In 2016, our community came together to make big changes happen. From safeguarding fresh water to slowing urban sprawl and getting toxic chemicals out of the products we use, you helped us ensure that our environment and the health of Canadians were protected. You joined us in saying no to fossil fuels and yes to modern, clean energy. You stood alongside us in our fight to reduce carbon emissions and build a clean economy.
None of our work would be possible without you.
Climate & Clean Economy
Rising temperatures, increased flooding, and shrinking glaciers tell us we urgently need to take action to fight climate change. We know that what is good for the environment is also good for the economy. That’s why we are working to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and build a low-carbon, clean economy in Canada.
While the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change is a historic step forward, more needs to done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build a clean economy in Canada. That’s why we pushed for stronger regulations to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations, urged an end to fossil fuel subsidies and much more.
This year, we also pushed for the reform of Canada’s broken pipeline regulator, showed how the proposed Energy East pipeline would threaten major Canadian rivers, and successfully delayed the National Energy Board’s review of Energy East for more than a year.
In Ontario, we applauded the province’s successful launch of its cap on carbon pollution which funds the province’s landmark Climate Change Action Plan. Meanwhile, we explained why renewable energy is not the cause of Ontario’s rising electricity prices. In Alberta, we continued to advise the government on how to cap tar sands pollution and implement its Climate Leadership Plan.
In the year ahead, our efforts to fight climate change will focus on:
- Intervening in the Energy East pipeline review if and when the review resumes
- Ensuring that Ontario’s Climate Change Action plan is properly implemented and the province hits legislated GHG reduction targets
- Addressing the problem of Alberta’s toxic tailings ponds from tar sands operations
- Engaging with the federal government on the implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change
Water is vital to all Canadians. That’s why we work to keep Canada’s waters clean and safe by fighting pollution, strengthening Great Lakes protection, and working with communities to ensure our beaches and marinas are sustainably managed.
This past year, we looked into the causes of algae blooms in Lake Erie and the massive amounts of plastic waste in the Great Lakes. We also called on the Ontario government to implement a solution for both these problems: a deposit return program for plastic bottles.
Along with several other concerned groups, we spoke out about the impact of water bottling operations in Ontario. Because of our efforts, last fall the Ontario government announced new rules for water bottlers, including a two-year ban on new water bottling operations.
Thanks to our Blue Flag program, Canadians have more clean and sustainably-managed spots to enjoy swimming and boating. This year, 27 beaches and eight marinas flew the coveted eco-certification, including two new beaches and one new marina.
In the year ahead, our efforts to safeguard freshwater will focus on:
- Working with industry and the province to make a deposit return program for plastic bottles a reality in Ontario
- Ensuring government develops a strong action plan to stop algae blooms in Lake Erie
- Increasing the number of Blue Flag beaches and marinas across Canada
Kicking Out Toxics
Toxic chemicals, many with links to serious health issues like cancer, asthma and reproductive failure, continue to be found in products Canadians use daily. That’s why we’re working with the federal government to strengthen our toxics laws and educating Canadians on what they can do to avoid harmful chemicals.
With the support of thousands of Canadians, this past year we helped to get microbeads banned in Canada and atrazine — a pesticide in our surface and drinking water — placed under a special federal review.
We also released our Full Disclosure: The case for stronger household product labels report and promoted wet cleaning as the safer alternative to dry cleaning.
All of our efforts culminated in a cross-Canada movement to reform our main toxics law, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), so that Canadians and the environment are better protected from toxic chemicals.
In the year ahead, our efforts to kick out toxics will focus on:
- Supporting public education on toxics and working with the federal government to make a stronger CEPA a reality
- Working with environmental and health groups to accomplish stronger restrictions on key pesticides including neonics, glyphosate and atrazine
- Participating in Health Canada’s consultations on revamping cosmetics and self care product regulations and ensuring transparent labelling on these products
Creating Livable Communities
Farmland, water and natural areas are under threat from sprawling development, stressful gridlock is worse, and commute times are getting longer. It’s clear that protecting Ontario’s Greenbelt and creating liveable communities is more important than ever.
That’s why we’re working to stop rampant urban sprawl from paving over Ontario’s best remaining farmland. We’re also ensuring the proper implementation of the province’s Growth Plan to help create a prosperous and sustainable future.
When the Ontario government announced that it would review the Greenbelt and Growth Plans, we knew we had to be involved. We informed Canadians on how they could get involved and over 30,000 sent letters, made calls and joined our Queen’s Park MPP information days to ensure prime farmland, water sources and forests were protected.
And our efforts paid off! The newly released Greenbelt and Growth Plans set Ontario on a path towards greater sustainability, climate resilience and economic prosperity.
In the year ahead, our efforts to create liveable communities will focus on:
- Helping concerned citizens stop the destructive and costly Highway 413 which would destroy forests and farms in the Greenbelt
- Working with planners, academics and municipal leaders to ensure the proper implementation of the Growth Plan
- Pushing to have the Greenbelt’s boundaries expanded so that prime farmland and vulnerable water sources are protected
We wouldn’t exist without you. You signed petitions, donated your birthday presents, attended our events, wrote and called the government and financially supported our programs.
Everything we do is made possible because of your generosity, enthusiasm, passion and dedication.
And, you inspire us to continue our work to improve the health of Canadians and the Environment.
An Evening of Inspiring Change
Our 2017 Gala featured a thought-provoking conversation with Anthropocene Project creators Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier. Led by executive director, Tim Gray, the discussion explored how Environmental Defence’s efforts to make meaningful change dovetail with the work of these three incredible artists who have brought the beauty, scope and scale of massive change to photography and film. Thank you to our sponsors and guests for your unwavering commitment to inspiring change.
Award in honour of the recipient’s service to protecting Canada’s environment
Heather Bastien will always be remembered as one of Ontario’s greatest Aboriginal cultural heritage landscape champions.
Together with Luc Laine, legal counsel and a few dedicated archaeologists, Heather’s efforts resulted in the protection of dozens of significant Huron-Wendat villages and burials, including Skandatut, a large 15th century village site in Ontario’s Greenbelt.
When she was asked what preserving Skandatut and its ossuary meant to her, she said, “We created a permanently protected cultural heritage landscape in the Greenbelt. Preserving Skandatut, our ancient capital and burial ground, is a great legacy for all Nations.”
ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE is a team of passionate, creative, and talented people devoted to making positive change happen. Our staff and board work hard every day to protect Canada’s environment and human health. But we don’t do it alone. We have an expert advisory committee that offers ideas, advice and feedback to help us develop our campaigns, and we have celebrity partners and a social media team that helps us get the word out about our programs.
It takes all of our dedicated team working together in our office to deliver the outcomes we’ve shared in this report. The program, engagement and communications staff (tackling the issues) along with our finance, development, and administration teams (backbone) come together and deliver the change we have committed to our funders and supporters. And of course, we need the space (keeping the lights on) to brainstorm, plan and implement.
To quote author, activist and humanitarian, Dan Pallotta:
“Our generation does not want its epitaph to read, ‘We kept charity overhead low.’ We want it to read we changed the world.”
A BIG THANKS to all of the individuals and organizations who generously supported our efforts between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017. Together, we accomplished incredible feats, including securing a federal commitment to protecting charities from harassment and the launch of a new standard to protect natural areas from the impacts of aggregate extraction. And with your continued support, we know that we can accomplish even more this coming year.