was one that
we’ll never forget.
Climate change, loss of biodiversity, and pollution continued to be in the spotlight. This year also shined a light on the social injustices that plague our world and impact the lives of many including Black and Indigenous communities and People of Colour. These inequities highlighted a need for environmental justice and intersectionality. We also endured the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and its lockdowns which further focused on the need for meaningful change.
Everything that has happened this past year has given us an incredible opportunity to rebuild and create an economy and society that are fairer, more just and more resilient than ever before.
With your support, we are working hard to find innovative solutions to some of the planet’s most pressing problems. 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. Below are just some of the highlights.
Climate & Clean Economy
Over the last year, it has become clearer than ever before – climate change is at our doorstep. Our work with governments, businesses, and individuals to create a cleaner economy and reduce emissions took on increased urgency.
Despite the increasingly dire news, we saw signs of hope. Together with organizations across Canada, we helped lead a national push for a Green and Just Recovery, ensuring that the federal government’s COVID-19 recovery plans will prioritize a cleaner and safer future for everyone. In a single day of action, more than 10,000 people engaged with the campaign.
There’s also encouraging signs that we’re on the way to seeing the end of thermal coal in Canada. Coalspur’s plans to expand the already-massive Vista coal mine were required to undergo a federal environmental assessment, thanks to considerable pressure from the public.
And finally – we intervened at the Supreme Court of Canada to defend the federal government’s right to create a national price on carbon pollution – and won!
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.
The country’s cornerstone toxics and pollution prevention law, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), is over 20 years out of date. After years of working with government and industry, a Bill was introduced to update CEPA. This Bill included some of the recommendations we were advocating for, but there is still room for improvement which we will be continuing to push. Strengthening CEPA will have massive public health and environmental benefits.
On the retailer front, all thanks to our efforts, McDonald’s and Wendy’s committed to phasing out PFAS from food packaging and Metro, Costco, and Loblaws removed hormone-disrupting BPA and BPS from receipts. General Mills’ Annie’s mac ‘n cheese also became the first company to eliminate phthalates in food processing equipment. After decades of work, Johnson & Johnson stopped selling talc-based baby powder in Canada and the U.S. – a huge win for the health of women and other vulnerable communities across North America.
Safeguarding Canada’s Freshwater
Canada’s fresh water is a vital resource. To protect our water is to protect ourselves, our economy and the thousands of species that rely on it. This year, we continued to fight for a clean and safe future for Canada’s freshwater.
For years, we have been speaking out against taking Ontario’s groundwater for profit and we’ve been calling on the Ontario government to prioritize our communities and our environment over financial gains. We fought hard for new policies to protect groundwater and this year, we got them! These new regulations are a big step in the right direction to better safeguard the province’s water resources.
In other news, we continued our fight to protect Lake Erie which was plagued by a toxic algae bloom once again this year. We, along with our dedicated supporters, called on the provincial government to make Lake Erie a priority. We also made a big wave of support on social media through our 4th annual #WeAreLakeErie Day.
We also launched “North of Long Tail,” an online documentary photography exhibition, to showcase Canadians’ deep connection to Lake Erie and why it must be protected.
Ending Plastic Pollution
Plastic is everywhere. It’s in our oceans, it’s in our wildlife, it’s even in us. We are quite literally swimming in plastic. This year, we were fighting harder than ever to hold industry and our leaders accountable for the plastic pollution crisis.
Ontario’s deposit return program (DRP) for alcoholic beverage containers keeps millions of cans and bottles out of landfills and the environment. But this crucial service came under threat when the province considered making the DRP optional for alcohol producers. We took action – and so did you. Together, we helped save the program!
Another big win came when the federal government listed plastic manufactured items as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). In the same move, the government also decided to ban six single-use plastic items – grocery store bags, straws, cutlery, six-pack rings, some takeout containers, and stir sticks. A welcome decision that acts as a much-needed step towards tackling plastic pollution.
Ontario Yours to Protect
We helped build Ontario Yours to Protect, a new citizen-based resistance to attacks on Ontario’s environment. As part of this movement, we are working closely with local groups and concerned citizens to stop Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass from paving over farms, forests, and sections of the Greenbelt. We are also fighting The Big Sprawl – the province’s attempt to reward land speculators by pushing more Ontarians to live in unsustainable car-dependent sprawling developments.
We teamed up with groups and concerned citizens in Durham Region to stop a developer from fast-tracking a sprawl development on the ecologically sensitive Carruthers Creek headwaters.
Working with aligned groups, we successfully pressured the Ontario government to reverse a decision that would have allowed aggregate operations in engendered species habitat – an important victory for endangered plants and animals.
After the province slashed the powers of Conservation Authorities (CAs) to stop development on ecologically sensitive lands, we secured commitments from Ontario’s opposition parties that if elected in 2022, they would all restore the powers of Conservation Authorities and revoke any development permits that CAs were forced to grant.
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
On September 10th, 2020, ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE hosted a virtual fundraiser featuring Dr. Ingrid Waldron and the real-life heroes in the documentary film There’s Something in the Water. Our 150 guests learned how industrial catastrophes have been precisely placed in remote, low income and very often Indigenous or Black communities in Canada.
The engaging conversation showcased brave women on the frontlines of Canada’s eco-justice fight including Michelle Francis Denny from the Pictou Landing First Nation, Dorene Bernard, a Sipekne’katick-Mi’kmaq Water Protector and Vanessa Hartley, a member of the Black Loyalist Society. Proceeds of the evening were shared by Environmental Defence and the ENRICH project.
The virtual event was a huge success in large part to our speakers and guests. Thank you!
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 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, 2020 and March 31, 2021. 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.