative reforms are introduced, we expect the government to take immediate steps to implement solutions such as full disclosure and labelling of consumer products containing toxics.”

“Until parliament strengthens CEPA, a troubling pattern of disregard for environmental justice and vulnerable people will continue,” said Elaine MacDonald of Ecojustice. “In the absence of a stronger law, children and marginalized communities, such as those who live near Ontario’s Chemical Valley, will continue to disproportionately bear the burden of pollution-related impacts.”

“People in Canada should have the right to a healthy environment,” said Peter Wood of the David Suzuki Foundation. “Tens of thousands of Canadians voiced their support for strengthening the act and recognizing environmental rights in law, as is the case in 150 countries. We will all be working hard to ensure that government fulfils its commitment to engage the public on this issue.”

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Sarah Jamal, Environmental Defence, sjamal@environmentaldefence.ca, 905-921-7786 (cell)

Alan Worsley, David Suzuki Foundation, aWorsley@davidsuzuki.org, 604-600-5341 (cell)

Emily Chan, Ecojustice, echan@ecojustice.ca, 1-800-926-7744 ext. 277 (work)

Additional quotes from sign-on organizations:

“We are very disappointed that this government is not moving forward today with much-needed reforms to our outdated CEPA. The failure to take urgent action on pollution and toxic substances means women and their children who are disproportionately vulnerable to carcinogens, hormone disruptors and other toxic substances will remain exposed to these chemicals that wreak havoc on their health. We expect CEPA reform to be more than an election promise,” said Jennifer Beeman of Breast Cancer Action Quebec. “We will continue to be engaged stakeholders, ensuring that the government undertakes the reforms outlined here in their next mandate.”

“More than 85 per cent of Canadians are concerned about exposure to chemicals like BPA and triclosan from consumer products like receipts and shampoos and the majority believe that our federal toxics laws are inadequate.” said Annie Bérubé of Équiterre. “While the government’s commitment to reform CEPA is laudable, the protection of our health and the environment from harmful toxics remains at risk until comprehensive reform is complete.”

“We welcome steps that will improve protection against preventable diseases caused by exposure to toxic substances,” said Kim Perrotta of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. “Substantive reforms are urgently needed to reduce the human and financial costs of toxic-related illnesses.”

“When our regulators fail us, we are left to constantly worry about how toxic exposures in our workplaces, our homes, the food we eat and the products we use are impacting our health,” said Cassie Barker of Women’s Healthy Environments Network. “We shouldn’t need a degree in chemistry to understand how we can protect ourselves and our loved ones.”

The post Statement from environmental and health groups on government’s proposed path forward for strengthening Canada’s toxics law appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE

For immediate release: June 21st, 2018

Statement by Environmental Defence’s Tim Gray on the repeal of Obama-era protections for America’s oceans, coasts and Great Lakes

Toronto, Ont. – Late on Tuesday, President Trump issued an Executive Order revoking President Obama’s 2010 National Oceans Policy.  President Obama’s policy was implemented in response to the deadly Deepwater Horizon oil spill of the same year, and focused on restoring the health and protections of America’s coasts, oceans and Great Lakes. The replacement order makes no mention of the disastrous oil spill, and precious little mention of environmental health.

The language of President Trump’s executive order represents a significant shift away from protecting and supporting vulnerable aquatic environments, and towards the aggressive exploitation and expansion of industry within the USA’s Great Lakes and coastal regions.  This is a mistake.  Relaxing protections for the Great Lakes against industrial development could do untold damage to the fish, animals and natural ecosystems which reside there, in turn having a serious impact on the people and businesses that rely on them.

The Great Lakes economy is valued at almost $6 trillion USD, and is the largest body of fresh water in the world, providing drinking water for 40 million people. Strong national environmental policies are needed on both sides of the border to protect those people and their livelihoods.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca) Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Rachel Kitchin, Environmental Defence; 416-323-9521 x 246; rkitchin@environmentaldefence.ca

The post Statement by Tim Gray on the repeal of Obama-era protections for America’s oceans, coasts and Great Lakes appeared first on Environmental Defence.

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