Today, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a by-law passed by the town of Hudson, Quebec that banned the cosmetic use of pesticides within municipal boundaries, including on private property. The Court held that the municipal by-law did not conflict with provincial legislation and complements federal legislation. In total, “these laws establish a tri-level regulatory regime.” The Court also stated that By-law 270 “respects international law’s “precautionary principle”. In the context of the precautionary principle’s tenets, the Town’s concerns about pesticides fit well under the rubric of preventive action.”
“Our clients are thrilled with this decision,” stated Theresa McClenaghan, counsel for the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) and nine environmental and health groups who intervened in the case. “The Court has provided clear guidance to municipalities in Canada as to the legitimate use of powers under general health and welfare provisions to enact by-laws in response to local concerns,” Ms McClenaghan said.
“I’ve been contacted by local groups for nearly fifteen years, almost always women with young children concerned about pesticide spraying in parks, schools, playgrounds and on private property,” said Kathleen Cooper, Researcher with CELA. “These local groups, many of whom were involved as intervenors in this case, have worked tirelessly to encourage local restrictions and bans on the use of pesticides on public lands and especially in focusing on alternatives to pesticide use.”
“This decision gives municipalities a green light to enact bylaws to restrict the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes in order to protect human health and the environment,” said Janet May, acting Executive Director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance. “Environmental and health groups all over Canada will be asking their local council to enact bylaws similar to that of Hudson.”
Since 1990, the Toronto Environmental Alliance has asked the City of Toronto to pass a by-law restricting the cosmetic use of pesticides. Other groups involved in this intervention have made similar requests. Ms. McClenaghan noted that “concerned individuals and groups across Canada have been asking municipalities to follow the leadership of Hudson, Quebec. The response from municipalities has been the same for the last year: “we are waiting for the Supreme Court decision.” With this decision, the way is clear for municipalities to act.”
For more information:
Kathleen Cooper, Senior Researcher 416-960-2284 ext 221