Submission to Govt of Canada on their proposals for renewing environmental legislation and regulations

mirror

Comments on:

  • Environmental Assessment & Regulatory Review Discussion Document
    (released by Environment & Climate Change Canada to public June 29, 2017)
  • Part 2: Let’s Talk Fish Habitat (released by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to
    public July 24, 2017)
  • Update on Navigation Protection Act Review (Transport Canada sent public
    notification of these four discussion papers August 16, 2017)
  • National Energy Board Modernization Review (we are not aware if Natural
    Resources Canada has released an update on its Expert Panel report of May 15,
    2017, which we have also reviewed)

Addressed to:

  • The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport — mintc@tc.gc.ca
  • The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Canada —
    min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
  • The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate
    Change   ec.ministre-minister.ec@canada.ca
  • The Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources Canada —
    minister@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca

1. Introduction

I write on behalf of Kent County NB chapter of the Council of Canadians. People in our chapter, and in our approximately 70 sister Council of Canadians chapters across the country, work in our local communities on:

  • advocating for climate protection policies;
  • raising awareness that climate issues are anthropogenic so humans must change;
  • a large number of environmental issues to do with the oil and gas industry;
  • protecting the health of our watersheds, our forested areas, and the wellbeing and habitats of marine animals;
  • and much more.

We are also engaged in national Council of Canadians work around our major
campaigns, including:

  • protection of fresh water;
  • increasing government democracy, accountability, and transparency; and,
  • promotion of environmental protections in international trade agreements as well as domestic decision-making.

From the above description, it is evident why we have an avid interest in federal
government environmental protection policy, programmes, and legislation.
For a volunteer group like ours, it has been a marathon to prepare for writing this –
especially during the summer. We are all volunteers and this is a complicated matter. As
grassroots people living in rural and low-income communities, we are very motivated.

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We are certain to be most affected by gaps and mistakes in environmental approval
processes. We did a lot of reading and reviewing including:

  • community and Indigenous submissions, panel recommendations and government
    responses to recent consultations about The Fisheries Act and The Navigation
    Protection Act (including materials released as recently as August 16 th , which also
    have the consultation submission deadline of August 28th);
  • the “Forward, Together” report by the NEB Modernization Review Panel (NEB
    Panel) and the “Building Common Ground” report by the Multi-Interest Advisory
    Committee on Environmental Assessment (MIAC), and,
  • what was learned when two Council of Canadians representatives engaged in
    consultations regarding Canada’s Oceans policies, arising from Canada’s
    participation in the United Nations’ June 2017 Oceans Conference.

Then we read your government’s Environmental and Regulatory Reviews
Discussion Paper (ERRDP). We find significant holes in the ERRDP argument,
rationale and design.

2. Rebuilding Trust: Review Process Issues

Your government made a pre-election promise to strengthen the federal government’s
environmental protection mechanisms, working in an open and transparent manner… At the very top of the ERRDP document, you emphasize the need to rebuild trust with
Canadians. Like us, most Canadians think and feel that getting better environmental
protection regulations and processes enshrined in federal law is very important. This is
certainly one of the reasons your government was elected with a majority in 2015.

Those of us who participated in the panel review consultations can see that the two
excellent reports – from the NEB Panel and the MIAC Panel – have made superior
recommendations to those contained in the ERRDP, even though we do not agree in
entirety with these two Panels. On the other hand, we see that the vision outlined in the
ERRDP is attractive but it lacks solidity. Omissions can give the impression that not all is
not as it appears, or that excellent ideas could have been perhaps intentionally dropped at the political level. We notice measures that would help the environment are not in there. These are elaborated more in Sections 3 and 4.

We are troubled that, in the past month, further “discussion” materials have been published by your government asking for public input on changes to the Navigation Protection Act (NPA) and the Fisheries Act (FA). The most recent was on August 16 th and the deadline for comments is August 28 th as per the ERRDP.

Your engagement planning for this entire review process has been challenging. The NPA,
the FA, and the NEB Act all feed into the federal Environment Assessment (or Impact
Assessment) process. This relationship is legislated. Each of these acts (and more, some
of which are also in flux) can trigger a federal assessment of environmental impacts.
Copious amounts of overlapping information were published online, but because it was
presented in a dis-synchronous manner it has been very hard to track the details.

Discussions on proposals for all the “feeder acts” really should have been consecutive not
concurrent. Our group made this recommendation in a submission to your government last Fall. If community organizations and other interested parties had a valid sense of where your government was going with changes to all the “feeder acts,” we would be better prepared to comment on your visionary report about proposed environmental or impact processes.

A contributing factor is that each federal department has undertaken the various
consultation processes within its own silo of departmental mandate apparently without full consideration of where the others were headed. In sum, consultations would have been more productive – and more democratic, accountable, and transparent – if the legislated flow of authority had been respected in the review process.

To add to our stress, the current “last stage” review and consultation is being done now in the summer, when pretty much everyone in Canada wants to have some down time as our summers are short. We understand about the urgency of revising this legislation.
Concerned community organizations such as ours have been treading water furiously to
try to stay on top of the overlapping processes, read all the materials, and get
submissions, comments or presentations in on time.

We have not seen much federal call-out or promotion for engagement in responding to the ERRDP. That fact, combined with the many challenges mentioned above lead us to recommend you extend the deadline for comments, and after Labour Day re-
advertise widely an extension of time for community response, with a minimum of
six weeks for the new deadline. Please take time to really listen to (or hear) and act on
what we and other commentators are saying. To make this process meaningful and helpful for coming generations, the holders of local knowledges and experiences must be
welcomed into the decision-making fold. The NEB Panel report makes this point
repeatedly when talking about both general stakeholder and also Indigenous community
relations.

3. The Devil is in the Details

It is impossible to enforce anything if the standards are vague. The NEB Panel report
provides many details on how to move forward. It calls for specificity in regulations: set out what is allowed and what is not. “The review proposal is a comprehensive work and
government should not take a piecemeal approach to implementation” reminds the NEB
Panel.

In our local chapter work we are dealing with “details” all the time. A member of one of our chapters attended the MIAC Panel’s public consultation session in Fredericton NB. She said the panel committee was attentive, and she felt public opinions and comments had been heard. After reading their Common Ground (CG) report, she commented, “It is not perfect, but it looks good. Still, the devil is in the details.” After reading the ERRDP report, we can see that many of the MIAC Panel’s recommendations have been diminished.

3.a  Points in the ERRDP:
In no instance should the proponent be in charge of any aspect of the environmental assessment or compliance processes:

▪ in the initial stage: consultation processes led by industry; industry must be
present and partnered but it is government’s job to do consultation

during scientific study and reviews: (1) no preparation of Impact or
Environmental Assessment reports and analyses by consultants hired by the
proponent; (2) consideration could be given to establishing a list of approved
“independent, third party” consultants from which proponents could select; to be transparent, and trustworthy, this must be done through a public RFP call, perhaps with assistance from the Auditor General, and where that criteria and decision-making is developed and finalized through public input and open to ongoing public scrutiny

after development: no self-regulation/monitoring by industry (proponent) – it
is in the public interest to have government inspect and enforce compliance

3.b  General points re: rebuilding federal environmental policies and regulations:

▪ During the 10 years of the Harper Conservative government, we lost science data, scientists, regulations, policies, funding, departmental branches and systems, and personnel. We do not find a thoughtful funding design to replace this capacity. Could the Auditor General be asked to assist with making proposals for this, on an urgent basis?

▪ During the 10 years of the Harper Conservative government, we did not only lose technical and regulatory capacity, we also lost our reputation as a nation. We want the final legislation you produce to show the global community we are a nation that practices and promotes democracy, human rights, government account-ability and transparency, and genuine environmental stewardship.

3.c  Points regarding the NEB review report and NEB Act, as they feed into the
Environmental Assessment/Impact implementation process:

▪ Your government is aware that we are deeply concerned about the December 16, 2013 MOU that gave the NEB authority to judge environmental impacts of fisheries within projects they are reviewing (see #1 below). We have repeatedly asked about this in com-munications to Minister LeBlanc and Prime Minister Trudeau, although no response has yet been received. We expect that this and all other similar MOUs, policies, and informal agreements will be rescinded immediately.

We support creation of a Ombudsman of Landowners, as suggested in
the NEB Panel report.

▪ It is noteworthy and encouraging that – just this week – the NEB announced it will consider upstream and downstream GHG emissions during the renewed review of the Energy East Pipeline (EE). Thus, in essence, the NEB will be evaluating EE with respect to a range of national interests or priorities, which is the first step identified in the ERRDP “IA” process diagram. In the absence of these new regulations and policies, which are still being discussed, it is great news to learn that climate change and environmental hazards will be front and centre – along with economic and energy issues – as NEB evaluates EE. However, there has been a “pro” and “con” debate about this recent decision.

It is vitally important that the determinants of the “National Interest” are discussed in a transparent and inclusive process. To ensure rebuilding public trust, the consultation defining the “national interest” must be really broad and in-depth on both items and ranking. As diverse parties and commun-ities bring a broad range of perspectives to the table to develop a truly common agenda on where we all want Canada to go, this should break down some of the silo-ism that exists both between and in departments and non-government sectors. The ERRDP does not identify establishing this consultation process or structure. Fulsome consultation will be essential for realizing goals of inclusiveness, accountability, transparency, and bringing science back into the middle of everything. Similar structural accommoda-tion is needed for bringing traditional Indigenous knowledge-holders to the table before proposals gain development momentum.

How will provinces’ “environmental” or “impact” assessment processes be brought into synchronization with the new federal system? This is a huge and central issue that must be addressed. The ERRDP vision is only concerned with proposals that fall under federal mandate. A double “duty” or “jeopardy” situation will continue to impact proposals that have aspects requiring both federal and provincial oversight. It is not a level playing field: proponents generally have adequate funding and are motivated by increasing their profits, while environ-mentalists, Indigenous Peoples, and communities often do this work as volunteers for the common good. Yet, both will continue to be caught in this trap, and only one side potentially has the resources to go the full length of both processes. The new federal legislation must address this situation, so that communities and individuals with limited resources know where to focus their energy. This makes sense because federal decisions are about the “good” of the entire nation.

3.d  Points regarding the Navigation Protection Act

▪ You have received extensive input on the need for bringing back protection to to help the creatures that live in, on and around our Navigable Waters. Contrary
to this, the NPA review panel has recommended not restoring the “Schedule” to pre-Harper standards. Their proposal of having a review process to add lakes and rivers to the Schedule is very minimalist and “high level”: none of the structural details are provided. We are being asked to trust that you will do this properly, but frankly many of us we are still in an era of mistrust. In addition to whatever is ultimately done about this part of your proposal, we are asking for the reinstatement of all lakes and rivers formerly protected through the Navigable Waters Protection Act’s “Schedule.”

▪ In general shipping is little considered in environmental impact assessments: it seems to be regarded as a “given” that the right to navigate waters takes primacy over virtually anything else. Recently Minister LeBlanc made an exceptional appeal to shipping tanker/transport companies to slow down in the areas of the St. Lawrence where several dead Right Whales have been found this year. Now a $25,000 fine has been instituted for those shipping through these waters who fail to slow down, but the fines must be much stiffer to change the conduct of these companies. For all vulnerable habitat or migration waters, protection from shipping-tanker kills must be in the NPA in clear language and very specific terms. As has been done in this emergency situation regarding the Right Whales, capacity needs to be on deck in full force too. This will require funding.

3.e  Points regarding the Fisheries Act

▪ In your current material about changes to the Fisheries Act, you comment that the multiplicity of stressors facing marine life fall into a variety of jurisdictions and that they can be tackled through collaboration. Yet we see no plan for how that collabor-ation will take place. The crises enveloping marine life are increasingly severe. A major factor in this crisis is that no one entity is “in charge” – accountable – for the full range of protection, regulation and enforcement measures that are required.

One significant example is the hazards posed to indigenous or wild sea creatures when aquaculture goes wrong, which it frequently does. This past week, just off of Vancouver Island, tens of thousands of farmed Atlantic Salmon accidentally got loose and are now running with the endangered wild or indigenous Pacific Salmon. As well, this week a video was released showing many sick and/or deformed aqua-culture salmon in west coast fish farms. Obviously, some international accords must be signed to address these matters. But, first we need the proper protections –including genuinely appropriate design of a project, regulations of operation, and enforcement of standards – in our own country. As things stand presently, no collaborative or single authority has the powers to stop a process that will result in further disaster to wild/indigenous fish from aquaculture populations.

We hasten to add that this is just one of many, many such examples where our marine life protection policies are inadequate. The point we are making is we need one authority looking out to protect all sea life for future generations, using the best science and all other possible tools, as well as stakeholder round tables to gather expertise, share rationales, and secure commitments. That means breaking down silos in mandate and jurisdiction, and working together for the common good.

▪ Because of the undermining and undervaluing of capacity that DFO Science,
Conservation, and enforcement programmes have experienced in recent decades, a situation emerged where millions of herring beached and died in the Bay of Fundy this past winter and DFO response was meagre, slow, and ultimately inconclusive except to say the event was now finished. Even more ecently there was a report from scientists at Simon Fraser University that found that DFO’s failure to monitor as much as half of all wild salmon populations on the west coast is contributing to the imminent demise of that fishery. Indigenous communities on the west coast are distraught by this deepening crisis and their grassroots members and leaders are beginning to take matters into their hands. Funding, personnel and libraries must be restored and renewed to address worsening conditions for marine life.

For fresh water we need the complete revival of and funding for the Experimental Lakes science development program: this means restoring federal funding to needed levels so that collaboration will flow between  governmental and scientific/ngo communities.

Put the definition of HADD (“the harmful alteration, disruption or
destruction of fish habitat”) back into the Fisheries Act, and add policies, funding, and personnel to assist with rebuilding degraded and damaged habitats.

“Cumulative effects” on a species or habitat must be included in all
environmental assessments.

3.f  Points regarding the Oceans Act

▪ We ask that you consider how the ERRDP proposal can be augmented to
break down federal department silos and actually protect our environment
from even our own government’s initiatives. Without living and vibrant
oceans our planet is not viable. Between the Oceans Act, the NPA Act,
and the Fisheries Act, it is possible to weave a web of protection. It is
imperative we start today.

▪ A critique of the Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area (LCMPA) was submitted by Kent County COC Chapter in July, 2017 (see #2 below). As with many of our communications on marine and coastal issues, we have never received a response to this. We are also aware that you received communications regarding the LCMPA from Dr. Rodolphe Devillers from Memorial University in Newfoundland (dated July 18, 2017), and others. One example of the issues raised by us and others is that the LCMPA proposal allows oil and gas activity in what amounts to 98% of the so-called “protected area.” This lapse in judgement suggests that your government still has a lot of work to do enforcing environmental impact logic and standards on its own departments. Protection of Marine Areas must be done according to established international standards, for which the science is available. Anything less is just window dressing and a betrayal of future generations.

3.g  Additional points raised by ERRDP and other reviews:

▪ Both the NEB panel and the Common Ground report address the need to respect the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). They also both speak to the necessity of culturally respectful processes to facilitate inclusion of Traditional Indigenous Knowledge (TIK) throughout all review processes up to and including the actual Impact and/or Environmental Assessments. However, UNDRIP is not mentioned once in the ERRDP.

This is a very serious concern for us. UNDRIP sets the standard for what must be in all environmental reviews in Canada. Further, the ERRDP only poses – but does not address – the question of assuring cultural competence and inclusion when integrating TIK in federal environmental protection processes. We want to know your specific plan: the who, when, how, where, why, etc., for this crucial element of the entire proposal.

▪ The Precautionary Principle was advocated for all instances of uncertainty in the Common Ground report and this theme was taken up in the ERRDP. Our question is: what is the threshold for elevating the Precautionary Principle to centre stage in a proposal discussion, or a review process? How will this button get pushed? With so much our natural environment in a precarious situation, we need to make sure that the regulatory pathway to enacting the Precautionary Principle is transparent and accessible to all.

Canadian case law upholds the overarching trustee responsibility of government to err on the side of caution when legitimate “flags are raised” about dangers to human health. Despite this, at the current time, federal agencies are unable – for example – to ensure that aquaculture industries do not allow diseases, medicines, or modified fish to escape into indigenous (wild) fisheries populations, yet western and indigenous science voices are very concerned about these issues.

Similarly, not so long ago, unconventional hydraulic fracking was considered safe, and people who spoke about possible risks faced stiff opposition from governments who wanted to allow fracking industries in their regions. Now science agrees with many of the concerns that were raised by citizens before peer-review science confirmed what local people were seeing.

This are just two small examples of the gaps that highlight the need for clarity on how to arrive at a decision to rely on the Precautionary Principle. The Principle offers a meaningful interim solution to emerging environmental concerns. We need to see the details about how the Precautionary Principle can be enacted by public call, to feel confident that it will indeed be relied on appropriately.

4.  Our New Proposals to You

Ongoing pathways for dialogue and information sharing are of greatest importance to
protecting bioregions and using deep ecological analysis. These paths must be enshrined
in legislation, supporting regional citizen scientists and traditional knowledge-holders to
share expertise with frontline government personnel. The NEB panel report includes a
proposal along these lines:

“Our recommendations call for Regional Multi-Stakeholder Committees designed to
improve emergency preparedness and make standards more rigorous, enhanced
monitoring, and more robust analysis of risks to set priorities and drive continuous
improvement. The synergy achieved through these Committees will also provide
deep insight as to the scope of regional interests for any future project reviews.” (pg
5, in “Executive Summary” of NEB report).

However, this is not reflected in the ERRDP.

Our proposal is that your government implement this “regional multi-stakeholder
approach” by creating regional Environmental Protection Networking Committees
that would advise EACC, NRC, DFO, TC, etc..  They would meet face-to-face on an
appointed schedule to exchange information. They would also meet on an “as needs” basis, when urgent issues arise.

  • The community members could be respected individuals nominated through a
    public process, and representatives appointed by relevant organizations. Travel and meeting costs will paid by the government. The information and networking
    facilitated by these bodies will more than justify the costs.
  • Under the wing of EACC, all relevant federal departments could nominate a gate-
    keeper liaison staff person to sit on each Regional Committees. Opening these
    communication paths would be a huge step forward. This proposal would address a
    lot of problems that local communities like ours have, when trying to bring local
    environmental issues to the attention of federal departments.
  • We have previously noted that panel reports contain worthy and important
    specifications on inclusion of and working with Indigenous communities and elders. Our proposal is an inclusive one, advocating that Indigenous represen-tatives must also be part of these regional advisory bodies. However, nothing mentioned here is intended to replace Canada’s UNDRIP responsibilities to
    consult BEFORE doing anything at all, or allowing anything at all.
    We just think
    everything will work better if we are all at the same table during operational
    discussions. 
  • Importantly, local “citizen scientist” networks (through community associations,
    independent businesses, post-secondary institutions, non-governmental
    organizations, etc.) would be connected to our proposed Environmental Protection
    Networking Committees. The need for this became evident during the recent marine animal die-off crises in the Bay of Fundy. In previous decades, there were strong links between government conservation/enforcement staff and concerned
    community members. After various departmental restructurings in the latter 1900’s, this relationship diminished as bureaucracy grew. The remnants of this voluntary collaboration were killed by the previous government, who wanted no intruders to disturb their pro-industry agenda. The regional networking committees can be a conduit through which urgent connection between citizen scientists and personnel in federal frontline environmental protection departments is facilitated, as well as for preliminary discussion on proposals, etc.

On a different topic, we recommend that the criminal code be amended to provide
stiff consequences for industries who violate environmental regulations by, for
example: releasing deleterious substances into the land, air or water; damage to habitat of protected animals or plants; traveling too fast or carelessly through habitat or migration areas; or, otherwise doing substantial, irreversible, or irremediable damage to the environment.

Our greatest concern, overall is that democracy, accountability and transparency be the modus operandi of all government departments, branches and personnel who have responsibility for ensuring protection of our threatened and struggling natural  environment. That is how you will rebuild trust as well as allow your greatest allies, us – the grassroots people – to assist in protecting what is left for future generations. Therefore, information must be made available to people in affected areas NOT ONLY through digital transmission such as social media, websites, email, etc.

Many rural and many lower-income people in Canada do not use computers as  conveniently as most urban and highly-schooled Canadians. Yet, it is invariably the
poorer and more rural people who are living in what some term as proposed “sacrifice
zones,” where proponents or governments seek to do major resource extraction  developments. In other words these populations are “the most directly affected.”
Communications to the public must be published in print media, via flyer at local government offices, and through all other available person-to-person means, including seeking networking/outreach assistance with local environment, community, ngo, and Indigenous communities and groups.

This takes us back to our proposal for the Regional Multi-Stakeholder Committees. Provided with the flyers and information, the members of these committees can become
funnels for outgoing material, as well as incoming opinions and emergency response
collaborative organizing.

Notwithstanding any overlap with points made above, and in solidarity, we endorse the call made by West Coast Environmental Law for a “next-generation environmental assessment law for Canada that: works to achieve sustainability for both the environment and human well-being; assesses the cumulative impacts of development projects in a region; advances reconciliation and co-governance with Indigenous peoples; ensures more projects get assessed; aligns with Paris Agreement climate commitments; is transparent, accountable and includes meaningful public participation, including language rights.”

Submitted by:

Ann Pohl, Kent County NB Chapter, Council of Canadiansphoto of me
coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com
506-785-2998 (home) / 506-521-0465 (cell)

 

 

  1. see: www.neb-one.gc.ca/bts/ctrg/mmrndm/ 2013fshrcnscnd-eng.html 
  2. see: https://kentcountynbenvironmentwatch.wordpress.com/2017/07/11/
    proposedlcmpaissues/
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An Open Letter re: the Outstanding NB Medical Officer of Health’s Report on Glyphosate Herbicides

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Council of Canadians – Kent County NB Chapter
FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/KentCountyChapterCoC/?fref=ts
email: coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com
June 28, 2016

Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health
Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health
Government of New Brunswick
HSBC Place, Floor: 5
P. O. Box 5100, Fredericton, NB, E3B 5G8
transmitted by email: Jennifer.Russell@gnb.ca

Dear Dr. Russell:

We need to see that report on glyphosate that you promised we would have before the spray season begins. We need to see that report now. It is not clear to us if your report has been scrapped, suppressed, or something else has happened.

Dr. Russell, the spray season is upon us. Both CN Rail and NB Power have already publicly released their approved spray plans. Timber industries have already compiled their lists of acreage they want to spray for their monoculture conifer plantations. Their applications for taxpayer-financed provincial silviculture spraying are being reviewed, and they anticipate approvals within the next few weeks.

We remember all too well how the government of that day tried to bury Dr. Cleary’s report on fracking in 2012. They knew they could not “control” her when it came to matters of public health, and they knew the report did not agree with their stated view that fracking is perfectly safe and would be great for NB. A similar situation potentially exists with this matter because in recent weeks, Minister Denis Landry and Premier Brian Gallant have both said glyphosate is safe.

On May 18th, I and eleven other New Brunswickers hand-delivered a formal complaint to the New Brunswick Ombudsman. It addresses matters pertaining to the “no cause” termination of the former Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), Dr. Eilish Cleary. Our major concern is the status of Dr. Cleary’s promise to investigate and report re: the risks of glyphosate herbicide compounds on population and environmental health. Our conversation with NB Ombudsman Charles Murray is ongoing.

During her exemplary tenure as CMOH, Dr. Cleary established a very high standard for independent and comprehensive research, both with her peer-acclaimed 2012 report on population impacts of shale gas development, and in the Health Impact Assessments model developed in 2015 for the NB Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing. Since we learned that Dr. Cleary was put on leave and then dismissed, I am only one of thousands of New Brunswickers who are concerned that we will not see a comprehensive and independent report from the Office of the CMOH on glyphosate herbicide spray use in our province.

In her communication to me promising this report (sent August 14, 2015), Dr. Cleary said that her office would develop “a plan” for reporting “in the coming year.” In response to the issues I raised on behalf of our group, the Kent County Chapter of the Council of Canadians, Dr. Cleary also made the following comments:

  • concurrence with the IARC/WHO conclusion that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans”;
  • there is need investigate “the nature, duration and intensity of the exposure to the toxins in this province” and to look into the high incidence of non-Hodgkins lymphoma among men in NB;
  • any further protections needed to protect the population in New Brunswick would be independently developed and not curtailed by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency conclusions.

On September 24, 2015, I wrote the former-CMOH concerning some additional issues raised by members of our group. You responded to this letter, Dr. Russell, on November 9th, as follows:

  • re: “cases of poor compliance with setback distances, inadequate signage and ineffective advance notice of spraying,” your “office will bring these issues forward to the Department of Environment and Local Government which regulates these aspects of pesticide use”;
  • regarding when we could expect the report: “it is our understanding that its use is seasonal so we do not expect any significant spraying between now and the summer of 2016. We anticipate completing our action plan in advance of the next spraying season.” Subsequently, in a communication to Dr. Caroline Lubbedarcy, you promised the report this Spring.

Dr. Cleary’s impending and then actual dismissal broke in the media in early December 2015. At that time, the Deputy Minister of Health, the Minister of Health, and the Premier all affirmed that this report was forthcoming as originally promised. Spring is over, and the spray season has begun. Where is the report?

I am sure you are aware that new research is coming out all the time on these herbicide compounds.

A literature review by 14 diverse scientists called Concerns over use of glyphosate-based herbicides and risks associated with exposures: a consensus statement, was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environment Health on February 17, 2016. You will find the content in the appendices especially alarming. Other research suggests that glyphosate on its own is not nearly as bad as the complex herbicide formulation, glyphosate PLUS additives and adjutants, that make it work and are protected as “trade secrets.” As I understand it, these additional substances are what carry the glyphosate across cell walls and increase the hazards by untold magnitudes in a multitude of ways. Of huge concern to scientists studying glyphosate is that its use is so widespread: people’s exposures to the residue are pandemic, and tests show high concentrations in humans.

I am sure you are also aware that a 2001 Supreme Court of Canada decision affirmed government has a rightful mandate to apply the “precautionary principle” on the directly related matter of pesticides. The Consensus Statement referenced above clearly advocates for caution and care, and is part of the reason we are convinced that the precautionary principle must be applied to use of glyphosate here in New Brunswick. The precautionary principle can be understood as: first, do no harm; and, second, avoid doing things when there is a reasonable likelihood this could cause harm. The principle applies until the safety of the matter in question can be established.

Thousands and thousands of New Brunswickers share the concerns I have penned on behalf of our Kent County NB Chapter of the Council of Canadians. Valid population and environmental health research of the risks associated with these compounds is urgently needed. We sincerely hope that the report you have been working on will meet the tests for being valid, in depth and independent.

Please send me the report that we are promised.

Respectfully yours,

Ann Pohl
Chairperson, Kent County NB Chapter – Council of Canadians

Copies:

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Important Info: Forestry Protection Presentations on Clearcutting and Spraying

These presentations were made at the Peace & Friendship Alliance Meeting
in Rogersville, June 11, 2016. To become acquainted with the Alliance,
please ask to join our closed Facebook page of the same name. 

Caution: these notes are not verbatim. They are based on memory. In places, additional supporting information is included, to assist people getting active on forestry issues. 

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Yesterday, more than 60 residents from communities and groups in all four directions in New Brunswick gathered in Rogersville. Thanks to Le Buck Stop hunting club owner Gerry Vautour for the use his space, and to Gerry Leblanc for the beautiful signs and Leo Goguen for the artist’s materials.

It was the monthly gathering of the Peace and Friendship Alliance (P&FA), which moves around the province. The P&FA brings together Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Acadian, Anglo, and Newcomer New Brunswickers, to protect the natural environment that sustains all life on this planet. 

12662461_459506297576304_2396802875873503967_nThis meeting was jointly hosted by the Kent County Chapter of the Council of Canadians and the Rogersville Lumberjacks, with support from Kopit Lodge at Elsipogtog. All four New Brunswick chapters of the Council of Canadians were present, as were many other groups and individuals, especially concerned woodsmen from the Rogersville area. Both Kopit Lodge and Maliseet (Wolastoq) Grand Council were also represented.

Rogersville is a community where the forest is close to everyone’s heart. Throughout the day, there were six reports on our special theme: protecting the the natural indigenous Acadian forest life from clearcutting and the use of poisonous herbicides.

Kenneth Francis, Speaker for Kopit Lodge/Elsipogtog First Nation (EFN)
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This meeting was held in Mi’kma’ki, so the first presentation was from Elder Kenneth Francis of Kopit Lodge. “Kopit” means beaver, and is the animal that represents the Lodge because of its concern for the water. Kopit Lodge is the grassroots community organization mandated by Chief and Council to represent EFN in strategic and official consultations on natural resource issues.

Kenneth opened his presentation speaking about the Wabanaki People, who are of several different nations. All of Mi’kma’ki is part of this: seven distinct districts that traditionally extend from what is now the centre of New Brunswick to the north in Gaspe (Gespe’ke) to the east in Cape Breton (Unama’kik). All must be united in this Peace & Friendship Alliance, based on the treaty of the same name.

Kenneth spoke of two important things he has learned from his teachers. If you can speak your truth in a group, and people hear what you have to say, and you leave the room with the same number of allies you had when you entered, you did well. If you increased your alliances, you did very well.

As well, he remembered an historical tale about settlers discussing what the Mi’kmaq were like. One remarked to the other that, in the woods, they were part of nature, they were not separable from nature, it was all one sphere of life together. Kenneth said that is why they are preparing themselves for taking their issues into court.

Of greatest concern to Kopit and EFN is the poor way that the province is caretaking the environment, especially the devastation of clearcutting and spraying in the forest. For more than a year, Kenneth said, “We have been trying to get the provincial government to come to the table and consult with us on these issues. They keep ignoring us so we have to go the next step.” Recently Kopit/EFN served notice to the provincial government that they intend to file a claim for Aboriginal Title, to protect the environment for future generations.

Ken stressed that Kopit expects a dramatic increase in anti-Indigenous backlash, aimed at alienating non-Native allies from this strategic move. He provided some examples of what he has already started to see and what he thinks is coming. With a thank you to those present who have already expressed their support, Kenneth said Kopit has prepared some notes on what could be included in letters that non-Native environmentalists might choose to write to support the Kopit/EFN IMW (Protecting the Earth for Future Generations) legal strategy. (These guidelines are attached below.)

Leo Goguen, a lifelong outdoorsman and lumberjack from Rogersville NB

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Leo is also the Board Member representing Rogersville and Acadieville at the South East New Brunswick (SENB) Wood Marketing Board. He spoke about what he has seen in the forest since he was a boy. Leo brought in samples of branches from a local chopping that has been sprayed three times in recent years to suppress the natural forest. It is clear that patch of forest is determined to survive! Despite reports that have been widely circulated about how the animals will not eat the poisoned plants, Leo saw nine moose eating from this chopping last winter. Many local people hunt moose. One local hunter took a moose from this chopping, because the government says it is safe, and fed his five kids on it last winter.

Leo emphasized the extent to which private woodlot owners have been so marginalized in the industry, because they are unable to sell their wood at even break-even prices, thanks to provincial-corporate lumber agreements and also the lack of regulatory enforcement.

With equal amounts of irony and frustration, Leo said that privately-held woodlots have become by default the only protected forest areas in the province, because of how the 2014 Forest Management Agreement has cut protected areas to almost nothing and the fact that woodlot owners cannot afford to cut their woods for the corporate-owned mills.

