Responsible environmental stewardship for Canada and the world.

GPC 2015 platform background paper

Canadians are custodians of a natural heritage of global importance.  At 9.15 million km2, Canada has the second largest land surface of any country.  Moreover, we have by far the longest coastline of any sovereign nation, and we have 7.1 million km2 of coastal waters under various levels of federal jurisdiction. Add to that the fact that we are custodians of 9% of the world’s fresh water, 10% of the world’s forests, over 2 million km2 of farmland, and one of the world’s lowest population densities, and you’ll understand why Canada’s natural heritage is the envy of the world.

Sadly, neither our federal nor our provincial and territorial governments treat the Canadian environment with the respect it deserves.  When our environmental performance is ranked against that of other advanced industrial countries, Canada consistently places last or very close to last on a range of measures,[1] including the protection of endangered species, the stewardship of oceans, lakes, rivers, soil, air quality, and general ecosystem conservation.  Unfortunately, the legal basis for protecting Canada’s environment has been deliberately and progressively weakened by the Conservatives since they formed their first minority government in 2006.

Urgent action is required in six areas:

  1. establish an effective, efficient environmental regulatory infrastructure;
  2. expand Canada’s scientific capacity and support our scientists and scientific inquiry;
  3. improve regulation of air quality and toxins;
  4. improve the protection and conservation of freshwater; tackle intensifying threats to coastal waters, the Arctic and our oceans;
  5. enhance the protection of our national parks and marine protected areas;
  6. enforce and enhance better protection for species at work.

The Green Party is committed to reversing years of neglect and to taking the long overdue action to strengthen environmental protection and responsible environmental stewardship.  The Green Party vision is one of a sustainable future grounded in fiscal responsibility, ecological health, and social justice. As the only party with a triple-bottom-line approach to every policy (economic, ecological, and social), the Green Party’s position on key environmental issues and our commitment to excel in environmental stewardship is clear.

Most importantly, we need to strengthen the people’s voice and address our concerns by constitutionally entrenching our rights to a healthy environment: clean air, clean water, healthy soil, and by protecting the ecological balance in our parks, fisheries, forests, oceans and lakes. Amending Canada’s constitution – our fundamental law – will help guarantee more environmentally-responsible action for the benefit of our planet and the generations to come. 


The Green Party is committed to reversing years of neglect and to taking long overdue action to strengthen environmental protection and responsible environmental stewardship.  To meet these goals, six particular areas of concern will be addressed:

  1. our environmental regulatory structure has been seriously weakened, and important laws have been erased;
  2. federal government scientists have been muzzled and important facilities and collections have been closed;
  3. the regulation of air quality and the environmental impact of toxins is disturbingly weak;
  4. the protection and conservation of freshwater requires urgent attention, and threats to coastal waters, the Arctic and our oceans have intensified;
  5. there is inadequate stewardship of our national parks and marine protected areas;
  6. our enforcement and enhancement of protection for species at risk is abysmal.

1. Establish an effective, efficient environmental protection regulatory infrastructure

The Green Party will reestablish as quickly as possible an effective, efficient environmental protection regulatory infrastructure. The Conservative government has gutted the nation’s environmental groundwork through devastating omnibus bills.  Bill C-38, passed in spring 2012, destroyed our environmental assessment regime while seriously weakening the Fisheries Act and jeopardizing protection for endangered species. Bill C-45 then removed over 98% of our inland waters from the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Canadians have very little easily accessible public information about the efficiency and effectiveness of environmental enforcement, whether under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Fisheries Act, or the Species at Risk Act. What little evidence is available indicates insufficient investigations, rare prosecutions, and even rarer convictions for those whose corporate or individual actions negatively impact our environment. In addition, cutbacks to Environment Canada’s budget for gathering scientific data have made it particularly difficult either to undertake or to pay for the long-delayed oil sands environmental monitoring plan. This is both unprincipled and irresponsible.

