Representatives of the Canadian government, along with Mexico and the United States, on Tuesday passed a resolution behind closed doors to stop the Commission for Environmental Cooperation from looking into whether the federal government is failing to enforce the Fisheries Act.
Two environmental groups and three private citizens had asked the commission to investigate whether tailings ponds were leaking into nearby rivers and creeks in northern Alberta.
Allowing toxic material to get into water is against the federal Fisheries Act. The commission secretariat agreed last year there was a case, and told all three countries it wanted to go ahead with an investigation, called a factual record.NAFTA was never meant to ensure countries follow their own environmental laws, quite the contrary, NAFTA was setup to ensure corporations and their operations are protected from the country making laws in favour of it's own citizens that may negatively affect the profit or operations of the corporation such as environmental laws. Of course all 3 "committee members" voted against it: silly citizens, NAFTAs are for corporations.
"It's disappointing," said Dale Marshall of Environmental Defence, one of the groups that asked for the investigation.
"It shows that the Canadian government is willing to circumvent institutions that make sure Canada upholds environmental laws."
It's the third time in a year Canada has successfully stopped NAFTA's scrutiny of its environmental behaviour. In 2014, with Mexico's support, it stopped investigations into polar bear protection and B.C. salmon farms.
The Commission for Environmental Cooperation was set up under the North American Free Trade Agreement to make countries follow their own environmental laws.
But this time, its reasons for not looking into tailings ponds are legal not environmental.
Canada originally tried to stop the investigation by saying there was an ongoing legal case into the tailings ponds by a private citizen in Alberta. The rules say if that's happening, the NAFTA watchdog can't conduct its own case.
However, the Fort McMurray, Alta. man behind that legal action told The Canadian Press he considered the matter closed, and the appeal period on the suit ended last fall.
Despite assurances from their own secretariat staff that the Alberta case had been dropped, Mexico and the United States sided with Canada and agreed a lawsuit could potentially still go ahead.
"Accordingly, the secretariat should have proceeded no further in its analysis and terminated the submission," said the written decision by the council instructing its staff "not to prepare a factual record with respect to this submission."
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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.
Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.