we are making a healthier environment
and a better world.
Unprecedented, unrivalled, unparalleled—these are just a few of the words that describe the times we are currently living in.
It’s true: we are facing great challenges. But right now, in building back from a shock, we also have an incredible opportunity to create an economy and society that are fairer and more resilient. We can do this through a Green Recovery.
With your support, we are working harder than ever to find innovative solutions to some of the environment’s (and the planet’s) most pressing problems, because—like you—we want to have a world that we are proud to pass on to our children.
This past year, because of your generous support, we accomplished so much. Here are just some of the highlights.
Safeguarding Canada’s Freshwater
Canada is home to some of the world’s largest freshwater lakes. And every day we work hard to protect them from pollution.
For the past several years, we have called for the Ontario government to have new rules for water bottling in the province — rules that put people before profits. Last fall, thousands of people asked the province to extend its moratorium on new or expanded bottling permits. We won! Since then, the Ontario government has released its new draft regulations for water bottlers, and they look promising.
Meanwhile, we continued our work to protect Lake Erie from massive, and sometimes toxic, algae blooms. We called the federal and Ontario governments out for being behind on implementing their plan to help restore the lake. And we engaged with people near the lake and on social media on this issue.
We also continued to raise awareness about the problems caused by too much road salt on sidewalks and streets.
Climate & Clean Economy
This past year, climate change captured the world’s attention, as millions of people took to the streets to demand urgent action. In Canada, we continued our efforts to work with governments, businesses, and individuals to create a cleaner economy and stop climate change in its tracks.
Since signing the Copenhagen climate agreement over a decade ago, Canada has completely missed meeting its national emissions reduction target. So, building on our successful efforts to put the environment at the top of the agenda during the federal election, we have been advocating for a Green and Just Recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, including prioritizing sustainability in federal financial aid packages. However, the oil industry is undeterred in their plans for expansion, asking for bailouts and major regulatory rollbacks. So we continue to fight for progress on climate action — like helping to stop a massive new tar sands mine, calling out the gap in methane regulations, advocating for a better way to assess energy projects, and pushing to close carbon-pricing loopholes for big polluters.
Meanwhile, in Ontario, our Failure To Launch report pointed out the shortcomings of the province’s Environment Plan — which Ontario’s Auditor General confirmed — and that, after a year, the province has made nearly no progress on implementing its own plan. Our collaborative efforts against a new Enbridge natural gas pipeline near Hamilton, which would lead to increased carbon pollution, resulted in Enbridge pausing its application. And our report CLEARING THE AIR: How Electric Vehicles and Cleaner Trucks Can Help Reduce Pollution, Improve Health, and Save Lives in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area was featured on the federal government’s Clean Air Day website.
Ending Plastic Pollution
This past year, we continued our work to protect our environment from unnecessary single-use plastics and transition Canada to a circular economy where products are repurposed and recycled, not discarded.
In January, we launched our Plastic Wall of Shame — an online initiative to call out companies for using greenwashing tactics (or simply not trying at all) to reduce plastic waste. Some companies featured on the wall are Nestlé, Coca-Cola, and Starbucks.
The federal government has committed to ban single-use plastics (like bags and cups) by 2021 and to develop a program to reduce plastic waste overall. In January 2020, the government took its first step toward doing this by releasing its Draft Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution, which concluded that plastic pollution is harming our environment.
A few weeks later, we released our report No Time to Waste: Six Ways that Canada Can Progress to Zero Plastic Waste by 2025. The report provides a comprehensive roadmap for the government on how to tackle plastic pollution in Canada.
Meanwhile, during the summer of 2019, the Ontario government announced plans to make changes to the Blue Box, including making producers responsible for managing the program. Since then, we have submitted our expectations for the new program and have pushed the government to meet high recycling targets
Kicking Out Toxic Chemicals
We’re surrounded by toxic chemicals; they’re in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the products we use every day. Many of these harmful chemicals are linked to serious illnesses, like cancer and asthma, and harm our environment. That’s why we’re working with the government and industry to put stronger rules in place to reduce our exposure.
