January 12, 2004

Factual record ordered on allegations of lax enforcement of Fisheries Act

The Council of Commission for Environmental Co-operation of North America (CEC) has instructed the CEC Secretariat to prepare a factual record on allegations that Canada is failing to effectively enforce section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act and federal Pulp and Paper Effluent Regulations (PPER) at ten pulp and paper mills in Quebec, Ontario and the Atlantic provinces.

In May 2002, Sierra Legal Defence Fund (SLDF) filed a Pulp and Paper submission (SEM-02-003) with the CEC on behalf of several Canadian nongovernmental organizations NGOs). The submitters documented more than 2,400 alleged violations of the PPER at approximately 70 mills in central and eastern Canada between 1995 and 2000 and claimed that very few of these were prosecuted. Most of the alleged violations related to the failure of mill effluents to meet limits on acute lethality, biochemical oxygen demand or total suspended solids or the failure to conduct follow-up tests required when initial tests indicate that effluent is acutely lethal. The submission listed twelve mills of particular concern. Section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act prohibits the deposit of a deleterious substance in water frequented by fish, except as authorized by regulations such as the PPER.

The federal government filed a formal response to the allegations in August 2002. After reviewing both the submission and Canada's response, the Secretariat recommended a factual record last October (ELW October 27, 2003).

The CEC Council has instructed the Secretariat to prepare a factual record on allegations relating to ten of the 12 mills of concern listed in the submission. The Abitibi-Consolidated mill at Iroquois Falls, Ontario and the Tembec's mill in Temiscaming, Quebec have been excluded because they are the subject of investigations by federal enforcement officers. Accordingly, the factual record will address the following mills and time periods cited in the submission:

* Irving Pulp and Paper, Saint John, from 1996 to 2000

* AV Cell, Atholville, in 2000

* Abitibi-Consolidated, Grand Falls, in 2000

* Bowater Mersey, Brooklyn, in 2000

* Fjordcell, JonquiËre, in 2000

* Interlake Papers, St Catharines, in 2000

* Tembec, St Raymond, in 2000

* UniforÍt-P¿te Port Cartier, Port-Cartier, in 2000

* FF Soucy, RiviËre-du-Loup, in 2000

* La Compagnie J Ford, Portneuf, in 2000

Although the submission makes no allegations about provincial enforcement of provincial laws, the instructions call for the factual record to report on Canada's consideration of actions taken by the provinces regarding the listed mills to enforce provincial legislation, regulations and permit conditions related to pulp and paper mills. The Secretariat has been asked to draft an overall work plan for gathering the relevant facts and to provide the parties an opportunity to comment on that plan.

The directive instructing the Secretariat to prepare a factual record, along with the submission, Canada's response and the Secretariat's factual record recommendation, may be viewed on the CEC Web site, www.cec.org/citizen.

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