Toronto—The work of Campaign Lake Simcoe and its fight to protect Lake Simcoe received the prestigious “Hometown Hero” award this week at a gala reception at Toronto’s Drake Hotel.
The award was received by the counsel to Environmental Defence, David Donnelly, as an acknowledgment of the Campaign’s efforts to protect Lake Simcoe and for standing up to development that could harm the Lake. The environmental movement’s best known lawyer, Clayton Ruby C.M., was also honoured for his commitment to some of Canada’s most high profile human rights and environmental cases.
 
The evening also featured special mention of Robert Eisenberg for blowing the whistle on overly optimistic phosphorus estimates and championing the Lake Simcoe Protection Act. Murray Brasseur received special mention for his tenacious fight against the Big Bay Point mega-marina in Innisfil, Ontario, which threatens to harm Lake Simcoe’s shoreline.
 
“We’re very pleased to give this award for the advocacy on Lake Simcoe and the campaign to create the Lake Simcoe Protection Act,” said Jed Goldberg, President of Earth Day Canada. “The Lake Simcoe Protection Act, which was introduced on June 17th 2008, has given the surrounding communities of Lake Simcoe a voice in protecting their watershed.”
 
Earth Day Canada cited Campaign Lake Simcoe’s efforts while bestowing the award:
 
*     Leading the fight to limit phosphorus and stop urban sprawl surrounding Lake Simcoe, which threatens the health of the watershed;
*     Recognizing the importance of legislation to protect the entire Lake Simcoe watershed;
*     Representing the Innisfil District Association (IDA) and leading  the opposition to the development of a proposed 2,000 unit resort, championship golf course and 1,000 slip marina on the Lake at Big Bay Point; and, 
*     Acting as a cornerstone in the effort to end Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (“SLAPP” suits) in Ontario.
Clayton Ruby is currently representing Environmental Defence in the $3.6 million cost claim against David Donnelly and Innisfil District Association.
 
“SLAPP suits, designed to intimidate opposition to developers, must be resisted, or ordinary people will be prevented from having their voices heard in planning decisions,” said Mr. Ruby.

Campaign Lake Simcoe, a coalition made up of Environmental Defence, the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and Ontario Nature, is dedicated to protecting green space in Simcoe County and improving the water quality of Lake Simcoe.

Campaign Lake Simcoe has led the charge for a Lake Simcoe Protection Act over the past three years. It convened public consultations into the need for the Act in the summer of 2006, and hosted the first Lake Simcoe Summit last July. Finally, in March 2008, Campaign Lake Simcoe’s “What it Takes to Save Lake Simcoe: A Citizen Response” was endorsed by 45 groups around the lake.

“I think this award makes a very strong statement that our campaign to save Lake Simcoe has gained wide acceptance and is very worthy of this honour as one of Canada’s finest citizen-led initiatives,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “Environmental groups, activists, cottagers and field naturalists have been at the forefront of trying to stop ill-planned developments in the watershed for the past few years; the award is a wonderful tribute to their efforts.” 
 
“Lake Simcoe is in crisis because it doesn’t have a law to protect it as the Niagara Escarpment, the Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt do,” said Robert Eisenberg, Founding Chair of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition. 
 
“This is truly a great award for the Lake because the movement for the Act has really come from a lot of Hometown Heroes,” said David Donnelly, counsel to Environmental Defence. 

The Lake Simcoe watershed has 22 municipalities, over 380,000 residents, 12,000 cottages on the shoreline, almost 2,000 farms, 58 species of fish and 65 species at risk.
 
Earth Day Canada also made a donation of $4,000 to support the work of Campaign Lake Simcoe.
 
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For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:
 
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)