For immediate release: October 2, 2018

Statement from Environmental Defence’s Executive Director Tim Gray on the federal Environment Commissioner’s report underscoring significant gaps in protecting Canadians from toxic substances

The audit also discusses federal deficiencies in protecting threatened and endangered whales from marine impacts such as tanker traffic and oil spills

Toronto, Ont. – Today’s report by the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development confirms that much work is needed to ensure Canadians and our environment are protected from toxic chemicals.

Among other conclusions, the report highlights that the federal government has failed to monitor and evaluate whether actions taken to address toxic chemical risks have actually achieved their objectives in terms of protecting human health and the environment.

For example, 15 years ago the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change implemented a voluntary measure to reduce exposures to a dangerous chemical added to paint strippers, known as dichloromethane or methylene chloride, but has done nothing since then to ensure that consumers and workers are protected.

Another key finding of the report is that Environment and Climate Change Canada does not routinely consider the level of risk to human health and the environment in prioritizing enforcement actions.

The report highlights a troubling finding that 22 per cent of the inspections of compliance with toxics regulations and a staggering two-thirds of all convictions within the last two years targeted mostly small family-owned dry cleaning shops. This is baffling when, at the same time, behemoth corporations like Volkswagen appear to be able to get away with illegally selling 120,000 polluting cars in Canada without any enforcement action and millions of litres of oil sands tailings pollution leaking into the Athabasca river.

The Commissioner’s report also criticized the progress of the government in informing Canadians about toxic chemical risks. An important and easy solution to address this is to require full disclosure of toxics in consumer products, a step that the federal government committed to exploring earlier this year.

The report findings confirm that the government must allocate more resources to ensure better enforcement of Canada’s main toxics law, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999 (CEPA), and related pollution prevention regulations.

The audit also shows that the federal government hasn’t done enough to protect whales and other marine mammals from disturbances that could worsen their endangerment or extinction, such as underwater noise from vessels, collisions and oil spills.

While several departments are working to address these gaps in marine mammal protection, proceeding with the Trans Mountain Expansion would move Canada in the wrong direction. The project would increase oil tanker traffic off of the Vancouver coast by more than seven-fold and Canada still doesn’t know how to deal with bitumen when it’s spilled in the ocean.

We hope the National Energy Board panel revisiting Trans Mountain’s tanker and oil spill impacts takes this audit seriously instead of again rubber-stamping this risky tar sands project.  

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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)