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15 April 2016


Manitoba Protected Areas Audit Released During Election 15 April 16

Manitoba Wildlands has released its multi year audit of government steps to establish protected areas, based on public policy and commitments. Based on actions since January 1, 2013 the audit includes any crown land designation that is protected. These may be wildlife management areas, ecological reserves, provincial forest areas, park reserves, national parks or provincial parks.

There is a discrepancy between Manitoba government data for the protected lands that shows 12% versus Manitoba Wildlands' data at 9.9%. Regulations for protection from mining are missing for some designations as of December 31,2015.

"We have spent much of the winter identifying gaps in the regulatory system for protected areas, with the aim of urging government departments to complete the steps needed for protected areas already announced. Often it is the Mines Act regulation that is missing. As of April 13 some of these regulations are still outstanding. Included in the missing regulations are the First Nations traditional lands planning areas for the future World Heritage Site. The tracking chart shows NO in the column regarding protection from mining.

Manitoba needs to return to its former rigor and professionalism regarding the scientific, consultative, and regulatory steps for protected areas establishment," indicated Gaile Whelan Enns, director of Manitoba Wildlands.

View more information on Manitoba Wildlands Protected Areas Grades & Audit page
View Manitoba Wildlands' 2015 Protected Areas Audit - Summary (PDF)
View Manitoba Wildlands' 2015 Protected Areas Audit (PDF)

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Opposition To Fracking Growing 10 April 16

A new study by Stanford scientists published in Environmental Science & Technology finds that fracking operations in Wyoming had clear impact to underground sources of drinking water. The research paints a picture of unsafe practices including the dumping of drilling and production fluids containing diesel fuel, and high chemical concentrations in unlined pits with a lack of adequate cement barriers to protect groundwater. Drilling companies use proprietary blends that can include potentially dangerous chemicals such as benzene and xylene. When the wastewater comes back up after use, it often includes those and a range of potentially dangerous natural chemicals.

Concerns about this practice have riled the U.S. political landscape and communities around the country, perhaps nowhere more so than in Pavillion, Wyoming, population 231. As part of the so-called frackwater they inject into the ground, drilling companies use proprietary blends that can include potentially dangerous chemicals such as benzene and xylene. When the wastewater comes back up after use, it often includes those and a range of potentially dangerous natural chemicals.

"Decades of activities at Pavillion put people at risk. These are not best practices for most drillers," said co-authorRob Jackson, the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Professor at the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

A new study of the effects of fracking in Canada, “Hydraulic Fracturing and Seismicity in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin” confirms the horizontal drilling technique (which in essence creates an underground mini-earthquake to open up fissures for oil and gas extraction) is responsible for earthquakes in western Canada, above and beyond what is already canonized in the scientific literature. Injecting fracking waste into underground wells can cause quakes. Now it's not just injections wells, but the fracking procedure itself being linked to seismic activity.

Polls in both Canada and the U.S. show a steady growth in opposition to fracking and the risks to drinking water it poses. Add the fact that fracking caused earthquakes are now common place and you have a very sound argument to end fracking.

View April 4, 2016 DeSmogBlog article
View March 30, 2016 Fusion article
View March 30, 2016 Gallup article
View March 29, 2016 Stanford News article
View March 29, 2016 DeSmogBlog article

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Seven Year Old Sues Pakistan Over Climate Change 10 April 16

A 7-year-old girl, Rabab Ali, through her father and pro bono environmental attorney Qazi Ali Athar, and on behalf of all the Pakistani people, has filed a climate change lawsuit against the Federation of Pakistan in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The Constitution Petition asserts that, through the exploitation and continued promotion of fossil fuels, in particular dirty coal, the Pakistan and Sindh governments have violated the Public Trust Doctrine and the youngest generation's fundamental constitutional rights to life, liberty, property, human dignity, information and equal protection of the law.

"The protection of these inalienable and fundamental rights is essential if we are to have any chance of leaving our children and future generations with a stable climate system and environment capable of sustaining human life," said Qazi Ali Athar, public interest environmental attorney representing his daughter as youth petitioner in the case.

"Pakistan is rich in renewable energy resources such as solar and wind, more than enough to meet the energy needs of current and future generations of Pakistanis. Yet the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan, along with the vested interests in the country and the region, are exploiting Pakistan's most environmentally degrading and carbon intensive fuels—low-grade coal from the Thar Coal Reserves—in violation of the Pakistani people's constitutionally protected fundamental rights."