The 2012 omnibus Budget bill amendments to the Fisheries Act were short-sighted and unethical, significantly diminishing the protection for fish habitats in streams and rivers. The new language of the bill prohibits activities that affect fish habitats only if such actions cause “serious harm” to “recreational, commercial and Aboriginal fisheries.”  The changes to the bill have been denounced by the scientific community, in a letter signed by more than 600 scientists across the country, as jeopardizing “many important fish stocks and the lakes, estuaries and rivers that support them.” A clearer expression of the national interest would be hard to find.

Among other things, the Green Party will

  • restore the habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act.  In the case of the Fisheries Act, protection of species must be extended beyond the narrow scope of species of commercial, recreational, and aboriginal importance.  Under the current Act, 80% of Canada's 71 freshwater fish species at risk would lose protection,[2] and one must suppose that the bait fish that feed those species which are protected under the Act will not be protected: an ecologically untenable position.
  • critically examine the numerous changes that have been made to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA).  Changes to the CEAA have been complex in their scope and effects, but, at minimum, the full environmental range of CEAA assessments must be restored, the discretion of the Minister of the Environment must be curtailed, and the types of projects that will trigger an assessment must be reviewed.[3]

2. Expand Canada’s scientific capacity and support our scientists and scientific inquiry

If Canada is to meet the growing challenges of environmental stewardship that lie ahead successfully, it is critical to restore and expand our scientific capacity and our scientists.  Science and scientific research should not be influenced by partisan considerations, nor should they be subject to across-the-board austerity measures.

For at least two decades, successive governments have chipped away at the capacity of the federal civil service to undertake basic research and scientific monitoring.[4] This unfortunate trend accelerated under the current government, leading to mass layoffs, the prioritization of management over science, natural resource exploitation over environmental protection, and a fetish for tight message control. The Conservative government has been extraordinarily irresponsible in muzzling government scientists and, among many other things, abolishing the position of the National Science Advisor to the Prime Minister while replacing it with the more amorphous and pliable Science, Technology and Innovation Council.

The bulk of federal funds for scientific research have been increasingly funnelled into specific projects and surrogates for industrial research at the expense of the basic research and funding of scientists and scientific inquiry that are essential to keeping Canada on the leading edge of so many critical areas, most notably environmental stewardship. Of the $1.5 billion announced, or rather re-announced, in Budget 2015 for scientific research over the next 5 years, over $1.3 billion has been allocated to the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, primarily for investment in infrastructure like labs and equipment, rather than for funding the individual scientists needed to transcend critical scientific frontiers. In contrast, the three main granting councils – the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) will receive only a combined $37 million dollars annually.  $10 million out of the NSERC’s annual $15 million allotment goes to collaboration between colleges and universities and energy/natural resource companies. On the other hand, a measly $2 million dollars out of CIHR’s $13 million annual allocation is tagged for basic research into the growing danger of antibiotic-resistant infections.

Meanwhile, the government has fired government climate, wildlife, and fisheries scientists. It has withdrawn essential support from world-renowned research stations including the Experimental Lakes Area and its unique research centre.  It has scrapped countless programs such as those that monitor the toxicity of marine organisms to minimize the serious health risks of eating toxic fish. All these unprincipled cuts are destroying Canada’s legacy and reputation in fisheries and aquatic science.

According to retired scientist Steve Campana, a world-class expert on sharks, federal commitment to and capability in the sciences is “in a death spiral.”[5] If Canada is to fulfill its obligation to its citizens and to the international community, we must begin the process of restoring and expanding our scientific capacity.

In particular, we need to defend and promote “Discovery Science”. Funding for curiosity-driven research is at starvation levels in Canada. Investigation at small universities is disappearing and there is no longer a balance between basic and applied science. By starving the source of creativity and serendipitous discovery, we are rapidly losing our capacity for long-term innovation. Funding that was previously destined for curiosity-driven research in a large number of labs spread across Canada has been shifted into partnerships with industry, with a concentration in large research-intensive universities. This is bad news for both science and for the education of highly qualified scientists across the country. Instead of funding scientific inquiry, we are subsidizing the research & development of large corporations. We need to work to restore the health of “Discovery Science” in Canada.

We also need to build into the federal legislative process a mandatory evaluation of the evidentiary foundations of any proposed legislation. This means establishing that the evidence is transparent, rigorous and ethically produced; that there is an open flow of information; that the evidence is preserved and easy to access and understand; and that the evidence used is the best available information and free from political manipulation. The evidentiary basis for all of our laws should be evaluated regularly and laws revised as appropriate.

