Passing of budget bill is bad news for Canadians and the environment

Movement to protect nature and democracy in Canada will continue to build. June 19, 2012
TORONTO, June 19, 2012 - Today, our elected Members of Parliament passed Bill C-38, ignoring thousands of Canadians who spoke up for nature and democracy. The budget, which represents sweeping changes to environmental protection laws, eases the way for industrial developments that could put the future of our land, water and climate at risk. It also attempts to silence voices of dissent against such developments by making it more difficult for environmental charities to participate in the public policy process.

"This bill marks a step backwards for our democracy and economy, as well as for the protection of the air, water and land on which we and our children depend," said Peter Robinson, Chief Executive Officer of the David Suzuki Foundation. "By weakening environmental laws and smothering the voices of First Nations and other concerned Canadians it will undermine communities, add to our economic uncertainty and inhibit investment over the long term."

The gutting of environmental safeguards means that Canadians will face increasing risk from big projects like new pipelines, and will have fewer opportunities to participate in the review processes before they are approved.

"This budget ignores the true goals of Canadians by changing our laws to fast-track risky major infrastructure projects like the Northern Gateway pipeline," said Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. "Gutting of environmental safeguards and democratic process puts all Canadians at risk."

"Concerns about democracy and nature won't just go away because the bill has passed," said Éric Hébert-Daly, National Executive Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. "This marks the beginning of a new sustained effort to mobilize Canadians to speak out for nature and democracy. We're more committed than ever to providing the means for everyone who cares about the future of our environment and our democratic rights to have a voice."

"Nurses are very concerned about the health of Canadians and the budget bill increases risk to Canadians of factors that contribute to ill health - poverty, environmental degradation and reduced access to services and social supports," said Linda Silas, President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.

"Ignoring democracy and silencing First Nations in environmental assessments of major projects will only bring conflict to our territories," said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. "It is time for people to put down their Starbucks and wake up: this bill will define the future of our country in ways we may not want. We need to remember the hard lessons of Clayoquot Sound, Ipperwash and Oka."

This isn't the direction Canadians want their country to go. On June 4, more than 600 organizations and thousands of Canadians came together to speak with one voice, taking part in online actions to oppose Bill C-38, including darkening their websites. That week, #blackoutspeakout trended on Twitter, and almost 50,000 Canadians wrote to their Member of Parliament to say no to the bill. Black Out Speak Out will continue to work to protect nature, democracy, in the interest of all Canadians.

Black Out Speak Out (blackoutspeakout.ca / silenceonparle.ca) is a joint project of Canadians Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, Equiterre, Greenpeace, Nature Canada, Pembina Institute, Sierra Club Canada, West Coast Environmental Law, and WWF Canada.

For further information:
For more information, or to arrange an interview, contact:
Stephanie Kohls, Communications Director, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext. 232; 647-280-9521 (cell); skohls@environmentaldefence.ca  

UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.