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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NEEDED: realtime reporting from DFO on injured fish near Bay of Fundy tidal turbine

Letter sent today, and now copied to this blog.
Please consider writing to any recipients re: your concerns about these matters. 

Kent County Chapter, Council of Canadians
coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com
May 19, 2017

Regional Director General, Maritimes Region, DFO
PO Box 1006, 
1 Challenger Drive, Dartmouth NS B2Y 4A2
(transmitted by email <mary-ellen.valkenier@dfo-mpo.gc.ca>)

Dear Ms. Mary-Ellen Valkenier:

Ultimately, we would like to see an abundance of public faith in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) habitat and species protection services. This would mean we can all work together to protect our oceans and rivers for future generations. Building that positive relationship starts with accountability, openness, transparency, and – last but not least – communication.

For a week now, there have been social media reports from Nova Scotia about finding injured fish in the Minas Basin/Passage area. Here are just a few images of these fish with ugly, huge gashes on them.

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It is not at all clear what is causing this damage. Citizen scientists, fisherfolk and scholars seem to feel this is not caused by natural predators. Based on looking at the shape of the injuries, many people express the opinion that the damage was done by something metal. According to social media again, the fish who are being wounded are coming in from the Bay of Fundy, so they are necessarily swimming right past the Cape Sharp controversial experimental tidal turbine. The river fish, already upstream of the turbine, are fine.

We are pleased to learn, again from social media, that your department is taking this matter seriously and is sending investigatory personnel into the area promptly. We recall the apparent delays by DFO regarding investigatory personnel and resource allocation when the tragic herring die-off happened a few months ago in the upper Bay of Fundy. Many people believe this was related to the turbine, albeit in a different way. So, we are grateful for your diligent attention to this matter of the slashed fish in the same region.

In April 2017, Cape Sharp announced its turbine would be lifted from the Minas Passage by mid-month. We have recently learned that the turbine is still in its original location. According to social media, this is perhaps because something wrapped around the turbine has prevented its removal? It is also news on social media that the cables were cut. This would mean that the inadequate cameras that were there are no longer operating. However, although the turbine has been disconnected, another social media report says Cape Sharp has acknowledged that the blades are still turning, with the force of the world’s highest tides. The turbine is just outside the inlet where the injured fish are being found.

We also hear by social media that the Cape Sharp developer has announced its intention to place the turbine elsewhere in the Bay when they do manage to lift it. As the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association commented earlier this week, if true this is of grave concern to all who are concerned for the sustainability of marine animals who live in the Bay of Fundy. It is also noteworthy that it seems Cape Sharp has not engaged in an Environmental Assessment process to relocate their turbine elsewhere in the Fundy.

We are alarmed that all this information is coming to our chapter via social media. Our chapter is well known to DFO as being concerned about coastal and marine issues in this region. While we are pleased to learn that your department is taking this new crisis seriously and responding promptly, we want to underscore that receiving this information second- or third-hand via Facebook is far from ideal.

To ensure public confidence in your efforts, the huge number of concerned people must be kept up-to-date on your efforts and your findings (or lack of them) in real time. We trust you will begin immediately to share daily updates online about: what is being looked at by whom; what procedures are being done in these investigations; what you are looking for; and, what you are learning. You eventually got around to doing this with the herring issue. Please start now with this crisis. You may also learn some useful things by opening this dialogue.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Respectfully yours,

Ann Pohl
Kent County NB Chapter, Council of Canadians
coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com

copies to:

  • Council of Canadians Chapters across Canada 
  • Premier Stephen McNeil <premier@gov.ns.ca> 
  • The Hon Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries & Oceans Canada    <dominic.leblanc@parl.gc.ca> 
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau <justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca> 
  • Bay of Fundy Inshore Fisherman’s Association <colinsproul@hotmail.com>

oceandefender

 

 

Earth Day Art Exhibit

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“Maybe we can ask these young people to run the country. I think they would do a better job of it.” 

In March 2017, our Kent County NB chapter of the Council of Canadians made a call out to children and youth in our region, asking for art to celebrate the upcoming Earth Day. Some of the young artists who responded used “Earth Day” as their topic.

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One of our hopes is that the opportunity to take part in our exhibit would give teachers a straight-forward way to engage their students in thinking about our environment. Some were delighted to be asked! In all we had 169 individual and group entries in our show. The  teacher of the Grade One class at l’école Marée Montante in Saint-Louis-de-Kent used the theme J’♥ la Terre with her students:

Our area is deeply interwoven with streams, rivers, wetlands, ponds and of course the shore. The water helps sustain many families, even by “recreational” fishing.  Not surprisingly, especially with the recent defence our communities mounted to stop deep shale hydraulic fracking here, quite a few of the entries focussed on The Water. Some of the artists did projects on species at risk. Others produced dramatic statements with their imagery or words. Some emphasized the importance of water. Without water, we do not have life on our planet.

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Four of the artists just wanted us to Save Earth, and here concern about fracking is mentioned specifically:

Here we see a wide range of current environmental issues on the minds and in the hearts of our young people, expressed deeply and beautifully:

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Two of our entries were about protecting the bees:

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Some of the artists highlighted The Trees:

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Recycling is another theme that the artists worked with — and they also addressed just doing something as simple as picking up garbage:

We offered six prizes for participation. All names were thrown into a hat. Three of the prizes were donated, and three came from our chapters’ piggy-bank. Six community leaders were invited to draw the names for the prizes. Shown below are five of them. Not shown is the principal of Bonar Law High School, who drew the sixth prize name.

From left to right below you can see Robert Francis (Counciller, Elsipogtog First Nation), Roger Doiron (le Maire de Richibucto), Randy Warman (Mayor of Rexton), Armin Arend (Chair of the Weldford Local Service District). In the bottom right photo you see Kevin Augustine (member of Kopit Lodge at Elsipogtog), with two chapter volunteers.