To this end, the Green Party will take the following steps:

  • prioritize the rebuilding of scientific capacity in the Government of Canada with particular attention to those departments that have incurred the most devastating losses – Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, Parks Canada, and Health Canada.  Priority areas for immediate action include restoring the Ocean Contaminants & Marine Toxicology Program, renewing and increasing capacity in the Canadian Coastguard (particularly in the areas of emergency response and spill prevention), and reversing cuts to climate adaptation programs.
  • In tandem with these actions, direct the Clerk of the Privy Council to reform the civil service to elevate core competence over management culture.
  • create a new position for Chief Science Advisor as an Officer of Parliament independent of political control;
  • ensure that scientists in the federal government are free to publish their research and to speak to the media and public about their findings without interference from multiple levels of management bureaucracy;
  • initiate a multidisciplinary review of the closure of federal science libraries and the dispersal of their collections by the Conservative government.  The review will examine whether the federal law protecting our documentary heritage was violated and make recommendations for restoring federal scientific library capacity.
  • create a robust and independent National Academy of Sciences that builds on the independent not-for profit Council of Canadian Academies, bringing together the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Engineering, and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Among other things, this would provide lawmakers with direct access to objective science on medicine, energy, the environment and more for evaluating the evidentiary foundations of any proposed legislation.

3. Improve regulation of air quality and toxins

Although the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 2012 (CEPA) formalized new powers for citizens and imposed new and enhanced penalties for individuals and corporations who harm the environment, too many substances continue to be exempt from this legislation.  Pesticides and radionuclides continue to be omitted from the Act. Furthermore, Canada’s regulation of common airborne pollutants (e.g. sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and airborne mercury) lags behind that of other nations. As our climate continues to warm, it is to be expected that an increased number of very hot days will lead to more smog advisories in urban areas. 

Although some pesticides, pesticide byproducts and contaminants are banned under CEPA,[6] the majority of pesticides, herbicides and radionuclides do not appear on the federal government’s list of banned substances.  The Green Party feels that it is time to amend CEPA2012 to include the non-commercial uses of pesticides and herbicides.  While this would allow the Pest Control Products Act to continue to regulate the registration and use of pesticide products, it would move the banning of dangerous substances and the handling of disposal and spills under CEPA’s jurisdiction.

The Green Party proposes to amend CEPA as follows:

  • to reduce particulates, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and other airborne contaminants;
  • to cover non-commercial handling and disposal of pesticides and radionuclides;
  • to include tritium leaks from nuclear power plants, and the spills and disposal of harmful substances inadequately covered by the Hazardous Products Act (HPA) and the Food and Drugs Act (FDA), and to improve CEPA’s ability to address human health and environmental risks;
  • to regulate substances shown to be a significant risk to human health, including those causing cancer, immuno-suppression, endocrine disruption, neuro-toxicity, birth defects, and/or genetic mutations;
  • to enshrine the precautionary principle approach towards chemical management, putting the onus on manufacturing companies to demonstrate a product’s safety before it is approved for use, as is done with pharmaceuticals;
  • to add pollution prevention to the CEPA mandate.

The Green Party will also seek to achieve the following goals:

  • to end cosmetic pesticide and herbicide use in Canada by 2016;
  • to establish a CEPA taskforce to focus on pollution reduction in the Great Lakes – Saint Lawrence Basin and in the Juan de Fuca - Georgia Strait region;
  • to create a large Clean Canada Fund to clean up toxic sites with the objective of decontaminating these sites by 2030;
  • to ban the use of nanomaterials in all food products and support research into the potentially harmful effects of non-naturally occurring nanomaterials on health and the environment.

4. Improve the protection and conservation of freshwater; tackle intensifying threats to coastal waters, the Arctic and our oceans

  • Fresh water: an invaluable resource:

In the age of climate change, water is our most precious resource.  Although fresh water can be recycled, it is not renewable.  Instead, the hydrological cycle dictates that the amount of fresh water in the world is more or less fixed.  In the case of groundwater and deep aquifers, the supply has often accumulated during wetter periods, and therefore, in many parts of the world, it represents fossil water.