The case is the latest in a global string of lawsuits geared at forcing governments to do more on climate change. It follows a landmark win in the Netherlands last year, where the government was forced to increase emissions reductions targets.

View April 8, 2016 New Matilda article
View April 6, 2016 EcoWatch article
View June 24, 2015 The Guardian article
View March 30, 2015 The Guardian article

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Over 130 Countries to Sign Paris Agreement April 22 10 April 16

The 2016 Paris Climate Change Agreement opens for signature on 22 April 2016 during a ceremony convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York, marking an important international push to the agreement’s timely entry into force.

Last December in Paris, world leaders came together to agree on a set of goals and pathways to decarbonize the global economy and increase capacity to adapt to climate change. It was a landmark achievement, but just the beginning. Every country – with the support of cities, the private sector, and citizens – must now move swiftly to fulfill its promises and bring climate change under control.

Over 130 countries have confirmed to United Nations headquarters that they will attend the signing ceremony, including some 60 world leaders, amongst them President Francois Hollande of France. Canada's prime minister will be there to sign.

The event will also be attended by the President of COP21, France’s Segolene Royal, and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) , Christiana Figueres. All Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are invited to sign the agreement. International practice is that full powers are required to sign.

View April 8, 2016 Climate Change News article
View April 7, 2016 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change article
View April 7, 2016 United Nations article
View United Nations Tackling Climate Change page

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Quebec Cree Sue Ontario and Canada 12 March 16

The James Bay Cree Nation has commenced an action in the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario, to obtain recognition of the Cree Nation's Aboriginal title and Aboriginal rights over its traditional territory in northern Ontario, Eeyou Istchee - Ontario. The lawsuit, filed against the governments of Canada and Ontario, seeks declarations of Aboriginal title (on a shared basis with other Aboriginal nations) and Aboriginal rights over approximately 48,000 square kilometres of lands located south of James Bay and immediately west of the Ontario-Quebec boundary. In addition, the lawsuit claims damages of $495 million for past breaches of the Cree Nation's rights in relation to these lands.

Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come calls the suit the latest chapter in the Cree Nation's struggle to ensure that its pre-existing rights over all of its traditional lands are properly respected.

"The imposition of the Ontario-Quebec boundary cut through our homeland of Eeyou Istchee," Coon Come said in a release. Our people have used, occupied, governed and protected these lands in Ontario since time immemorial, but our rights in these lands have never been addressed in any treaty," he said.

View March 8, 2016 CBC News article
View March 7, 2016 Newswire article
View March 7, 2016 Global News article
View November 4, 2015 CTV News article

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Taxpayers To Pay For Arctic Oil Exploration 12 March 16

After the very public failure of a number of Arctic drilling attempts last year, Big Oil companies are lobbying the government of Canada to extend their drilling licenses and relinquish hundreds of millions in security deposits.

The Liberal government says it is proceeding, behind closed doors, with a review of Canada's Arctic drilling law that could see it relinquish up to $500 million to major oil companies that want to use the money to pursue risky exploration projects. Not only do the big oil companies want extensions on their contracts, they are seeking repayment on the collective $500 million in security deposits to obtain those licenses—after they give Arctic drilling another shot.

Arctic oil exploration has slowed down in the wake of a plunge in global commodity prices. The industry also struggled to meet new safety conditions imposed by authorities following BP's 2010 offshore drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Environmentalists who have reviewed the paper trail say they have been skeptical about the review ever since it was announced.

"Now, (the review) is being continued under a different government, and it's possible that this minister has a different objective of the review than (former Conservative minister) Valcourt," said Speers-Roesch, from Greenpeace Canada. "So I guess you can't be sure that the same attitude is there. Maybe they're taking a different approach, but that remains to be seen."

View February 29, 2016 National Observer article
View February 29, 2016 eNews Part Forest article
View November 24, 2015 National Observer article
View Canada Petroleum Resources Act
View Frequently Asked Questions: SSRW Technical Proceedings

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World Water Day 2016 12 March 16

World Water Day is an international opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. World Water Day dates back to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit) where an international observance for water was recommended in Agenda 21. The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day. It has been held annually since then.