It was really exciting for us to bring together these community leaders, some of whom have never met, even though they leave right “next door” in a rural sense. Colonialism has left deep divides between the founding Peoples of our region. Although the determination to stop fracking here united almost everyone for all three founding cultures and newcomers as well, some are settling into their own silos now that this immediate threat is not so oppressive. So, to have these leaders come together to celebrate Earth Day with us — and spend a bit of time talking with each other — was terrific!

Just for the fun of it, here are some grouped shots of the art as it was hung on the walls in the room at the community centre. We had so many entries we could not even fit in the ones from Bonar Law High School, although their work is included in this show, and a special prize was added to thank them for participation.

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Back to the artwork, several of the artists submitted work on one-of-a-kind themes:
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In case you did not catch some of the fine print, alongside some outstanding creations there is a plea for a return to animal-powered farming and a dire warning about having to live under a dome if we do not take care of our planet.

The attendance was terrific. We did not count visitors but we did see several rushes, and we also had people coming in before the start time and for two hours straight! We certainly did not get enough photos of the attendees — nor their contact info, a big mistake for a group like ours. But hey, this was our first time and we had no idea how much response there would be. When we do it again, we will use a guest book for sure!

An undertaking like this is not possible without volunteers. Hip, hip, hooray! for the hours and dedication from our chapter’s co-leads on this project, Debbie Hopper and Denise Melanson. Also helping were borrowed hands Louise Melanson and Judy McKie from Fredericton, and chapter stalwarts Nancy Alcox and Ann Pohl.

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Where did all the greenery come from? Yes there was still snow on the ground when we did this exhibit. A community member donated 50 oak seedlings to be shared with participants and viewers.
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Here are the winning participants (one is a class, and one was a pair of kids working together) :


Wanting to leave the sharing of this wonderful undertaking on the highest note possible, here are a few remaining artists celebrating the beauty of our planetary home:

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One class group wrote a song that played with a powerpoint,
and we are trying to get that up on here too.

Some people critique Earth Day as meaningless, but for us in our community, it was a great initiative to bring people together across cultural and community boundaries, and to stimulate reflection on environmentalism among teachers, students and parents. Every little bit of awareness helps. In really rural areas, like much of Kent County, there are few opportunities like this for gentle, positive discussion about our current environmental crisis. Let the kids lead us! Next year we hope to do it again.

Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking for a Meeting to Discuss Coastal Life & Ocean Protection

Kent County NB Chapter, Council of Canadians
coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com

February 16, 2017

The Right Honourable, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 
House of Commons 
Ottawa, Ontario Canada K1A 0A6

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:

Following on your commitment to be accessible to grassroots Canadians, we are writing to ask for a face-to-face meeting with you. The topics of conversation for this meeting are generally summed up in the attached [linked] document, A Call Out to Mobilize for Coastal Life and Ocean Protection.

You can see by the also attached information regarding our petition Honour the Fundy’s Dead Herring that many thousands of Canadians join us in these concerns. As well, many more thousands of people around the world share these concerns, so Canada’s reputation as an environmentally conscious nation is at stake. Under separate cover, I am sending you the signatories to this petition.

The Mobilize document was prepared for our sister Council of Canadians chapters. We asked them to join us in a grassroots campaign to seek dialogue with you, concerning our mutual goal of improved policies and programs for coastal life and ocean protection.

Prime Minister Trudeau, as a first step we are asking you to meet with our representatives. You will note at the conclusion of this letter that 24 other chapters of the Council of Canadians are in support of our request.

Why do we ask to meet with you?

  1. A letter regarding the issues in this petition was sent, on January 3, 2017, to yourself, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc, and the Premiers of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. We have not received any response to the issues raised in that letter.

  2. For Maritimes’ Council of Canadians chapters, these issues are very urgent. For example, many of us approach the time of the Herring’s Spring Run in the uppermost Bay of Fundy with some dread, fearing a repeat of the events of November/16 to January/17. For more on the herring die-off issues, please see this link from December 2016 and this one from January 2017.

  3. As Prime Minister of Canada, you are the one ultimately responsible for stewardship of our land and waters. It is on your shoulders that the fiduciary duty of care for future generations rests.

The petition closes today. We are notifying all signatories to the petition about our request for a meeting with you. We are certain a report on what is discussed in our meeting will be eagerly anticipated by the more than 70,000 people who signed the petition.

We agree with you that your government must be:

  • transparent and accountable to the electorate;

  • accessible to all people in Canada regardless of geography, culture or socioeconomic class;

  • a responsible world citizen on environmental issues at this crucial time in human history.

We, the undersigned, hope you will agree to meeting with our Council of Canadians’ community representatives at your earliest possible convenience.

Respectfully yours,

Ann Pohl,  Council of Canadians – Kent County NB Chapter

Co-signatories:

  • Ken Kavanagh, Council of Canadians – St. John’s NL Chapter
  • Anne Levesque, Council of CanadiansInverness County NS Chapter
  • Marion Moore, Council of CanadiansSouth Shore NS Chapter
  • Betty Wilcox, Council of CanadiansPEI Chapter
  • Barbara Quigley, Council of CanadiansMoncton NB Chapter
  • Garry Guild, Council of Canadians – Fredericton NB Chapter
  • Abdul Pirani, Council of Canadians – Montreal PQ Chapter 
  • Phil Soublière, Council of Canadians – Ottawa ON Chapter
  • Diane Ballantyne, Council of Canadians – Centre Wellington ON Chapter 
  • Lynne Rochon, Council of Canadians – Quinte ON Chapter 
  • Roy Brady, Council of Canadians – Peterborough and Kawarthas Chapter 
  • Hart Jannson, Council of Canadians – Halton ON Chapter 
  • Fiona McMurran,Council of Canadians South Niagara ON Chapter 
  • Lin Grist, Council of Canadians Guelph ON Chapter 
  • David Lubell, Council of Canadians Kitchener-Waterloo ON Chapter 
  • Doug Hayes, Council of Canadians Windsor-Essex ON Chapter 
  • Faye MacFarlane, Council of Canadians Northumberland ON Chapter
  • Terri MacKinnon, Council of Canadians Sudbury ON Chapter 
  • Mary Robinson, Council of Canadians Winnipeg MB Chapter 
  • Scott Blyth, Council of Canadians Brandon/Westman MB Chapter