Here in Canada, we rank among the world’s most inefficient users of water. Collectively, Canadians place a heavy strain on water infrastructures and drain our valuable freshwater reserves.  Oil and gas extraction uses large quantities of ground water, and we have little to no knowledge of the impacts of these activities on aquifers that are supported by the surface water. Furthermore, access to clean water is unevenly distributed, and as many as 85 First Nations communities live under boil-water advisories.  Among these is Shoal Lake First Nation, which, although it stands on the shores of the lake that supplies Winnipeg’s water, has lived under a boil water advisory for over 17 years.

Threats to coastal waters:

Our coastal waters are also facing numerous environmental threats.  Longstanding dangers, such as overfishing, chemical contamination, raw sewage, and eutrophication,[7] are still present, and in some cases growing in our coastal waters, lakes, and rivers.  These are now joined by novel threats, including the leaching and other types of damage from new nanomaterials, ocean acidification caused by CO2 mixing with surface waters, and increased pressure to exploit coastal waters for oil, gas and ocean floor minerals. 

The potential effects of ocean acidification are extremely disturbing.  Ocean acidification is taking humanity into unknown ecological territory. There is a definite risk that food chains could be seriously undermined or even collapse due to acidification.  Acidification increases calcium solubility, making it harder for calcifying organisms to extract it from seawater to make their shells.  This thinning of shells has already been observed.  In Canadian waters, where the pH level has fallen more than the global average, some crustaceans and arctic mollusks have experienced shell thinning.[8]

The potential economic effects of ocean acidification are also immense.  Thanks to “fishing down the food chain,” much of the world’s marine food catch, including Canada’s, consists of calcifiers like shrimp and lobster, while shellfish farming is a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide.[9]  Acidification is a tangible and probable threat to these resources and, in our opinion, is one of the most severe long-term threats facing marine ecosystems this century.

The Arctic:

Nowhere is the ocean environment changing faster than in the Canadian Arctic.  Late summer ice has been shrinking both in area and volume for years, and in 2012 it reached its lowest level since records began.  As multi-year ice thins and disappears, and young ice diminishes in area, the conditions of life for Arctic animals and human communities are already changing profoundly.

Ironically, changing ice conditions, which are closely linked to our changing climate, are sparking what will be one of the last great resource rushes.  Increased pressure to exploit Arctic resources is outstripping legislation and policy, and there is no sign that the Harper government is willing to slow it down.  The nascent resource boom has also incited competing territorial claims which, in the long run, potentially threaten our national sovereignty.

Noise pollution from ocean vessels, military active sonar – particularly low-frequency sonar (LFA) – and seismic surveys is a growing source of stress to marine life and an increasing threat to Arctic mammals.  Some of the loudest noises ever put into the ocean are those from LFA and seismic air guns.  Mass strandings and deaths of whales, dolphins and porpoises have occurred in areas where military LFA have been used and seismic surveys have been conducted.[10] LFA has also caused tissue damage and bleeding around the ears, eyes, and brains; as well, it has resulted in large bubbles or holes in marine mammals’ organs. Seismic air guns have also displaced whales from critical habitats for feeding and resting. They have caused mass strandings of giant squid which have suffered extensive internal injuries and badly damaged ears. In addition to the severe damage it causes to the ears of fish; use of seismic guns has substantially reduced catch.

The potential impacts of seismic testing are of particular concern in the Canadian Arctic where resource companies are seeking to use this technology to explore the sea bed for mineral deposits.  Bernard Valcourt, federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, recently rejected requests from the Nunavut Marine Council to put seismic testing on hold pending the outcome of an ongoing Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of Baffin Bay and Davis Straight by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.[11]

In the eastern Arctic, the possibility of seismic testing off Baffin Island “has sparked fierce community opposition” because of the probable effects of testing on marine mammal populations.[12] According to local sources, the National Energy Board (NEB) has already indicated that the results of the SEA will have no effect on whether seismic testing goes ahead.  Valcourt echoed this sentiment when he said “I see neither the need nor the benefit to put seismic exploration on hold while strategic environmental assessment work is under way.”

