OTTAWA – Ecojustice filed arguments on behalf of Sierra Club Canada today that claim the Canadian government acted unlawfully in gutting the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) through regulations last year. The Canadian government now has until April 5th to respond. If the lawsuit is successful thousands of projects that were approved without an assessment could be revisited.
“We are asking the courts to declare the government’s actions illegal and to require them to register all projects that have gone ahead,”said John Bennett, Executive Director of Sierra Club Canada. “This government should give Canadians the opportunity to review the environmental impacts of stimulus projects and request that impacts from the projects be addressed to protect the environment.”
The lawsuit challenges the 2009 Exclusion List Regulations that exempt thousands of projects such as highways, bridges, roads and sewer systems from facing the scrutiny of legally required federal assessments over two years. The lawsuit also challenges the Adaptation Regulations that unlawfully give powers to the Minister of the Environment to exempt any other project from federal EA that is funded under various infrastructure funding schemes.
“Funding thousands of infrastructure projects absent EA is akin to Harper’s Cabinet buying a used car that’s missing its steering wheel,” said Justin Duncan, staff lawyer with Ecojustice. “The regulations that have allowed this to happen are completely inconsistent with Parliament’s intent to promote sustainable development in Canada.”
CEAA was passed in 1992 to ensure that federal decision makers have good information about the environmental impacts of projects before funding them as well as ensuring public participation in the environmental assessment process. The present government used the 2009 financial collapse as an excuse to gut the CEAA and fast track stimulus spending.