Summary of the matter addressed in the submission:

The Submitters assert that Canada is failing to effectively enforce the pollution prevention provision of the federal Fisheries Act (the Act) to address contaminants being discharged from the Iona Island (British Columbia) Wastewater Treatment Plant, which have a deleterious affect on fish and fish habitat.

The Submitters allege that on a daily basis “the Iona WWTP [Wastewater Treatment Plant] facility discharges over 30 tonnes of oxygen demanding substances into the Strait of Georgia.” The Submitters allege that such substances may be deleterious to fish and fish habitat, and that Iona WWTP discharges that are acutely toxic to fish violate section 36(3) of the Act. The Submitters assert that despite the Canadian government’s knowledge that discharges from the Iona WWTP are regularly acutely toxic to fish in contravention of the Act, “The Canadian government has failed to prevent the ongoing and continuous discharges of a deleterious substance into our waterways. In addition, the beneficial uses of our natural resources used by submitting parties have been and continue to be degraded.” Moreover, the Submitters allege that a citizen attempted prosecution of the government and its authorities for Iona WWTP discharges that violated the Act, but “the Canadian government intervened to the exclusion of the informant, took over the prosecution, and stayed the charges. This demonstrates a failure of the government to enforce, or allow to be enforced, its environmental laws.”

Summary of the response provided by the Party:

In its Response, Canada first places the Iona WWTP in the Canada-wide context of the time and expense needed to maintain and upgrade a large number of aging facilities, including the Iona WWTP. Canada explains its annual priority-setting enforcement exercise in the context of its compliance and enforcement policies and plans. Canada also notes that all orders of government share jurisdiction over wastewater management, and explains the enforcement relationships among section 36 of the Act, the provincial Operational Plan and Metro Vancouver’s Liquid Waste Management Plan.

Canada explains that it considers “day-to-day discharges” of treated effluent into water frequented by fish, addressed by subsection 36(3) of the Act, as distinct from “deposits out of the normal course of events (‘DONCE’), such as extreme weather events, spills and power outages,” which are addressed by subsection 38(4) of the Act. In this context, Canada explains its enforcement actions during the period covered by the assertions in the Submission. Draft Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations are being prepared, during which time Canada says enforcement resources have shifted in regard to subsections 36(3) and 38(4) of the Act, stating “[O]nce the process to explore and develop the proposed wastewater regulations was launched, the Department’s Enforcement Officers began to shift from a proactive to a reactive approach, focusing their efforts on responding to DONCE occurrences.”

Canada notes that the new regulations, published in draft form in the Canada Gazette Part I in March 2010, are expected to be published in final form in 2012. The regulations, Canada says, will have the effect of “regulating the discharge of existing effluent into the environment” from a particular treatment plant, until it has made the upgrades necessary to achieve secondary treatment. Canada maintains that its enforcement decisions with respect to the Iona WWTP are “effective and appropriate” in all of the circumstances.

Names and citations of the environmental laws in question:

The federal Fisheries Act

Submitter(s):

Fraser Riverkeeper Society, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Ottawa Riverkeeper, Fundy Baykeeper, Grand Riverkeeper, Georgian Baykeeper, Petitcodiac Riverkeeper, David Suzuki Foundation, T Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, and Waterkeeper Alliance

Submission Timeline

May 7, 2010

The Secretariat received a submission and began a preliminary analysis of it under the guidelines.

Submission - Submission authored by Submitter(s) on 04/05/2010

Acknowledgement - Communication to Submitter(s) authored by Secretariat on 07/05/2010

December 16, 2011

The Secretariat determined that the submission met the criteria of Article 14(1) and requested a response from the concerned government Party in accordance with Article 14(2).

Determination - Secretariat Determination under Article 14 (1) and 14 (2) authored by Secretariat on 16/12/2011

February 14, 2012

The Secretariat received a response from the concerned government Party and began considering whether to recommend a factual record.

Party Response - Response from the Party under Article 14 (3) authored by Canada on 14/02/2012

Annex - Other document authored by Canada on 31/12/2000

Annex - Other document authored by Canada on 11/12/2011

Annex - Other document authored by Canada on 17/02/2009

Annex - Other document authored by Canada on 20/03/2010

Annex - Other document authored by Canada on 30/11/2001

Annex - Other document authored by Canada on 30/04/2009

Annex - Other document authored by Canada on 25/05/2000

Annex - Other document authored by Canada on 20/03/2001

Annex - Other document authored by Canada on 30/03/2001

Annex - Other document authored by Canada on 06/04/2001

Annex - Other document authored by Canada on 14/06/2001

Annex - Other document authored by Canada on 05/07/2011

Annex - Other document authored by Canada on 08/08/2011

Annex - Other document authored by Canada on 13/08/2007

Annex - Other document authored by Canada on 24/04/2009

Acknowledgement - Other document authored by Secretariat on 16/02/2012

Other Documents - Communication to Submitter(s) authored by Secretariat on 16/02/2012

December 6, 2013

The Secretariat determined not to recommend the preparation of a factual record. Under guideline 9.6, the process was terminated.

Determination - Secretariat Determination under Article 15 (1) authored by Secretariat on 06/12/2013