Finally, he mentioned that NB Power, a provincial agency, uses herbicide sprays on their lines, and sometimes on older lines they may have neglected to get any consent from landowners. If anyone has a power line running through their property, you can call Rick Doucet at NB Power and ask to have your portion of the line put on their “No Spray” list: 506-470-8748. You need to provide NB Power with your Service New Brunswick PID number to get on this list.

Spasaqsit Possesom (Ron Tremblay), Grand Chief of the Wolastoq (Maliseet) Grand Council, agreed with Leo that putting pressure on NB Power is important. The Grand Council is seeking a meeting with NB Power to talk about their use of herbicide sprays.

Marcel Maillet, General Manager of the SENB Marketing Board

Before introducing Marcel, Leo told of an SENB meeting where the 120+- members present were asked by someone to stand if they opposed herbicide spraying on the forest. As far as Leo could see, everyone stood up. Marcel Maillet’s presentation confirmed that the South-East NB Marketing Board members are against the spraying.

Marcel introduced himself as coming from four generations of woodlot owenership, in Kent and Westmoreland counties, and he has 35 years of experience working in forestry. He said, “My father taught me to always respect the land and only take what you need… I don’t believe in using pesticides on forests. A forest is more than a tree farm.”

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Marcel tore apart the government and industry messaging that it is more financially economical to use spray “silviculture” than the old-style manual silviculture thinning.

After a chopping is cut, it is sprayed: this is called “seed spray.” A year or two later, when the soil has settled from the upheaval of clear-cut harvesting, the infant spruce trees are planted in the chopping. The area will be sprayed again late that summer or in early fall. After that it will be sprayed at least once more, sometimes 2 or 3 additional times. This is done to reduce the competition from the indigenous mixed Acadian forest fauna, many of whom grow much more quickly than the planted softwood trees. (The original forest plants and trees often come up from roots left in the soil.) 

Each time a clear-cut acre is sprayed it costs between $300 and $400 (let’s say an average of $350/acre). Therefore – at a bare minimum – it costs at least $1050 to do spray silvaculture on a one-acre chopping if only three sprays are needed: a seed spray, a spray right after planting, and one more. But remember, often more are required.  Our maple trees are the hardest to kill.

By contrast, manual silviculture by thinning costs about $300 per acre. It is most likely only needed twice, maybe 3 times, on a softwood plantation. It is less expensive and it makes jobs. A question was asked if there would be people to work these jobs, because industry/government suggest there are not. Both Leo and Marcel believe there would be silvaculturalists ready and happy to work. Not using the sprays eliminates the health impacts for humans and other life in the forest, means that nearby woodlots or fields will not be harmed by air-borne spray, and reduces the carbon-based environmental impact footprint on that area. If done in a mixed forest, to strengthen it, manual silvaculture thinning keeps the original forest intact making it more resilient to climatic and pest challenges. In the current market, hardwoods can be more profitable to harvest. 

The system we have now of using sprays for plantation silviculture only works because it is subsidized by the taxpayer through agreements between the lumbering corporations and the provincial government.

Comments from participants included: the true cost of the silviculture program should include health costs and flood costs as a result of clearcuts; and, Spruce Budworm spraying was stopped in NB because of the Migratory Bird Protection Act – NB  does not have strong legislation to protect the public, but strong legislation still exists under the Migratory Bird Act.

ECOvie from Restigouche Ouest

Next up were Francine Levesque and Jean MacDonald from ECOvie, a group from the Restigouche Ouest region of our province. Over 3,000 of the signatures on the petition against spraying that was filed with the NB Legislature came from their rural, sparsely settled area. Many people in that area have personal experiences with the wreckage and misery caused by clear-cutting and spraying.

Maple syrup production is currently a growing and employment-generating non-corporate natural industry in the area, and the maple products producers are set against the spraying. The hardwood mill in their region is a very well-respected local employer and more jobs like that would be a benefit to the area. 2016-05-19.jpg

ECOvie invited allies from around the province to support their plans to make more people aware exactly how clear-cutting and softwood plantation practices rely on the sprays, and of the need to stop the spraying. More will be announced about their plans as the spraying season approaches.

On August 27, the Peace and Friendship Alliance will meet in the Kedgwick area. Trailers and tents are welcome, if people want to come up the night before so they do not have such a long drive on the morning of the meeting.

Frank Johnston, Southeast Chapter of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick 

Frank is also a member of the provincial CCNB Board of Director’s Executive Committee. He presented a powerpoint show on loss of forest cover in the province since 2001, entitled, Forest Cover Loss in NB : A Process of Liquidation. It is a strong piece of scientifically assembled video research. Even better, it is available for groups and communities across the province to borrow, with or without Frank, because it has speaker notes embedded in it.

Between 2001 and 2012, New Brunswickers lost 1.7 times more of our public forest than has been replanted into the problematic industrial softwood tree plantations. It has not gotten better. Anyone living in or near the forest knows that the losses have gotten worse under the 2014 Forest Management Agreement signed by the Government of New Brunswick with JDI of the Irving group of companies, and now ratified by other major lumber corporations in the province. 

It is clear that we are losing good, indigenous mixed forest at a much greater rate than it is being replaced. The replanting is of only one species, which will not be climate change adaptable. Both the type of tree and the fact that it is monoculture makes our woods more susceptible to pest infestations which kill the trees and add to wildfire risks. 

Screenshot from 2016-06-13 10:40:00 Flooding is also a clear-cut side-effect, as we saw in Sussex area recently.

