Media Release: Anti-Pesticide By-Law Challenged at Supreme Court

Media Release

Ottawa. Environmental, health and citizen organizations are in Ottawa today to call attention to the respective roles of municipalities and the federal government in regulating pesticides.

The Municipal Role
Clarification on the municipal role will be determined in an important case heading to the Supreme Court of Canada tomorrow. The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) is intervening in the case as well as representing nine other environmental organizations.

Canada’s highest court will hear an appeal from Chemlawn and Spraytech, challenging a by-law passed by the City of Hudson, Quebec. The by-law controls local use and application of pesticides by homeowners and businesses. A decision from the Supreme Court is expected in about six months; at the height of the summer spraying season.

“Our legal arguments as to the validity of the by-law conclude that municipalities do indeed have a legitimate and important role to play in imposing controls over pesticide use within their boundaries – a role disputed by the pesticide company appellants in this case,” said Theresa McClenaghan, counsel with CELA.

“The ability to respond to local concerns and insist on municipal by-laws is crucial,” stated Janet May of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, another intervenor in this case.

The past-Mayor of Hudson, Michael Elliott noted that “We had a small community with people reliant on wells for their drinking water. We responded to widespread public concern and put in place the strongest legislation we could to protect the health of our citizens.”

CELA’s legal arguments outline the respective role of municipal, provincial and federal governments under current legislation in Canada. This Supreme Court hearing deals with the municipal role and the relevant municipal legislation.

The Federal Role
Beyond the need to ensure that municipalities maintain their power to set pesticide by-laws, change is long overdue for federal legislation governing the registration of pesticides in Canada. The groups are also calling on the newly-elected federal government to overhaul the antiquated Pest Control Products Act.

“For nearly ten years, authoritative and comprehensive studies prepared by environmental and health experts in both the United States and Canada have identified a wide range of health risks for children from current exposure levels to pesticides,” said Dr. Nicole Bruinsma with the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

“Federal legislation has not kept pace. Worse, the underlying approach to registering or allowing the continued registration of pesticides is one of “wait and see.” The federal government buys the pesticide industry line of insisting on proof of harm before setting protective standards,” Ms McClenaghan added.

“The ugly reality of this approach is undue pesticide exposure as we collectively conduct a massive uncontrolled experiment on our children,” said Dr. Bruinsma.

“People are demanding that the federal government do its job,” said Ms May. Alice Barton, Sierra Club of Canada Campaigner and Coordinator of the Campaign for Pesticide Reduction noted that: “Environmental and health organizations from across Canada will be stepping up the pressure on the new federal government to live up to its international commitment to protect children’s health and to bring federal pesticide law into the 21st century.”

The intervenors in tomorrow’s case hope that the Supreme Court hearing as well as necessary federal revisions to the pesticide registration process will together clarify and strengthen the respective roles of these two levels of government in the control of pesticide use in Canada.

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For more information contact:

Theresa McClenaghan, Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association 416-960-2284
Alice Barton, Sierra Club of Canada Campaigner and Coordinator of the Campaign for Pesticide Reduction (CPR!) 613-241-4611
Dr. Nicole Bruinsma, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, 819-827-5246
Janet May, Toronto Environmental Alliance, 416-596-0660
Michael Elliott, past-Mayor, City of Hudson, 450-458-5965