  • Elaine Hughes, Council of Canadians Quill Plains SK Chapter
  • Lois Little, Council of Canadians NWT Chapter

  • Suzy Coulter, Council of Canadians – Chilliwack BC Chapter
  • Lynn Armstrong, Council of Canadians – Delta-Richmond BC Chapter
  • Barbara Pollock, Council of Canadians – Victoria/Halton BC Chapter
  • Donna Cameron, Council of Canadians – Cowichan Valley BC Chapter  
  • Alice de Wolff, Council of Canadians – Comox Valley BC Chapter
  • Patricia Cocksedge, Council of Canadians Powell River BC Chapter
  • Rich Hagensen, Council of Canadians Campbell River BC Chapter

( ^^ This list was updated on February 28th.
Five more chapters were added. More are still considering.)

**UPDATE** On February 21st, we received a communication from the Prime Minister’s office saying our request has been passed on to the appropriate section. Today (Feb 28th) a supplementary communication was sent to the PM with the additional endorsing Chapter names, and a PDF that contains the 72,600+ names of people who signed our petition (mentioned above, now closed). We hope he will agree to meet with us soon.** 

Copies of this letter were sent to co-signing chapters, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Dominic LeBlanc), and to others in the Council of Canadians. Notice of the letter being sent was posted on the petition mentioned above. Now we wait to see what response this will get. Stay tuned. If you want to make sure you stay in touch on this issue, email a request to coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com to be added to our Salt Waters Protection email list. Wela’liek, Merci and Thank You. Water is Life. 

download-11Water Is Life.

Chi Miigs & credit to Isaac Murdoch for the generous donation
of his artwork to the movement.

A Call Out to Mobilize for Coastal Life and Ocean Protection

Prepared for circulation to all Water Protectors:
Our Allies, in and around the Council of Canadians

Near Saglek Bay in Nunatsiavut, the homeland of the Labrador Inuit. ©Ossie Michelin

All waters—fresh and salt—are connected

For more than 30 years the Council of Canadians has been a leader on fresh water protection in Canada. In 1999, we published a comprehensive National Water Policy advocacy brief regarding how to protect watersheds and implementation of the human right to water.

Fresh water flows into the sea. Contaminants that flow into rivers and streams from industrial pollution, such as fracking and burst tailing pond dams, drain into estuaries, bays, seas, and oceans. These contaminants compound the abuse and neglect already poisoning the salt-watery majority of our planet. Survival of marine life, already stressed by acidification and warming waters, is further compromised.

The Council of Canadians is not loosening our efforts on freshwater issues. This is a “both/and,” because the planet’s waters are all connected. We are calling out across our organization, and to allies, to develop a coordinated, unified, strategic campaign on protecting coastal life and ocean waters. In a separate communication sent today, 24 chapters of the Council of Canadians ask the Prime Minister of Canada to meet with us to discuss the issues raised in this call to action.

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The magic of life in coastal waters, Gaburus, Cape Breton Island, NS. ©George Griffen

Our coasts are being neglected

Canada has a huge global stewardship responsibility. We have more oceanfront than any other nation. Gaining protective legislative and regulatory measures will not be easy. The plethora of issues is compounded by official lethargy and avoidance.

Every day, volunteers in the Council of Canadians‘ community chapters work with people from local networks and environmental NGO’s across Canada to advocate for marine life and salt water protection. We are united in alarm about the contamination that will certainly result from hundreds of oil and gas export tankers, each day, crossing the fragile and stressed waters of the Georgia Strait, Salish Sea, other western coastal waters, Bay of Fundy, Gulf of Maine, Beaufort Sea, and more of our shore waters. Much of the intended export material is bitumen, which truly cannot be cleaned from the water after a spill. Each of these areas provides habitats for designated species at risk and/or for marine life on which Indigenous Peoples and others depend for sustainable livelihoods.

In particular, Atlantic Canadians feel betrayed by government on marine protection: “Frankenfish” in PEI; aquaculture diseases spreading to wild populations (despite government assurances this would never happen); the evaporation of Newfoundland’s cod fishery; the loss of the salmon fishery in New Brunswick; the loss of some unique Striped Bass spawning habitat in Nova Scotia; off-shore drilling throughout the near Atlantic Ocean; etc.

Darren Porter’s Herring Weir, Minas Basin, NS. When other fish are caught,
such as this stupendous Striped Bass, they are released. ©Erica Danae Porter 

Countless millions of dead herring: a case in point

Beginning mid-November 2016, dramatic mortalities of herring were evident in the Bay of Fundy—a powerful, unique ecosystem boasting the highest tides in the world, and is home to rare species such as the Right Whale, provides spawning grounds for the Striped Bass, and has a flourishing ecotourism industry.

Why the big fuss about the humble herring? The herring are a primary food source for larger marine life in the Fundy, as well as people food, bait for shellfish traps, and a significant resource export. Without herring, the Fundy fisheries collapse.

