Why is nothing being done about toxic tailings ponds leaking into Alberta rivers? – Environmental Defence

That’s why Environmental Defence, Natural Resources Defense Council, and a person from the Dene First Nation submitted a case to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) concerning the Canadian government’s failure to enforce the Fisheries Act. The CEC is an environmental body set up by the three NAFTA countries to investigate whether those countries are upholding their environmental laws. Citizens can bring evidence that environmental laws are being ignored and the CEC will investigate.

So that’s what we did, and in August, our case cleared the first hurdle. The CEC ruled that there was merit to our submission and asked the Canadian government to respond to the evidence that we provided that tar sands companies were violating the Fisheries Act by allowing tailings ponds to leak into rivers and aquifers. The government has 30 days to respond, so we will know in September whether this issue will start to be taken seriously.

After that, there are several directions the case could go, including the CEC doing a deep investigation into the issue. Unfortunately, another possible outcome is for the federal government to shut down an investigation by convincing another NAFTA country to vote with them to terminate the case.

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen here. In fact, it would be even better if the Canadian government proactively developed a strategy for enforcing the Fisheries Act against tar sands companies and used the ample evidence it has to prosecute them. First Nations that rely on both fish and fresh water from these rivers should not have to wait decades more for this toxic legacy to be addressed.

UPDATE: The Canadian government requested an extension (from 30 working days to 60 working days) to respond to our submission on this case. The Commission for Environmental Cooperation granted this extension. So the final deadline for the federal government is now November 10th. Stay tuned.

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