Harper Government Must Stop Avoiding Environmental Responsibility

HARPER GOVERNMENT MUST STOP AVOIDING ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY

OTTAWA- While the Harper Conservatives may be temporarily able to hide from Parliament, they can no longer sidestep environmental laws to protect venerable ecosystems from industrial projects.

Today, the Supreme Court of Canada blasted the Canadian government for violating its own laws by failing to complete a full environmental assessment of the Red Chris copper/gold mine proposal near Iskut, British Columbia.  In order to avoid public comment, the government excluded the mine and mill from the review process and only ordered  a cursory look at minor parts of the project.

“The Harper government has repeatedly shown disdain for the environmental review process,” said New Democrat Natural Resource Critic Nathan Cullen (Skeena- Bulkley Valley). “They don’t believe the public should have any say in deciding how we develop major resource projects. I am very pleased to hear that the Supreme Court disagrees.”

Resource companies and communities throughout Canada have long been frustrated by the uncertainty created by a Federal Government that picks and chooses when to apply laws and regulations and when to ignore them.

“Industry has been hurt by having to second guess what rules will apply to their projects,” said Cullen, “and communities have learned that they can’t rely on this Government to take a thorough look at projects that could have major environmental consequences.”

“Kudos to Mining Watch and Ecojustice for bringing this case before the Supreme Court,” said New Democrat Environment Critic Linda Duncan (Edmonton Strathcona). “New It is a precedent-setting decision that sends a clear message to the federal government that they have a duty to enforce environmental laws.”

Added Duncan: “Environment Minister Jim Prentice has touted his enforcement bill as proof of the Harper government’s commitment to asserting federal powers to protect the environment. Here is concrete proof that this is not the case. Canadian communities need to remain vigilant in holding the government accountable for complying with the law. “”

While this ruling marks a significant victory, the risks to sustainable development posed by this government are likely not over. Duncan will be reaching out to the public to get engaged in the coming Parliamentary committee review of the federal assessment law.

“I won’t be surprised if Harper tries to change the law now that the Court has told him he can’t go through the back door,” said Cullen. “Good mining companies can work within the rules.  Instead, Harper wants us to attract investment by degrading our laws and our planet.””

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