Sandy Pond Alliance to Protect Canadian Waters Inc. Stop the Destruction
MEDIA RELEASE: For Immediate Release – November 24, 2013
Federal Court Rules Destruction of Pristine Lakes is Legal under the Fisheries Act – How Many More?
ST. JOHN’S — How much is a 10,000 year old pond teeming with prized trout worth?
In 2010, the Sandy Pond Alliance to Protect Canadian Waters, a group of concerned citizens, challenged the government’s give-away of Sandy Pond, a large 38 hectare lake, in Long Harbour, Newfoundland to Vale Inco Ltd. as a Tailings Impoundment Areas (TIA) or nickel processing pollution dump under Schedule 2 of the Fisheries Act. Our legal case to protect all Canadian freshwater ecosystems was based on the premise that the guiding principle of the Fisheries Act of Canada is conservation and that such destruction was beyond the parliamentary intention of the Act or in legal terminology – ultra vires.
In her ruling of October 31, 2013 Federal Court Justice Heneghan wrote that “…subsection 35(2) [of the Fisheries Act] allows the Minister to authorize the alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat under any conditions he deems appropriate.” Thus, if the Minister so chooses [and he did], Sandy Pond or any waterway in Canada can simply be given away for destruction for corporate development.
As Owen Myers, the Alliance’s lawyer, put it – “This ruling has clarified that the conservation standard of the Fisheries Act allows for the wholesale devastation of fishes and fish habitat.”
Justice Heneghan decreed that “the Applicant [The Sandy Pond Alliance] is mistaken when asserting that conservation is the paramount purpose of the Act … the use of Sandy Pond in this manner is not illegal.” But look …
THEN (Aug 2009) NOW (Telegram, 1 Mar 2013)
Once a favored site for Newfoundland anglers, today Sandy Pond is a savaged site. Its fishes [including Threatened American Eels] have been removed or killed. Sandy Pond is surrounded by a chain-link with a guarded gate.
So what protections exist? Destroying a species and its habitat until it is threatened with extinction and Species at Risk Act kicks in. It didn’t work for the Threatened American Eels in Sandy Pond.
The destruction of Sandy Pond was deemed the most appropriate developmental option in a weak, watered-down and scientifically-flawed environmental assessment process. There were other options.
As Dr. John Gibson, a former DFO research scientist and a Director of the Sandy Pond Alliance, said “if an environmentally sound artificial tailings pond could not be constructed in Long Harbour, they should not have been there and should have found an area where one could have been built.”
Across Canada today, another 13 lakes, ponds and streams are listed and 12 others have been proposed for obliteration under the Fisheries Act as pollutant dumps in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador. “While the judge has clarified the law of the matter, the controversy over the destruction of Sandy Pond is increasing and the legal decision won’t change that. Across the country Canadians are rejecting proposals to destroy valued lake ecosystems – alternatives must and can be found” commented Ramsey Hart of MiningWatch Canada
Some time, somewhere the destruction has to stop. It’s time to stop the government give-aways of our natural environment to extraction and energy corporations. A Fisheries Act that permits wanton corporate destruction of Canadian waters, fishes and fish habitat must be changed. Environmental regulations must be strengthened rather than fast-tracking every development through regulations watered-down by the Harper government.
In her ruling, Judge Heneghan indicated “The will of the people, with respect to legislation can be expressed at the ballot box.”
Is what happened at Sandy Pond and is ongoing at other lakes and streams across the Canada truly the will of the people?
Join us in addressing this federal court ruling at our press conference scheduled for 10 AM on Tuesday (26 November) at St. Teresa’s Parish Hall at Mundy Pond.
CONTACTS = Sandy Pond Alliance – Bill Montevecchi, Chair
Tel = 709-693-5305; email = email@example.com
Sandy Pond Alliance Lawyer – Owen Myers
Tel = 709-579-3321; email = firstname.lastname@example.org
MiningWatch Canada – Ramsay Hart
Tel = 613-569-3439; email = email@example.com