Environmental groups support environmental commissioner’s call for transparency, open data and better public consultations needed

OTTAWA — Environmental groups are pleased that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD)’s report emphasizes the importance of transparency and accountability, and the need to better integrate scientific knowledge into federal decision making. The groups argue that public consultations need to be meaningful, and supported by open data.

The CESD’s findings coincide with a report put out yesterday by Ecojustice, which recommends that the Canadian government make all information about pollution, environmental degradation and enforcement efforts publicly available online.

The proposed comprehensive online database would incorporate information collected from all environmental statutes requiring enforcement, so citizens and potential investors could search by postal code or company name to learn about the history of a particular regulated entity. The CESD’s report notes that many departments lack a full list of all regulated entities.

“A cross-departmental comprehensive database could greatly improve the enforcement of environmental laws,” said Hans Herrmann, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Network.

“The CESD’s report clearly states that ‘communication of scientific research to external stakeholders is an important part of transparency’, and open data is a great tool for providing this information to the public.”

“Today, the CESD made the point that effective governance requires a two-way exchange between government and its partners based on meaningful public participation,” says Olivier Kolmel, chair of the Canadian Environmental Network. “The web-based consultation system that this government is implementing is just one tool in the consultation tool kit and should not replace face-to-face and other important forms of dialogue. Will we still see the same level of public engagement from diverse communities across Canada?”

The report also highlighted the need for greater attention to risk analysis and safety protocols around the transportation of dangerous goods, which have the potential to impact the health of communities and wildlife across Canada.

“Weak enforcement of pipeline safety rules in particular is of great concern, given major proposed projects such as the Northern Gateway pipeline,” said Carla Sbert, of Nature Canada. “Ensuring the most up to date science is available to stakeholders in consultations on these projects is crucial.”

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For more information, contact:

  • Hans Herrmann, Executive Director, Canadian Environmental Network – 514-743-0684
  • Carla Sbert, Manager of Conservation Programs & Legal Issues, Nature Canada – 613-562-3447 x. 222 
  • Will Amos, Director, Ecojustice Clinic at the University of Ottawa – 613-255-7505