Montreal, 17 August 2017—Yesterday, the Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) issued a determination requesting a response from Canada to SEM-17-001 (Alberta Tailings Ponds II), a submission from two nongovernmental organizations and one individual (the Submitters). The Submitters assert that Canada is failing to effectively enforce subsection 36(3) of its Fisheries Act by allowing leakage from tailings ponds associated with northern Alberta oil sands operations, resulting in the alleged deposit of deleterious substances into groundwater and surface waters.
The Secretariat’s determination is based on a finding that the submission meets the criteria in Articles 14(1) and (2) of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (the NAAEC), which allows private parties to make submissions to the CEC Secretariat asserting “that a Party [to the NAAEC] is failing to effectively enforce its environmental law.”
Canada has 30 working days to provide its response, or up to 60 days upon specific notice to the Secretariat. The Secretariat will then review the submission in light of the response to determine whether to request that the CEC Council authorize the development of a factual record.
For more information, please visit the CEC’s submission registry for the Alberta Tailings Ponds II submission.
The CEC Submissions on Enforcement Matters process supports public participation, information-sharing between governments and the public, and transparency and openness in the effective enforcement of environmental law in North America. If you have reason to believe that an environmental law is not being effectively enforced by Canada, Mexico or the United States, the SEM process may address your concerns.
As of 1 July 2020, the CEC’s SEM process is governed by USMCA Articles 24.27 and 24.28 of the Environment Chapter of the free trade agreement between Canada, Mexico and the United States (CUSMA, T-MEC, USMCA).
Want to learn more about the SEM process? Please watch this two-minute video for an introduction: