As Parliament prepares to vote on the 2012 budget bill, the country’s leading lawyers and law professors are calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to split the 400-plus page bill — which will change some 70 laws and greatly weaken environmental protections — to ensure that the bill’s full scope of proposed changes are thoroughly debated.

The letter, signed by 124 lawyers and law professors, was released today on the eve of Parliament’s final vote on Bill C-38, the budget bill. A public letter by lawyers regarding a bill in Parliament is a rare event in Canada, and reflects the level of concern felt at all levels of Canadian society about the dismantling of Canada’s environmental laws.

Will Amos, who is director of the Ecojustice Law Clinic at the University of Ottawa, is one of the letter’s signees.

“Many lakes, rivers and streams that provide habitat to fish would be at greater risk of destruction because of changes to the Fisheries Act proposed in Bill C-38,” he said in a press release. “This is why people from across the country — now including lawyers and law professors — are calling on the federal government to
reconsider its approach.”

Their letter comes a week after Canadians across the country came together on Black Out Speak Out Monday, a day of symbolic protest against the federal government’s attacks on the laws that protect nature and democracy. The lawyers’ call to action is one shared by thousands of other Canadians — from former MPs, labour groups and concerned citizens — who have refused to stay silent about their opposition to the budget bill.

Meanwhile, Ecojustice’s effort to save the laws that protect our water, air and land continue as we, along with other groups, stand before politicians in Ottawa and implore them to stand up for Canada’s core values: nature and democracy.

On the political front, the New Democrats, Liberals and Green Party leader Elizabeth May tabled hundreds of amendments in an effort to filibuster the bill’s passage. On Monday, House Speaker Andrew Scheer ruled that more than 800 of the proposed motions and amendments would be grouped together. From the Globe and Mail:

In total, Mr. Scheer said, there were 871 motions and amendments to amend the legislation, which changes more than 70 different laws – many of which the opposition says have nothing to do with budgetary matters. By grouping and ordering them, he has reduced the number of votes required to a minimum of 67 and a maximum of 159.

Although there had been predictions the amendments would require days and days of voting, even if the maximum number of votes were required, they could be accomplished in less than a day.

Voting begins Wednesday evening.