The 2012 omnibus Bills C-38 and C-45 have left many things Canadians deeply value at risk.
Bill C-38 replaced the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act with CEAA 2012, resulting in the elimination of over three thousand assessments of proposed projects and activities for their potential impacts on the environment, health, communities and economies. The new law shuts the public out of environmental decision-making, weakens environmental protection and reduces government oversight of potentially harmful activities.
In the same stroke, the government repealed the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, Canada’s only law setting targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases and requiring the Canadian government to plan how to achieve those targets. With extreme weather events, drought and food security threats already occurring across the country, Canadians need immediate, meaningful action on climate change.
The omnibus bills also put fish and water at risk. Amendments to the Fisheries Act have severely curtailed the protection of fish habitat and eliminated protection for fish that are not part of, or otherwise support, a commercial, recreational or aboriginal fishery. They also allow the government to exempt entire fish species or water bodies from legal protection, or industries from legal obligations under the Act.
Bill C-45 changed one of Canada’s oldest laws, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, into the Navigation Protection Act, removing legal protection from over 99% of Canada’s lakes and rivers. For those waterbodies that lost their protection, a permit under the Act is no longer required to build culverts, dykes, bridges or otherwise impede navigation.
Species at risk also lost legal protection. Now, the National Energy Board is no longer required to ensure that companies take reasonable measures to minimize impacts on the critical habitat of at-risk species when building pipelines and other infrastructure projects. There is also no guarantee that an environmental assessment will consider the impacts of a pipeline project and related oil tanker traffic on critical habitat for species at risk.
Transparency, accountability and science-based decision making have also been reduced. Fewer environmental assessments and permitting requirements means the public and decision-makers have less information about potential harms and less monitoring of actual impacts. Moreover, in recent years the Canadian government has stopped funding a range of crucial scientific research into environmental matters, as well as forbidden its environmental scientists from talking publicly about their work without vetting by public relations officials.