Water & Air Are Central to Life
RE: Submission to the Federal Review Process for Environmental and Regulatory Reviews:
I appreciate this opportunity to submit my personal feedback in response to the Discussion Paper you have put out on Environmental and Regulatory Reviews of the CEAA, the NEB, the Fisheries Act, and the NWPA. Unfortunately I did not find access to read the actual discussion paper. Nevertheless, I have been watching the changes in environmental protection for some years now quite closely and would like to share my comments.
I was present in Ottawa throughout the entire Harper period when he passed Bill C-38 and C-45. As an environmental activist and supporter of First Nations rights to consultation when their territories and their ability to hunt and fish are seriously affected, (as outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Aboriginal Peoples) I walked with Idle No More in protest of these bills.
As a Canadian citizen I was dismayed to see the Federal Government remove so many lakes and rivers in Canada from the requirement for environmental assessment before development could occur. I believe this was done to allow free access to pipeline development without onerous environmental reviews for every river and stream. I was dismayed, that in this era, when climate change may be the greatest threat to our well-being and security, our governments were still planning to go ahead with investments in oil and gas and were paving the way for those investments and expansion in those sectors. I was dismayed that Canada was planning not to take responsibility for the emissions from oil and gas that originated in Canada but were burned somewhere else.
I supported the Liberals based in part on two promises made in the 2015 election. One was your promise to repeal the changes Harper made in these bills. (The other was your promise to give us proportional representation.) I am deeply concerned that you appear to be going back on those promises. Most of the changes Harper made seem to remain in place in your current plans.
Here is my vision:
Water is Canada’s most important resource. More important than oil. It is the source of life and it is necessary to the survival and thriving of all life. It must not be treated as an unlimited and free resource. It must be protected and it must be public.
The air is another important element necessary to human survival. At this time we can measure the carbon budget we have left to use before we will exceed two degrees of warming around the world. Current practices have us headed for likely 4-6 degrees of global warming. We must change our national and provincial priorities to reduce our impact on air and the climate.
Restore the protection of our lakes and rivers to what it was before the Harper changes.
Environmental Reviews should be done by agencies that have the interest of the environment as their mandate, and not by agencies that have the interest of development as their mandate. If the review indicates serious environmental potential problems, a negotiation with the developer, the First Nations, and the local community must take place to determine whether compromises are possible or there are successful ways to mitigate the problems.
Ensure that all reviews of proposed development projects take a hard look at the potential pollution of water and air, and that to be approved.
Projects must have taken adequate measures to ensure prevention of water pollution.
Projects must be in the public interest as well as the corporate interest
Projects must protect the necessary habitat for a thriving fishery and the animals of the area. The fishing and hunting heritage of this nation is necessary to First Nations and highly desirable for the rest of Canadians. The World Wildlife Fund’s latest report shows that many species in Canada have been decimated in the last few decades. Other sectors of the economy cannot operate at the expense of the natural world.
Projects must help us reduce, not increase, the air pollution associated with greenhouse gases.
First Nations have the legally given right to full consultation and to give their free, prior, informed consent when their territories are impacted by development. I believe our governments and our corporations must respect that. Consultation does not mean that you sent them a letter that you are planning to do something. Consultation happens early before planning has gone too far and continues through the development of the project.
We do not want to invest either private or public capital in infrastructure projects that hold us back in the past in relation to climate change. All future investments have to take the pollution of water and air into account.
Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts with you on this important topic.
Rev. Frances Deverell
Unitarian Minister, retired and serving in a volunteer capacity in the community.