The Green Party is committed to implementing robust policies to conserve our freshwaters and manage threats to our oceans.

Protecting and Conserving Freshwater

The Green Party of Canada is deeply committed to responsible stewardship of our lakes and rivers, groundwater and aquifers, and their associated riparian zones.  We are also committed to maintaining Canadian sovereignty over domestic water bodies against international pressure to do otherwise.

The Green Party will

  • implement the 1987 Federal Water Policy to meet the requirements of sustainable water management – equity, efficiency, and ecological integrity.  This initiative includes passing federal legislation to prohibit bulk water exports, building on the current law banning exports from transboundary basins, and immediately removing water from the scope of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). 
  • establish regulations and product standards to promote water-efficient technologies in Canada.
  • ensure secure, safe water supplies for all citizens, with a focus on First Nations communities, through establishing regulations requiring protection of drinking water at its source, public inspection of domestic water supplies, and mandatory and regular drinking water testing.
  • conduct an inventory of all polluted groundwater and water bodies, and enhance the capacity of federal departments and agencies to protect and restore the health of aquatic ecosystems. 
  • provide adequate funding for local and regional flood protection and drought management planning, and provide strategic climate change program funding for water conservation.

Oceans Strategy:

We believe that Canada must develop a coherent and comprehensive oceans’ policy as a matter of urgency.  Some of the changes affecting the global oceans are so pervasive as to be beyond the reach of policy if left unchecked.  Thus, Canada will have to foster and participate in binding international agreements to limit greenhouse gas emissions, to reduce overfishing, and to curtail the spread of plastics and other ocean contaminants. Without such agreements, these problems will continue to worsen and their consequences will be dire.

Our approach should therefore be one of fostering resilience in marine ecosystems,[13] while simultaneously working to strengthen international regulatory and policy regimes. The resilience approach is complementary to the ecosystem-based management approach already adopted as policy by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).   

In Canadian territorial waters, the Green Party will work to strengthen current oceans’ legislation and the ability of regulations to cope with the fast-moving nature of current threats. Important goals are as follows:

  • increase, as a matter of urgency, the extent, interconnectedness, and number of marine protected areas.  Our goal, in consultation with experts from the permanent scientific civil service, aboriginal peoples, and other stakeholders, should be to establish reserves in currently healthy ecosystems, avoiding areas potentially exposed to local hypoxia, pollution or low pH levels. 
  • work with the scientific community to end maximum sustainable yield (MSY) as a default fisheries exploitation policy.  Models offer, at best, imprecise population estimates.  In the spirit of fostering resilience, fish and shellfish harvests should be set at somewhat below our best estimate of MSY.  This could be called the minimum yield for sustainability (MYS) or something similar, the idea being to set harvests at a level that allows for natural fluctuations in populations or unanticipated environmental change, and which avoids having significant effects on the age structure of fish stocks or the body size of fish.
  • rebuild wild Atlantic salmon populations in Atlantic Canada, while protecting wild salmon throughout BC waters.  The recommendations of the Cohen Commission Report must be accepted. Commercial salmon aquaculture must be regulated to prevent damage to wild salmon.
  • introduce legislation to reduce by-catch and habitat destruction by fishing gear dramatically. The ranking of fishing gear according to the severity of its ecological impact indicates that the gear we use most extensively in Canada has a high impact on sensitive seabed habitats. Policies should be aimed at fostering gear substitution, using the least destructive fishing gear wherever possible.  There should also be a national by-catch and discard policy, including by-catch limits for commonly caught commercial and non-commercial species. Areas of vulnerable marine ecosystems should be protected from destructive fishing practices, and a zoning scheme which considers gear type and impact should be developed and implemented in all three oceans.
  • work urgently to restore the Ocean Contaminants & Marine Toxicology Program of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).  We should also restore funding to six major water pollution labs around the country, including those at Sidney, BC, Winnipeg, MB, Burlington, ON, Mont-Joli, QC, Moncton, NB, and Dartmouth, NS.  We should re-initiate support for research on the effects of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and promote investigation of the sources, movement and fate of persistent environmental contaminants in marine food chains, such as the work formerly conducted by Dr. Peter Ross.  We note, with dismay, that the federal government closed the DFO contaminants program in spring 2012, dismissing Ross and 55 of his colleagues across the country.[14]
  • collaborate internationally to improve marine species protection.  Most high-seas fisheries occur in international waters; they suffer from fragmented and weak legal frameworks, poor enforcement of existing regulations, and high levels of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.  Intergovernmental cooperation is necessary if sustainable harvest levels are to be achieved in international waters. We note that in 2012, for the third year in a row, a European Union proposal to protect porbeagle sharks[15] failed due to opposition from Canada, the only one of the 48 participating countries with a targeted commercial fishery for this threatened species.  Canada must work internationally to improve protection of shark species, as the health of these species is fundamental to the health of ocean ecosystems.  In particular, Canada must work to limit and eventually eliminate shark finning.
  • improve both national and international regulatory regimes to prevent, reduce and control the release of toxic substances and nutrients into the marine environment.  There is an urgent need to limit influxes of agricultural wastewater and untreated human sewage into the oceans, as well as to avoid the effluence of plastics and the incidence of plastics’ debris including micro and nano-plastics on beaches and in the ocean environment. An international effort to control the disposal and dispersal of large plastic waste into the oceans is also needed since this breaks down to smaller particles that find their way into food chains with disastrous consequences. 
  • ensure the federal government supports ongoing international research into the effects of ocean acidification in Canadian waters.  Ocean acidification is an existential threat that is occurring now and will become worse in the future, regardless of the impact of CO2 on global surface temperatures.

