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Environmental enforcement falling through the cracks, BC government report shows

Monday, November 7, 2016


VANCOUVER, BC, Coast Salish Territories – A new provincial government report shows that the Ministry of Environment needs to do more to protect British Columbians from toxins and other pollution, according to lawyers at West Coast Environmental Law.

The organization applauds the government for its transparency in releasing the 2015 Compliance Inspections Report and associated data, but disagreed sharply with the government’s positive take on what the information means.

“This report shows that 60% of inspections identified at least some level of non-compliance with the Environmental Management Act,” said Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer. “Can you imagine what our roads would look like if 60% of drivers were breaking the law?”

“The Environmental Management Act is the key piece of legislation dealing with pollution from large-scale industry. If we mess up here, we allow corporations to poison people, salmon and our environment,” he said.

Gage noted that many of the examples of so-called “minor” non-compliance appear to be from large industrial players who were repeatedly inspected and in many cases remain out of compliance.

“These laws exist to protect the public and our environment – and a culture of non-compliance needs to meet with more than a mere written record that gets filed away,” said Gage.

Gage reiterated that West Coast was encouraged that the government was releasing new information about its compliance efforts: “It is because the Ministry is being more open that we’re able to have a conversation about how the Environmental Management Act is (and often is not) being enforced. Thanks to this data we’re able to get a sense about what the government needs to do to better protect BC’s environment.”

West Coast has been calling for stronger enforcement of BC’s environmental laws for more than a decade, since penalties levelled against polluters were dramatically reduced in the early 2000s.

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For more information, please contact: 

Andrew Gage | Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association
250-412-9784 (Victoria) or 604-601-2501 (Vancouver)