Concerns about effective monitoring, reporting, and enforcement of environmental laws and permits governing resource extraction projects

Petition: 460

Issue(s): Compliance and enforcement; Environmental assessment; Federal-provincial relations; Human/environmental health; Water

Petitioner(s): A Canadian organization

Petitioner location(s): Marathon, Ontario

Date received: 14 October 2021

Status: Completed - Response(s) to petition received

Summary: This petition expresses concerns that environmental monitoring and enforcement for resource-based projects, including their environmental assessments, are not functioning properly across Canada. It maintains that the federal government must improve transparency and accountability to ensure that project-approval and enforcement procedures are adequately monitored to reduce detrimental effects on ecosystems and human health. It cites a 2019 Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development audit report on protecting fish from mining effluent, which found that Fisheries and Oceans Canada needed to improve monitoring of mining companies’ plans to compensate for loss of fish and their habitats.

The petition also asserts that penalties and fines have been too low or issued too late for companies found to be non-compliant with regulations. It cites a $60‑million penalty levied against Teck Coal Limited under the Fisheries Act, stating that it took nearly 10 years for a fine to be issued. The petition asks whether Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada have timelines in place to collect fines for contravening environmental laws and permits. It also asks about the consequences of not paying these fines in a timely fashion. In addition, it asks for information on when these fines are collected and whether they are considered to be effective in dealing with non-compliance and serving as deterrents against future environmental offences. The petition also asks how information on non‑compliance warnings and infractions is shared with other government entities, including the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada.

The petition maintains that assessing cumulative effects should be at the forefront of environmental assessment and of permitting processes in light of the legislative mandates of several federal entities, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada. The petition mentions the Marathon Palladium Mine Project in the Lake Superior watershed, stating that the cumulative effects assessment for that project neglected 20 industrial sites within the watershed. The petition inquires whether Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Natural Resources Canada collaborate to guarantee that cumulative effects are considered during environmental assessments. It seeks details on how Fisheries and Oceans Canada assesses cumulative effects on fish and their habitats. It also asks whether the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada has procedures in place to inspect mines that are undergoing an assessment.

The petition questions the capacity of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada to monitor and enforce environmental laws. It asks how these departments ensure that the data that the government collects on environmental effects of mines are made accessible to the public. In addition, it asks for the status of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s efforts to resolve issues concerning prioritizing inspections of non‑metal mines and whether the department includes consultation with local communities and uses traditional Indigenous measures when monitoring project sites.

Federal departments/organizations responsible for reply: Environment and Climate Change Canada; Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Impact Assessment Agency of Canada; Natural Resources Canada