Special attention must be paid to Arctic waters in Canada’s Oceans Strategy.  As the United States takes over leadership of the Arctic Council from Canada, there will be a shift from fostering commercial interests and development back to stewardship and husbandry of the delicate Arctic environment. At the same time, Canada is competing with other Arctic nations for sub-sea territory. Canada has a duty to defend legitimate territorial claims as well as to work cooperatively with other nations to arrive at a common vision for Arctic development and conservation.

The Green Party will commit to do the following:

  • Work through the Arctic Council, strengthen the Oceans Act and the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act to establish firm limits on Arctic development.  While exploitation of seabed resources is likely to occur in the future (indeed some northern communities may demand it), some forms of exploitation are unacceptably damaging, even at the exploration phase.  Drilling for oil in the Arctic is a recipe for future disaster, as experience has shown that any accident that can happen, including blowouts, tanker strandings and pipeline spills, will eventually happen.  To the best of our knowledge, the technology to exploit oil in Arctic waters is undeveloped and, as acknowledged by Imperial Oil, drilling of relief wells to prevent blowout is impossible in the same season that an exploratory well is dug.[16]  Furthermore, the Green Party supports a moratorium on all forms of seismic testing until the range and severity of seismic testing effects on marine mammals can be thoroughly reviewed by relevant experts.
  • recognize and respect that our Arctic sovereignty is already established through the presence of Canadians in the North, including the continuous use and occupation of Arctic lands and waters by Canada’s Indigenous peoples.
  • reinforce Canada’s Arctic sovereignty through community infrastructure development, regional sustainability projects, northern research, northern culture, and other regional socio-economic activities rather than through a military presence.
  • honour the spirit and intent of Land Claims Agreements and uphold the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • expand funding for Arctic research, including support for and recognition of traditional knowledge, which is particularly critical in light of increasing climate change.
  • improve and increase monitoring of Indigenous food sources (e.g. caribou, salmon, etc.) to ensure Inuit and First Nations, particularly pregnant women and nursing mothers, are not over-exposed to persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals that build up through the global food chain and pool at high levels in the Arctic. Work to develop collaborative community-based education programs to promote the consumption of food with less toxicity.
  • address issues of food security and the unacceptably high prices for food for Canada’s Northern peoples.
  • invest in renewable local energy sources to avoid the dependence on very expensive and polluting imported diesel fuel.
  • support the training and equipping of the Canadian Rangers, many of whom are Inuit and First Nations people who live in the North and are experienced survival experts on land and sea, to comprise the backbone of emergency support throughout the Arctic.
  • develop a comprehensive pan-Arctic waste management strategy that addresses issues like the discharge of wastes into water and open dump burning on land through a plan that integrates community, mining, fishing, tourism, shipping, and military waste management strategies.
  • establish, with the partnership of Indigenous peoples, protected areas – terrestrial, marine, and ice – in an ecologically- representative network in the three northern Territories.
  • promote the creation of an internationally- recognized Arctic Protected Zone where no mineral exploration will be permitted by any country, similar to the internationally- recognized Antarctic Protected Area.
  • restore the post of Ambassador to the Circumpolar North.
  • seek a constructive multilateral Arctic maritime treaty, negotiated through the Arctic Council, to regulate all maritime activity in the Arctic, with the exception of traditional Aboriginal activity, such that the health and well-being of the Arctic ecosystem and its northern inhabitants are safeguarded.

