Toronto, ON – We are disappointed in the federal government’s announcement today that it does not intend to follow through with its written commitment to meet or exceed Ontario’s environmental policies within the draft federal legislation for Rouge National Urban Park. We also challenge the flawed assertions upon which the federal Minister says her announcement is based.
Ontario already has strong policies to protect Rouge Park, the result of over 20 years of public consultation, scientific study and planning. Like the Province, we want to ensure that the level of environmental protection offered by these existing policies is upheld.
We don’t want the park’s outstanding natural features and values to be eroded over time as a result of weak laws and policies. And that’s exactly what’s at risk with Bill C-40, the deficient draft Rouge National Urban Park Act.
A legal review by Ecojustice, commissioned by our organizations, identifies serious deficiencies in the federal draft legislation, including that there is no legal obligation for those in charge to prioritize the protection of wildlife and the natural environment of the park. The draft legislation also ignores Environment Canada’s science-based criteria for improving the health of the river and Lake Ontario, the drinking water source for millions of Ontario residents.
Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq says that she can’t uphold the environmental standards that other national parks enjoy because that would mean allowing natural processes, such as wildfires to rage unabated. This is demonstrably misinformed. The existing Canada National Parks Act and its standards are in effect in other national parks – including Point Pelee, Bruce Peninsula, and Banff – where there are settlements, roads and suppression of wildfires.
Further, Minister Aglukkaq claims that high environmental standards are incompatible with farming in the park, suggesting that farmers cannot operate in an ecologically sustainable manner. We disagree. Rouge National Urban Park offers an exceptional opportunity to celebrate our agricultural heritage and to encourage and showcase ecological approaches to farming. 
The Minister has promised to proceed to pass the Rouge National Urban Park Act, even if the provincial lands are not part of it. Such a move begs the question of why take this approach? Wouldn’t it be better to cooperate with the citizens and governments who worked to originally protect these lands and ensure that the lands will be well managed for their natural values and for the benefit of current and future generations?
We hope the federal government changes its mind and decides to work with all parties towards adding the provincial lands to the Park and making the Rouge what it should be: North America’s biggest and best near urban national park. By doing so, the Park would stand a better chance of preserving our natural and cultural heritage in the face of anticipated population growth and development pressures in the Greater Toronto Area.
The groups issuing this statement are: Environmental Defence, Ontario Nature and Friends of the Rouge Watershed. 
For background information (and further information about the legal review), please click here.
For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:
Naomi Carniol, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext 258; 416-570-2878 (cell)
John Hassell, Ontario Nature, 416-444-8419 ext. 269; 416-786-2171 (cell)