In its mandate letter for the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the federal government committed to reform the country’s cornerstone toxics and pollution prevention law, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Strengthening this law will have massive public health and environmental benefits.
Due to our legal efforts with Ecojustice, Volkswagen was charged $196.5 million in January for importing nearly 128,000 cheating diesel vehicles that violated Canadian emission rules. This was the largest environmental fine in Canada.
On the retailer front, Freshii, Home Depot, and Lowe’s committed to phasing out PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) chemicals from their salad bowls and carpets, respectively.
Ontario Yours to Protect
In Ontario, we are working to stop rampant urban sprawl developers from paving over farms, forest and wetlands, and are fighting back against the Ontario government’s attempts to slash environmental protections.
We launched our Ontario Yours to Protect campaign, which brings together 18 organizations from across Ontario who support clean water, farmland, biodiversity, and healthy communities. Together, we are pushing back against the province’s attacks on the environment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives. It has also inspired a need for change and an opportunity to rethink our relationship to urban design, land use, urban growth, and mobility. That’s why we joined the 2020 Declaration for Resilience in Canadian Cities.
With our help, CBC News exposed secret negations between a developer and the Ontario government to remove some land from the protected Greenbelt. Thanks to the exposure, the land remains in the Greenbelt.
We wouldn’t exist without you. You signed petitions, donated your birthday presents, attended our events, wrote and called the government, and financially supported our programs.
Everything we do is made possible because of your generosity, enthusiasm, passion, and dedication. You inspire us to continue our work to improve the health of Canadians and our environment.
An Evening of Inspiring Change
Our 2020 Gala celebrated ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE’s 35 years of leading environmental change in Canada. The evening was hosted by Adria Vasil, Managing Editor for Corporate Knights magazine, and included an informative discussion with our Executive Director Tim Gray about whether a radical rewire of global capitalism can solve the climate crisis.
The line-up of guest speakers included Chief Executive Officer of First Nations Power Authority Guy Lonechild, Policy Director for Clean Energy Canada Sarah Petrevan, and author and cleantech leader Tom Rand who shared a sneak peek of his new book—The Case for Climate Capitalism: Economic Solutions for a Planet in Peril.
The night was a huge success in large part to our dedicated sponsors, speakers, and guests. Thank you!
Award in honour of the recipient’s service to protecting Canada’s environment
Since 2007, Wellington Water Watchers and their dedicated volunteers have fought for the protection, restoration, and conservation of drinking water in Guelph and Wellington County in Ontario. A grassroots organization, they’ve fought Goliaths like bottled water giant Nestlé and the aggregates industry, and despite setbacks, have never given up.
The Wellington Water Watchers and their growing network of partners, allies, and supporters have earned international attention for their organizing and advocacy on water issues, including water bottling, and have become an increasingly influential political force.
Most recently, they successfully fought to ensure that Ontario’s water taking moratorium was extended — giving them more time to convince the government to make it permanent.
ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE is a team of passionate, creative, and talented people devoted to making positive change happen. Our staff and board work hard every day to protect Canada’s environment and human health. But we don’t do it alone. We also have an expert advisory committee that offers ideas, advice, and feedback to help us guide our programs.
It takes all of our dedicated team working together to deliver the outcomes we’ve shared in this report. The program, engagement, and communications staff (tackling the issues) along with our finance, development, and administration teams (backbone) come together and deliver the change we have committed to our funders and supporters. And of course, we need the space (keeping the lights on) to brainstorm, plan, and implement our work.
For the full audited financial report, click here.
A BIG THANKS to all of the individuals and organizations who generously supported our efforts between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020. Together, we accomplished more than we thought possible, and with your continued support, we know that we can accomplish even more in the year to come.