Contrary to frequent public messaging, energy generation by tidal turbines can seriously harm marine life. Depending on design, direct strikes can kill and injure animals caught in the mechanism. Arguably more insidious is the noise, vibration and pressure change disruption of the marine environment. Many at-risk sea mammals, and forage fish like herring, have very sensitive auditory biology. Despite the urgent need to generate energy from non-fossil fuel sources, this calls into question tidal power’s “green” status.

In April 2016, the Science Advisory Committee for the Maritimes of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) reviewed a proposal to install an experimental tidal turbine in the upper Bay of Fundy. The DFO advisory committee clearly said the proponent’s baseline data was inadequate to establish an environmental monitoring plan. The province of Nova Scotia immediately approved the turbine’s deployment in the Minas Passage. Fishers’ associations are currently taking the province to court over this inconsistency.

Left: Busy Digby Harbour, NS. ©Pics by Mitch (FB)  
Right:  Sandy Beach, on the Northumberland Strait, NB. ©George Griffen

Turbine deployment happened in early November 2016. Within days of the onset of testing and commissioning, dead herring began beaching further down the Bay. DFO’s response was sluggish. While die-offs continued, the department spent weeks testing and retesting for “the usual suspects”: viruses, bacteria, algae bloom toxins, and predators. DFO acknowledged a unique “densification” or “aggregation” of herring in the die-off bays and coves (ie. overcrowding), but had no explanation for the phenomenon. (See this “A Sequel” link for more info on herringcide investigations and theories.) 

Many residents, including fisherfolk, are certain the herring were affected by the turbine. People who know these waters believe the herring fled from the Minas area to similar marine environments further down the Bay. Injured or overcrowded, that is where the herring were seen swimming abnormally, losing strength, and ultimately dying. Repeated calls to government and industry – to please stop the turbine to determine if it was the cause of the herring die-off, or to send cameras and divers to the bottom of the Fundy in the Minas area – were ignored.

Throughout the entire “herringcide” event, DFO refused to acknowledge that the synchronous turbine disruption of the Bay’s marine environment demanded serious evaluation. Many observers feel this is due to politics: Nova Scotia wants tidal turbines to succeed. The province has invested a lot of cash and political capital in creating the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) to start-up major tidal energy generation. Powerful corporations see a huge market for “green” Canadian electricity along the US eastern seaboard, involving undersea cable links from the controversial Muskrat Falls in Labrador, biomass generation at Point Tupper NS, and upcoming Fundy tidal generation.

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Seal near Annapolis Royal, off the Bay of Fundy, NS. ©Pix by Mitch (FB)

Deepening the public’s scorn for DFO’s controversial “look over here, not over there” herringcide investigation, a 2013 Memorandum of Understanding surfaced in early January 2017. This gives the National Energy Board responsibility to assess risk to fish and fish habitat near proposed pipelines and power lines. The possible existence of a similar understanding regarding FORCE initiatives in Nova Scotia could explain DFO evading questions about the new turbine’s possible effect on herring.

Like all such development proposals in Canada, Cape Sharp/Emera’s turbine in Minas Passage went through a provincial environmental impact assessment (EIA). This means that the proponent contracted a company that wrote an EIA report. The government then reviewed the paperwork, and approved the application. In some such instances, governments put conditions on approval, but the proponent is responsible for undertaking, monitoring, and reporting on their own compliance. This process is ridiculous. Asking the fox to install security for the henhouse is unacceptable and makes a mockery of the intent and meaning of environmental assessment.

In the past two months, more than 70,000 international and Canadian individuals have signed a petition calling on federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant to address the issue of herring die-offs. On January 3, 2017, an open letter was sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and all these other political leaders, bringing their attention to the petition and asking for a response on key points. To date, none of the aforementioned have responded.

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Bull Kelp on beach, Tofino, B.C. ©Alexandre Robichaud

The system is failing marine life, and us

This environmental crisis has brought to the forefront a host of broader concerns. DFO simply does not seem to be up to the job of protecting marine life. We understand that DFO’s scientific and species/habitat protection mandate is undermined by its multi-pronged mandate. Most significantly, DFO was hard hit by the extreme politicization of science, including restructuring and defunding, that happened during the Harper regime. At that time, scientists were muzzled, protection legislation was gutted, and key programs and personnel terminated.

As mentioned above, EIA processes across Canada do not protect the environment, and other protective legislation was stripped of its powers by the Harper regime. The Justin Trudeau government came into power promising to renew and revitalize Canada’s environmental regulatory system. Standing Committees and panels recently finished consultations on these ravaged laws. Each committee, dealing with each legislation, picked which major cities to visit (or not). All ignored frontline rural areas that are often most impacted by poor regulations. In the online consultation option, the questions funneled towards the interests of big government, not the affected communities. We will be watching to see what these consultations generate.

Left: Humpback whale & friends enjoy herring snack. Cape Bonavista, NL. ©George Griffen   Right: Loon in winter coat, enjoying aneel, Bay of Fundy shore. ©Pix by Mitch

Environmentalist confidence in the Trudeau government further deteriorated with the November announcement of the Ocean Protection Program. Billed as being about proactive protection of the oceans, it prioritizes putting more resources towards clean up costs after anticipated shipping and pipeline accidents on our coasts. This is useful but not “protective,” which means “preventative” or “precautionary.” The Program also touts creation of more marine protected areas. Meanwhile, the very fragile and important Gulf of St. Lawrence is still open for oil and gas exploration where, intentionally or not, the planning processes are going slower than industry is moving.

“Consultation” seems to be the main public relations strategy of the current government. During the regulatory-related consultation processes in Fall 2016, many directly-affected stakeholders lacked resources and capacity to be at all tables and forums. In this vacuum, the Prime Minister recently held a few “pop-up” community town halls to demonstrate his sincere interest in hearing from ordinary Canadians. He was not seen in directly-affected or -threatened rural communities.