In another few weeks, Frank will be able to harness and start crunching the annual satellite-based data release from the University of Maryland on tree cover loss. Then he will be able to report on what the loss and replacement of tree cover looked like in 2015. It will be worse than previous years, based on anecdotal and photo evidence from around the province. But, it seems that in 2013, “a single clear cut above Thompson Road, South Branch” in Kings County, “369 contiguous hectares were cut even though 60 – 70 hectare cuts were the then current DNR guideline standard.” The majority of this cutting was on Crown Land License #6, held by JDI of the Irving group of companies (the minor part was adjacent freehold of unknown ownership). Likely, it was all cut for JDI by JDI’s subcontractors.

Frank concluded his talk saying that the management of Crown Land should return to the province, and that a vigorous program of “afforestation must replace the current policy of liquidation.”

There was discussion around his proposal for a “return to” management by the “province”. First, this offers no substantial protection for the environment based on how governments of different political parties all seem equally captured by the lumbering corporations whims. Secondly, the province does not have title to these lands: they have never been surrendered and have continuously been used for traditional uses by the original Indigenous Peoples. From an Indigenous rights perspective, especially now that Canada has fully agreed to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Mi’kmaq and the Wolastoq must be centrally involved in the management of the public forests. However, everyone agreed a new management regime is required and that an aggressive program of reforestration with mixed Acadian forest fauna is required, especially those plants that will be adaptable to climate changes.

Everyone was extremely appreciative of Frank’s work and presentation. Contact Frank c/o Tracy Glynn, Forestry staffer at CCNB, at <forest@conservationcouncil.ca>.

Stop Spraying New Brunswick (SSNB) Facebook Page 

Caroline Lubbe-Darcy presented this report. With the NB hunters and outdoors enthusiasts coming on board, support to end spraying in the forests has grown a lot. Doctors are also getting involved.

11140029_10153323672566365_9114381791770508962_nAt the rally on May 18, 2016 at the New Brunswick Legislature, a petition to stop spraying signed by almost 13,000 New Brunswickers was given to two MLA’s – David Coon and Gilles Lepage – who filed the petitions on behalf of  SSNB. David Coon raised this matter in the Legislature and Coon has circulated the response of then Minister of Natural Resources Denis Landry to this petition. As Landry is no longer Minister for this department, SSNB is going to follow up with the new Minister of Natural Resources. Everyone is asked to push for many more signed petitions for the next filing date: the deadline for getting these to SSNB is September 10th.

Caroline also reminded people to let NB Power know if you do not want them to spray herbicides on hydro line that is on your property. The info on this is on the SSNB FB page, where one can also find reports about glyphosate and other herbicides, and see photos of clear cuts and the damage being done to our forests. People are reminded to film or photograph clear cut areas, using gps tracking information if possible, and upload these visuals to the SSNB page.

SSNB volunteers are working on information sheets on the impacts of herbicide sprays. There was some discussion on this, with general agreement that public information is essential but many people feeling short videos are more effective. Caroline emphasized that the info sheets they envisage will be brief as most people do not have a lot of time for in-depth reading. There was also discussion of using consumer pressure on the companies that use the sprays.

An exciting development that will be very helpful is the beginning of a Spray Caucus through the New Brunswick Environment Network (NBEN). NBEN has helped many other grassroots environmental movements to network through regularly-scheduled caucus teleconferences. Both the Fredericton and the Kent County chapters of the Council of Canadians are members of NBEN and took part in the first discussion to set up this teleconference network.

Only organizations (not individuals) can take part in these “phone meetings’ – either groups that belong to the NBEN, or those who are nominated by a member group to join the caucus, who then become associate members. So, now is the time to form your own little group with concerned friends and neighbours – it is easier to get things done with a group, and you could consider joining this new caucus! 

Brainstorming Where to Next, To Stop Spraying?

After these presentations concluded, there was an open “brainstorming” discussion. Details from that are not being shared in this document. Many of the ideas were in preliminary stages and need more planning and networking to be fully developed. In general, some points made included: showing how much we value our forests by being in them in a good way; increasing public education including finding places for Frank to present his presentation, and also use of short videos; developing consumer pressure strategies; developing more diverse tactical strategies for getting changes in provincial policies; focusing on climate action issues.

Mark D’Arcy remarked, “I hope there is such a multitude of events on this issue in the next few months that none of us can keep track of them.”

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All four New Brunswick Council of Canadians chapters Present and Accounted For!


Main Points for letters of support re Kopit/EFN aboriginal title claim,
which are to make clear that allies support this legal action:

  1. acknowledge the ongoing injustices endured by Mi’kmaq People, all of which have been done to steal the land and resources from the People, so the title and rights of the People must be affirmed by the courts
  2. recognize that Canadian laws and governments cannot adequately protect the regional natural environment, presently the only hope for protection of the natural environment is through assertion of Aboriginal title, which will result in the Mi’kmaq people being in a caretaking position for the region’s resources, lands, waters, and air
  3. undo the corporate capture of New Brunswick and help promote genuine democracy in this region, where all people have a say in matters that pertain to and govern their everyday lives

Address to:
Kenneth Francis, Speaker for Kopit Lodge at Elsipogtog First Nation

Mail to Kopit/EFN lawyer:
Bruce McIvor, First Peoples Law, 111 Water Street,
Suite 300, Vancouver, BC   V6B 1A7

Email:
To:
kgunn@firstpeopleslaw.com,
CC. to: imw.legalfund@gmail.com