5. Enhance the protection of our national parks and marine protected areas

The Conservative government has added significant new areas to existing national parks.  However, the decisions behind these additions were frequently not based on science and have resulted in the omission of critical habitat.  For example, the boundaries of the Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve, which is adjacent to Nahanni NP, leave out key critical habitat for woodland caribou, Grizzly bears, Dall’s sheep, and mountain goats.

At the same time, there is increasing pressure to permit resource exploitation around National Parks and even within them.  Further, a trend towards creeping privatization has led to some staggeringly ill-advised initiatives, such as the 400-meter “Skywalk” overlooking the rapidly shrinking Columbia Ice Field in Jasper National Park.

Our record on the creation and stewardship of marine protected areas (MPAs) is even worse.  Although Canada has a Marine Protected Areas Strategy, only a meagre 1% of our coastal waters receive any sort of protection.  In 2007, Canada ranked 70th out of 228 countries in its creation of MPAs.[17] Like terrestrial protected areas, MPAs are unevenly distributed across the three oceans and the Great Lakes.[18]  It is clear that current marine reserves are overwhelmingly located in the Arctic ecoregions, with a large offshore reserve (the Bowie Seamount) in the northern Pacific, and a relatively large proportion of the Northern Shelf conserved.

To improve the representation of ecosystems and management of our protected areas, the Green Party will:

  • restore adequate funding to Parks Canada to ensure scientific study and inquiry can be conducted in our national parks.
  • amend the Sable Island National Park Act to remove the authorities of the Canada-Nova Scotia Off-shore Petroleum Board and re-affirm that industrial activities have no place in our national parks.
  • enforce previous policies that precluded private sector and privatized for-profit activities within national parks.
  • re-commit to the completion of our national parks and marine protected areas. These shall comprise a representative network of Canada’s terrestrial and marine ecosystems, setting a target date of 2030 with emphasis on fast-tracking the establishment of “no-take” marine protected areas, extending, in partnership with provinces, territories, and Aboriginal peoples, Canada’s network of land, freshwater, and marine protected areas and linking them with provincial and territorial parks wherever possible.  Furthermore, limited use buffer zones should be established around national parks for the maintenance of natural biological diversity and ecosystem health.
  • implement the recommendations of conservation scientists for effective action to preserve critically threatened habitats, keystone species, endangered species, and species of commercial or cultural value, habitats threatened by climate change, and continuous tracts of habitat for wide-range migrating species
  • increase monitoring and protection efforts, including an addition to the number of park rangers and guides with interpretation skills to educate Canadians and visitors about the vast beauty and value of our national parks.

6. Better enforce and enhance protection for species at risk

Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA) was enacted in 2003, but it has proven to be largely ineffective, in part because successive federal governments have failed to enforce it in many cases where a species clearly merited protection.  The SARA provides basic protection only for species on federal lands, which constitutes only about 5% of the lands in Canada. In addition, the SARA allows the federal cabinet to decide on a species’ protection status instead of deferring to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).  Habitat protection and recovery plans are also voluntary.