When marine life or habitat decimation occurs, other legal and ethical precepts come into play. In the instance of the herringcide, this happened on unceded Mi’kmaq territory. All of Canada is traditional Indigenous territory. The federal government has trustee responsibility for stewardship and protection of the resources, and is required to ensure that future generations of “Aboriginal” or Indigenous Peoples can enjoy their inherent rights to these resources. When profound environmental degradation occurs, the federal government is abrogating its fiduciary duty. Numerous related court cases are already in motion, eating up funds and personnel time that could go towards genuine protection. (See, for example, this link.)

More crises like the herringcide will be commonplace as our climate increasingly crisps and crumbles. Whenever this happens, those with the most direct knowledge of marine environments must be recognized as experts about what is happening in our own backyards: Indigenous traditional knowledge holders, fisherfolk, citizen scientists, naturalists, local environmental advocacy organizations, and ecotourism operators. These experts must be deliberately sought out, and not evaded or fought, by departments and agencies such as Environment and Climate Change Canada, DFO, and provincial departments. We should not have to go to court to keep corporate actions in line with the public good.

The Council of Canadians represents more than 100,000 people across this nation in a network of more than 60 grassroots volunteer-based chapters who work with a wide cross-section of allies. The Council’s volunteers are backed by a national staff of experts. We deserve an opportunity to have the Prime Minister meet with us about meaningful protection of our marine areas.


Published on February 16, 2017 by the Council of Canadians – Kent County NB Chapter.
Contact us at coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com.

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Swallowtail Lighthouse, Grand Manan, NB. ©Deborah Carr

Please Note: we will soon post our letter to the Prime Minister asking for a meeting.
It has already been co-signed by 25 Council of Canadians chapters across the country.  

An Open Letter to Political Leaders re: Marine Life Protection in the Bay of Fundy

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~ photos: Jennifer Thibodeau, Bruce Hewey,  various news sources, social media posts ~

January 3, 2017

Addressed to:

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
  • Dominic LeBlanc, Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO)
  • Stephen McNeil, Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia
  • Brian Gallant, Premier of the Province of New Brunswick

Dear Sirs:

“Canada’s Ocean playground has become Canada’s ocean graveyard,” commented Robert from New Brunswick on 0ur petition demanding leadership from your governments regarding the huge crisis that has been occurring in the Bay of Fundy for the past six weeks. At the time of writing this Open Letter to you, more than 53,000 signatories make this request:

We petition Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Minister Dominic LeBlanc, Nova Scotia Premier McNeil and New Brunswick Premier Gallant to call a joint public conference with concerned citizens and the media, to provide updates regarding the herring die-offs, and to indicate steps that will be taken immediately to improve transparency, collaboration, reporting, and resourcing between citizens and frontline DFO staff.

Living creatures in and around the Fundy will be coping with this disaster for a long time. In fact, it will get worse, not better, while not necessarily in exactly the same way. The Bay of Fundy, as part of the Gulf of Maine, faces major challenges due to the fossil fuel and methane pollution rapidly changing the chemistry of the world’s oceans.

Our publicly-funded scientists must be unrelenting in search of identification of contributing causes. Instead, after virtually hiding for more than five weeks, regional DFO staff emerged on Friday December 30th. (That link is to national CTV coverage. This link is to local coverage: by listening to one story and letting it run onto the next and next, you can get a good chronology of the past week.) DFO comments appear dismissive: there is nothing to be concerned about, the event appears to be over, it is not “environmental,” etc., while they are unashamed to say it’s “perplexing.”

DFO has made some huge mistakes in the past, as post-mortem analyses of the collapse of the Cod fishery shows. (Please note the comment in there about DFO’s “failure to recognize environmental changes and their impact on the groundfish fishery”). Does DFO now know how to listen for alarm bells? Sadly, it does not seem so. On both coasts, and in every province between (see comments on our petition), people report DFO’s outright dismissiveness of community concerns. It appears that sometimes DFO goes even further and deliberately misinforms. Deliberate action or lack of capacity, you leaders MUST step in to prevent DFO from fumbling the ball any longer.

The November/December 2016 Fundy fish crisis is terrible beyond words, but we are not just concerned about that event. We certainly do not want to see you leaders get yourself off the hook by throwing individual staffers under the bus. You cannot blame the staff. It is the political leadership that sets the tone and determines expectations about priorities, so our sights are set for a larger and more significant goal.

We watched the previous federal government, under Stephen Harper, conduct a war on science and environmental protection regulation. This article, La recherche fédérale sur la pollution décimée par le gouvernement Harper (Federal Pollution Research Decimated by the Harper Government), published in Quebec’s Le Soliel in June 2012, provides some insight on this matter. The remaining staff in the “decimated federal government’s DFO had to learn to shut up to keep their jobs. For scientists and nature advocates, this means shutting down their brains and closing their hearts.

Prime Minister Trudeau, although the only federal politician addressed in our petition is your close colleague Dominic LeBlanc, DFO Minister, we added you to this Open Letter. You are really the one person with full duty of care for protection of the Bay of Fundy. In your recent Ocean Protection Plan announcement you commit to “ensure the health of our oceans for generations to come” because our coastal habitats are “rich” in “biodiversity and precious ecosystems” that “offer unparalleled economic, recreational, and tourism opportunities.” Step up and put muscle behind that promise. The past six weeks show that staff in departments such as DFO do not understand you are serious about this.

Prime Minister, your government has recently held all manner of public consultations about laws that need to be revised, reinstated, and/or upgraded to increase protection of our precious water and land and air in Canada. Now we understand you have funded the World Wildlife Federation to do some “buffer” consultations on related matters, such as “ocean zoning” for competing marine uses. It is obvious that “ocean zoning” is not a panacea. While it may work for industries of various types, the fact is water and marine life move around constantly.

Valid and inclusive terms of reference and resourcing are needed to create a wide-view research analysis such as this one from British Columbia. The fact that the Harper regime decimated this BC process makes it clear this is close to what we really need. It could lead to the logical and positive outcome of the entire Bay of Fundy region being officially recognized as a United Nations Biosphere Reserve, instead of the existing smaller region of the Fundy. We need the big picture validly consolidated, with sustainability as the first objective from here on. While gearing up for that, we also need answers to some of the questions citizens have been asking for weeks now. In a crisis of this proportion, no stone should be unturned:

  1. How soon can DFO provide a map of all sites where water was tested and cameras were sent to the Fundy, in the Bay, in estuaries, and in freshwaters leading to the estuaries, with appended results from those tests, as well as numbers of mortalities seen at each site on each day?
  2. DFO keeps saying they should have more test results in two weeks, etc. What are the outstanding tests, why are they taking so long, and when will be they be available?
  3. Have the dead herring been examined for symptoms of swim bladder damage, specifically: ruptured bladders, emphysema in the heart ventricle, emboli in the rete mirabile, emboli in the head kidney?
  4. Is there a clear correlation between temperature drops and major mortality reports for any or all species?
  5. Have provincial authorities in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick taken a careful and exhaustive look at possible land-based toxins that could have seeped into the water?
  6. What studies have been done to determine that the Cape Sharp turbine noise, vibrations, and pressure changes do not factor into these mortalities in any way? Because the two events began on the same day, what consideration has been given to stopping the turbine to see if that makes a difference?
  7. What research colleagues were contacted or studies were done to determine that whales were not part of this event? We ask this because of the dead whale on the same shoreline, which was not detected in DFO’s “flyovers.”
  8. Fundy Fishermen say “everything is out of whack.” True and will continue to be truer with dramatic climate and weather changes due to anthropogenic/industrial causes. Despite global climate and ocean chemistry issues, we can protect against exacerbating factors that make Marine Life more vulnerable. One related study would be to analyze why there is such an unusually large number of herring in the affected areas. Has DFO looked at this and if so, what have they learned?

These are just a few of the questions that citizen scientists, concerned scholars, marine life advocates, and others, want answered. We want them answered in a public, transparent, and collaborative information-sharing process. Think of the opportunity you have to contribute to world marine ecology science by making sure DFO staff (and whoever else is needed) understand that getting these answers is essential, and providing them with full independent mandate and resources to do the work. From these answers will come some of the terms of reference for the large urgent study.

Messieurs Gallant, LeBlanc, McNeil and Trudeau, do you recall what happened recently in the United States and in England when their populaces became convinced that their governments were not listening?

You all have to set the example for the DFO staff who have been psychologically “decimated” by the previous federal government regime. You need to show them it is not just “ok” but expected that they will function at top-speed, transparently, respectfully to concerned citizens, etc., in a crisis such as this. Canada’s public service scientists need to be convinced that the reign of terror is over. They need to know that the public and environmental good is what you expect them to diligently research and advocate, and that there will be no personal consequences or repercussions.

This is now also an international controversy. Make no mistake, Canadians and especially Maritimers, are devastated by this and angry at the slow government response but your problem is even larger than that. Most of the petitions’ signatories are from all over the world. All water is connected, so every planetary person has a valid reason for concern. As well, there have been similar unexplained die-offs recently in Iceland, England, Chile, and elsewhere. Do Canada’s federal and provincial Liberal governments want a reputation of not caring to mobilize resources to investigate this huge crisis? Suppose awareness slows tourism and seafood contracts? Instead of deepening the disaster, we could have a reputation as world leaders in the fight to protect the humble herring, an unsung true hero in marine and human food chains.

As leaders, you need to be seen to be acting, and you must also act effectively. We need good governance, transparency, accountability, responsiveness, appropriate prioritizing, and evidence that you are listening to concerned people. We invite you to visit our petition site and read the text of our call to action as well as the comments of signatories, who believe we are at an exceedingly fragile moment in human history. You must lead in a way that seeks to restore ecological balance as the highest priority. Are you up to the job?

Respectfully yours,
Ann Pohl, Council of Canadians – Kent County NB Chapter
Jean Louis Deveau, Council of Canadians – Fredericton NB Chapter
Ken Kavanagh, Atlantic Representative/COC Board of Directors (St. John’s NL Chapter)
Marion Moore, Council of Canadians – South Shore NS Chapter
Leticia Adair, , Council of Canadians – Saint John NB Chapter
Leo Broderick, Council of Canadians – PEI Chapter
Pamela Ross, Council of Canadians – Moncton NB Chapter

Brent Patterson, Political Director, National Office, The Council of Canadians

cc.
Catherine Blewett, Deputy Minister, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)
Morley B. Knight, Maritimes Regional Director General, DFO

***Endorsing chapters updated as of January 5th.***

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Remarks to the Hon. Brian Kenny, the Most Important Cabinet Minister in New Brunswick Government

On March 2, 2016, 17 member groups in the New Brunswick Environment Network (NBEN) attended a 1.5 hours meeting with Brian Kenny, Minister of the Environment for New Brunswick, and three of his senior staff. Thank you to NBEN’s Mary Ann Coleman and Raissa Marks for organizing this opportunity for an exchange of information and issues.

Major items discussed included: how “regional planning” might help with environmental protection (eg. through increased mandates to the regional service district committees); water protection legislation – including wetlands, and enforcement of riparian buffer regulations; the Environmental Trust Fund; and, the urgency of climate action and moving on to renewables.

During this session, the Ministerial staff set out their current major priorities and here is what I recorded from their remarks in approximate order of urgency:

  • modernizing municipal legislation (now 50 years old apparently)
  • updating the regulations associated with this legislation
  • working with other departments to define priorities and capture these in “statements of interest”
  • a comprehensive water strategy
  • improvements to wetlands policies

Concurrent with all that is making the department’s work more transparent, and various digital information enhancements that are already underway.

While looking at this list, it is important to remember that Brian Kenny is Minister for the Environment AND Local Government (one department). On reflection, it appears that they are putting their eggs in the basket of local government as their approach to improving protection of the environment. An interesting idea – not adequate certainly, but might well help if done properly. A lot can be accomplished through land use planning tools if used properly. So folks, if you want to make a point on municipal or regional planning systems, policies, issues, concerns, etc. — now’s the time!

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I took this photo so am not in it. That’s the Minister at the head table, on the left in front of the screen. I attended on behalf of the Kent County Chapter of the Council of Canadians. As always, when I have the chance to speak truth to power, I think about which of my closest allies are not “At this Table,” and what they might like me to communicate that seems appropriate to the situation.

Here is a picture of me and my confrere Mark D’Arcy who attended on behalf of the Fredericton Chapter of the Council of Canadians. image
Mark used his allotted time to speak about climate change issues and the need for the Government of New Brunswick to do its own EIA on the Pipeline proposal. Mark strongly emphasized the Minister’s Duty of Care in regards to the possibly serious, even lethal, risks related to both these issues. This photo was taken by Caroline Lubbedarcy, who represented Stop Spraying in New Brunswick, and used her alloted time to press for a full review of health and environmental hazards of herbicide spraying by forestry companies and NB Power, as well as an end to the spraying.

It is also important to mention Jim Emberger was present, speaking on behalf of the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance. He addressed many of the points included in NBASGA’s Statement on the New Brunswick Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing Report, including the lack of social license, the science case against fracking, and the urgency of NB government undertaking nation-to-nation relationship-building with First Nations . Later in the meeting, Jim spoke about the importance of government recognizing that each region of the province is very different, something he has learned through NBASGA.

Unfortunately, none of our Indigenous environmental protection allies were present. For me, a smudge and a reading of the Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth would have been a welcome addition. Next time?

In the order of our NBEN agenda, I was given the opportunity to make the final presentation, before the wrap-up. Following are my remarks…


 

“The Final Report of the New Brunswick Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing, released last week, speaks of the distrust, mistrust, and alienation of New Brunswickers regarding our provincial government. The Commission heard this loud and clear in Kent County.  In fact, Commission members seemed to stop in their tracks and feel overwhelmed by our perspectives here, about how government has betrayed us.  (∗ : in the footnote on this post are links to submissions that prove this sentiment.)

“Another example of that betrayal connects to something that was discussed at the outset of this meeting today. Our Kent Regional District Service Commission passed resolutions unanimously opposing the new Forestry Management Act, and opposing Shale Gas Fracking Exploration in Kent County (actual vote 15-1 abstention, I believe). But, Mr. Minister, as you know, there is no systemic pathway for resolutions from the Service Districts into the government here in Fredericton. The fact that the Government of New Brunswick totally ignored the only local body that represents our municipalities and local service districts contributed mightily to our sense that government deserted us to our fate of being a “Sacrifice Zone” for resource extraction industries.

“I am going to assume that you, Mr. Minister, and your three staff at the head table, have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, perhaps godchildren… When thinking about the future they will face, it is clear and evident that your Ministry is the most important department in the Government of New Brunswick.

“At the core of your mandate is ensuring environmental sustainability in this province we all love. You have the tools and responsibilities for all manner of impact assessment, regulatory powers, inspection and enforcement services, in order to protect our environment. There is a huge urgency to bring all these into active service due to the ecoapocolypse that is lurking over our shoulders due to our rapidly deteriorating, changing climate.

“For us in Kent County, your department certainly has the most urgent and important mandate in this government:

  • We love our Acadian Forest, and all its inhabitants.  We want our Forest Relations to survive and thrive. This means stopping the rapacious clear-cutting, the softwood plantations, and the spraying of poisonous herbicides.
  • We want water protection legislation for our fresh drinking water, our inland fisheries, and our precious wetlands.
  • We want shale gas mothballed for the long term by legislation. Your department’s mandate re: “impact” and “sustainability” strengthen your hand at arguing this in cabinet.
  • We are passionate about biodiversity. The diversity of wildlife in our region — the forests, the waters, and the soils — contributes directly to the livelihoods of virtually everyone in Kent County, all the way down in scale to the bees we rely on to pollinate our fruits and vegetables in our gardens — so take a look at the neonicotinoids as well, please.
  • We fully support implementation of the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) process, proposed by the former Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eilish Cleary to the NB Fracking Commission. The Commission endorsed this approach but in an inappropriate and ineffectual manner. An HIA trumps an EIA, and as Dr. Cleary pointed out, the current EIA processes will and can be addressed and included within the broader scope of the HIA process she outlined. This is what we want to see. It will begin to restore our confidence that government is capable of looking after us over here in Kent County.

“On behalf of our group, the Kent County Chapter of the Council of Canadians, and all our united Mi’kmaq, Acadian and Anglo environmentalist allies in Kent County, I beg that you hear what I am saying. There is no time to lose on these matters. Please instruct your staff to walk into all interdepartmental meetings — and you, please,Minister Kenny, walk into all Cabinet meetings — with your heads held high, insisting on full implementation of the environmental protections your broad mandate offers.

“Yours is the most important Ministry in the New Brunswick government. Our future generations are depending on you.”