The legal listing of species at risk has become more political and less scientific each year.  For example, Cultus Lake sockeye salmon were not listed as at risk to avoid “significant socio-economic impacts on sockeye fishermen and coastal communities.” Eight aquatic species recommended for protection by COSEWIC were not listed by federal cabinet in 2006. Former Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn said this was “to ensure that we don’t negatively affect the fishing industry.” In the last few years, despite critical rhetoric about “safety nets,” the federal government has refused to issue emergency orders to protect critical habitat on non-federal lands. Perhaps the best known example of this “extirpation by neglect” is the decision by Ottawa to look the other way as the B.C. government has permitted logging in Northern spotted owl habitat.

The Green Party of Canada supports strengthening the endangered species legislation to include new powers to enforce prescribed measures to protect species at risk and to stop acts of non-compliance. We believe the COSEWIC scientists should have the authority to designate threatened species and not have their recommendations subject to the whims of the federal cabinet.

The Green Party will amend Canada’s SARA as follows:

  • to ensure that listing under this Act is based on scientific rather than political processes, with COSEWIC overseeing the legal listing of protected species. Cabinet approval of this list will be removed.
  • to ensure that recovery-planning efforts identify and then appropriately manage, protect and/or restore the habitat that species need to recover, through consultative, collaborative efforts with stakeholders, land-owners, provinces, municipalities, and First Nations governments.
  • to inject $40 million/year for five years to renew the federal Species at Risk implementation funding.
  • to make it a criminal offence, punishable as a “mens rea” offence (i.e. indicating criminal intent or premeditation), to kill a protected species, regardless of whether the offence occurred on federal or provincial land.
  • to establish a Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan for Canada, working with the provinces to establish and protect wildlife corridors through land use management plans at the regional and provincial levels.
  • to work with provincial and territorial governments to end all trophy hunting in Canada while supporting subsistence hunting by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians of wild animals that are not threatened or endangered.

[1] This decline in our position is consistent, regardless of whether the agencies doing the ranking are government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), or business groups such as the Conference Board of Canada.  See for a compilation of recent studies.  The Conference Board of Canada ranks Canada’s performance as below average on nine indicators: forest cover change, nitrogen oxides emissions, sulphur oxides emissions, Marine Trophic Index, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water withdrawals, volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions, municipal waste generation, and energy intensity.

[3]    See “Law Now” for a useful review at including a “model” alternative environmental assessment law.

[4] As an example, the 2010 report of the Federal Environment Commissioner noted that Environment Canada is not monitoring water quality on most federal lands, it has not developed water quality thresholds that could be used to observe the health of aquatic ecosystems, and it has consistently failed to submit annual reports to Parliament which are required under the Canada Water Act.  Furthermore, Canada’s Coast Guard has no reliable system to track spills, and “cannot accurately determine the number of spills that occur each year, their size and their environmental impacts.” See .

[5] Campana continues: “the vast majority of our senior scientists are in the process of leaving now[,] disgusted as I am with the way things have gone, and I don’t think there is any way for it to be recovered.”  See .

[6]    For example, Lindane: see . The Virtual Elimination List currently includes only two compounds out of the thousands that enter our environment every day – see .

[7] Eutrophication refers to chronic nutrient enrichment of water bodies.  Eutrophication leads to algal

blooms which in turn deplete available oxygen when the algae die and decompose.

[8] See the Centre of Expertise in State of the Ocean Reporting (SOTO) 2012.

[9] See Roberts 2012.

[10]   In Canada, the Nanoose Range is maintained and operated by the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Keyport (NUWCDIVKPT), a joint United States-Canadian facility located in the Strait of Georgia on the eastern side of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, about 30 km north of Nanaimo.  The area is part of the test facilities at Canadian Forces Experimental and Test Ranges, which is a testing site for torpedoes, sonar, sonobuoys, and other maritime warfare equipment.  Ottawa allows foreign governments - principally the U.S. Navy - to use the facilities.

[11] See Kabluna, et. al. 2014, Nunatsiaq News 2014.

[12] See CBC 2014.

[13] Resilience has particular engineering and ecological interpretations.  In general, resilience refers to the ability of an ecosystem (or engineering structure) to “bounce back” from a disturbance or perturbation.  In an ecosystem, this could be a forest fire, logging, oil spill, period of overfishing, etc.


[15] These were listed as an endangered species by CITES in 2013.

[16] See CBC 2014.

[17] See Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2010.

[18] See Environment Canada 2014.