Ann Pohl, Chairperson, Council of Canadians – Kent County Chapter, March 2, 2016

 

 

DontPanicalltreatypeople

∗ See for example: “Powerless Citizen” and “Illusion of Certainty”,  Some of the Human Rights Issues Related to Fracking , Lise Johnson’s Story, No Shale…, Kent County Chapter Council of CanadiansNotre environnement, notre choix / Our Environment, Our ChoiceYvon Daigle’s Submission to the Commission, The Requirement to be InformedIt’s about Trust, To Make Critical Decisions, We Must Employ Critical Thinking, Personal Submission to the Shale Gas CommissionGroupe de développement durable du Pays de Cocagne Sustainable Development Groupe.

Question: is there a Conflict of Interest in the NB Commission on Hydro-Fracking?

Some Questions about the Legitimacy of the NB Fracking Commission

KENT NOT FOR SHALE

1   About the McLaughlins 

A man named Andrew McLaughlin was recently hired by Major Drilling. According to their website, Major Drilling “is one of the world’s largest drilling services companies primarily serving the mining industry,” and “provides all types of drilling services including surface and underground coring, directional, reverse circulation, sonic, geotechnical, environmental, water-well, coal-bed methane and shallow gas.” Sounds like this Andrew McLaughlin is closely associated with deep shale fracking operations.

Here’s the question: is Andrew the son (or other close relation) of John McLaughlin, the man who is the Chair of the NB Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing? Someone told me Andy is John’s boy. Mind you, I did not want to believe that Premier Brian Gallant’s Fracking Commission could be skewed in favour of the fracking industry, who are known for their “drill, baby, drill” practices because that is the only way to make deep shale extraction possible. So, what’s the scoop on this?

2   About Major Drilling

The CEO and President of Major Drilling is Francis McGuire, the former Deputy Minister of Business NB and former head of NB Power during the failed attempt to sell NB’s electric system to Quebec. Here is some background info about Francis and his commitment to Major Drilling. This man seems to be motivated by money and the gambling challenge of private industry, at the cost of anything else perhaps…

For starters, Francis’ debacle on the NB Power sell-off issue makes it clear the man has no idea about the significance of “social license.” Now, he is not in government any longer, so a person might say he does not need to be concerned with social license issues, UNLESS he is flouting the integrity of the NB Fracking Commission by hiring someone who can use family connections to make sure the Commission comes up with the recommendation to proceed with fracking.

Here are the questions: Assuming for a moment that Andrew IS John’s son, and I have no way of knowing this for sure but someone told me he is, then which came first: the chicken or the egg? Did Andrew get hired by Major Drilling to sway the Fracking Commission, or did Andrew know the Fracking Commission will recommend lifting the Moratorium so he took this job to be in the right place at the right time? Or both perhaps?

3   About Frank McKenna

Frank McKenna, former Premier of our province, is a huge booster of fracking in New Brunswick. Frank is also buddy-buddy close with Francis McGuire.

Frank’s 2014 speech in Saint John is probably the best synopsis of his real views on the topic. He not only thinks shale gas fracking is the salvation of the province, he also derides the idea of listening to shale gas opponents, calling us an “extremely vocal, anti-fracking minority” and “blowhards” who “seize control of the agenda” using “mob rule.”

Here are the facts on the matter of whether those of us who oppose fracking are a minority. In all surveys done to date and released to the public, our province’s population is split just about 50-50 on the simple topic of shale gas extraction industrial development. However, as soon as the question is complicated with balancing this development against the priority of protecting our environment, the environment has won in all public opinion surveys. In one memorable one during the Alward government, more than 80% of the population said they would not support shale gas development if it could negatively affect the natural environment. We all know it is absolutely impossible to “do” shale gas without damaging the environment.

On November 5 2015, Frank spoke at a business conference in Saint John. Not normally a patient man, he is quoted as saying that the fracking moratorium (the same one he abhorred in 2014) is now fine with him. “When it comes to the provincial fracking moratorium,” he “is satisfied” with “the process,” and says we (industry) just “need to be patient.”

Here are the questions: Is Frank patient now because he knows his crony Old Boys network already has the fix in? Does this seem like a logical conclusion for Frank to reach, because of the direct line between Frank and Francis at Major Drilling, especially as it seems that Andrew may be the son of NB Fracking Commission Chair John? Or is there some other reason Frank all of a sudden feels the Fracking Commission is doing a fine job?

4   About the NB Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing’s Work

The thing is, the Government of New Brunswick (GNB) just took a gigantic step backwards on gaining social license for any industrial activities that could have or will have negative impacts on health and environment. In December, GNB fired for “no cause” the one person in the entire civil  service that the medical community and grassroots communities knew we could trust to speak the truth about whether provincial policies were good for people and the environment that sustains us. I am speaking of our former exemplary Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eilish Cleary. So, like many others, I am in a state of hyper-vigilance about what GNB has up their sleeves next.

As Cheryl Robertson, the member of the Fracking Commission who does their folksy communicating, has posted on their website, “one of the core findings of our work” is that “distrust of public institutions runs deep” among New Brunswickers. Good one, Sherlock! She continues, “There is anger, frustration and a strong sense of weariness on all sides…”

Here are the questions: given the obvious pro-fracking standpoint of Major Drilling can the Government of New Brunswick set to rest the questions that are floating around right now, about whether Andrew McLaughlin may or may not be directed related to the Commission’s Chair John McLaughlin? If this suggested malfeasance is indeed true, can the Fracking Commission Chair explain how this is compatible with the Commission’s online Code of Conduct? Is this perhaps a true conflict of interest? Was it declared? If it was declared, where and when? And even if it was declared, does that make it right?

 

It is an unfortunate thing when a citizen of this province is forced to address
a major issue like this one in an online blog, simply asking questions…
From my standpoint, if this is confirmed, it totally justifies the public’s
deep distrust of GNB, and would be one more nail in the coffin of social license.

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— Ann Pohl wrote this on February 1, 2016 —