Today, almost half of the world's workers - 1.5 billion people - work in water related sectors and nearly all jobs depend on water and those that ensure its safe delivery. Yet the millions of people who work in water are often not recognized or protected by basic labour rights.

The theme in 2016 — Water and Jobs — focuses on how quantity and quality of water can change workers' lives and livelihoods - and even transform societies and economies.

View March 9, 2016 Huffington Post article
View March 5, 2016 Straits Times article
View March 3, 2016 Global News article
View The Council of Canadians World Water Day page
Visit UN World Water Day 2016 website

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Safeguards For Scientific Work In Canada 12 March 16

In an open letter sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal Science Ministers Kirsty Duncan and Navdeep Bains, two leading groups in the fight to restore evidence-based public policy are calling for scientific integrity provisions. The provisions would include the right of federal scientists to speak publicly, to be added to collective bargaining agreements and formal science integrity policies at science-based departments.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), which represents over 15,000 federal scientists, and Evidence for Democracy (E4D), which advocates for the transparent use of evidence in democratic decision making by government, have commended the government's early announcements lifting the muzzle placed on scientists by the previous Harper government.

They are calling on the Prime Minister and Science Ministers to take the next steps to put in place the policies and infrastructure needed to support science integrity today and to prevent future governments from muzzling scientists.

Science needs to be safeguarded from future attacks and new policies are needed to clarify the rules for government scientists, protect the integrity of their research and make it harder for future governments to muzzle scientists.

View March 9, 2016 DeSmog Canada article
View March 9, 2016 Market Wired article
View March 9, 2016 Ottawa Citizen article

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The End of Tarsand Expansion 28 February 16

The pipelines moving tar sands out of Alberta are almost full, according to new analysis by Oil Change International. Without major expansion-driving pipelines such as Energy East, Kinder Morgan or Keystone XL, there will be no room for further growth in tar sands extraction and tens of billions of metric tonnes of carbon will be kept in the ground. This would be a significant step towards a safer climate.

All proposed new pipeline routes out of Alberta are facing legal challenges, opposition by local authorities and regulators, and broad-based public opposition. All of the major projects have been significantly delayed with some cancellations seemingly imminent. No pipeline has been built since 2010, despite active industry efforts.

The recent drop in oil prices has furthered the troubles of oilsands producers who, during the last 15 years, have dumped an estimated $200 billion into the resource. In recent months roughly 35,000 energy industry jobs have been lost in Alberta.

"Within the realm of sanity, I think the oil sands are finished," says David Schindler, who, as a limnologist and ecologist at the University of Alberta played a key role in forcing the tar sands to change the way it monitors and reports air and water pollution.

"With their product now so cheap, they are operating well below cost, only desperately trying to recoup some of the huge startup investment rather than see it all lost." He predicted that the industry will undergo major consolidation until only one or two deep-pocketed giants remain. But, he added, "Eventually they too will fall. New investment? Not unless investors are total idiots."

View February 23, 2016 The Energy Mix article
View February 1, 2016 Yale: Environment 360 article
View October 28, 2015 Tar Sands Solutions Network article
View October 27, 2015 DeSmog Canada article

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Canada - Human Rights At Home Matter 28 February 16

Representatives of three Northwestern Ontario First Nations are in Geneva to present a case to the United Nations that Canada's unwillingness to act on Indigenous water matters violate the country's international commitments to human rights.

The delegation is being led by Human Rights Watch, which spent approximately a year researching the water and sanitation conditions in a number of Ontario First Nations, including Shoal Lake 40, Neskantaga, Grassy Narrows and Batchewana.

All three communities were among five studied by Human Rights Watch, which found Canada to be violating treaty rights on water and sanitation.

"The chronic neglect of basic human rights in Grassy Narrows is extremely troubling and the ongoing cost in human suffering and cultural loss is staggering," said Craig Benjamin, Indigenous rights campaigner with Amnesty International Canada.

Indigenous peoples' organizations and human rights groups are calling on the federal government to acknowledge the serious concerns of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples in Canada and to make clear commitments to action as the country's record is reviewed before a UN human rights body. 30 civil society organizations took part in the UN's review of Canada's obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

"Unfortunately, Canada risks getting off to a bad start," said Alex Neve, Amnesty International Canada. "The recently elected federal government has pledged to build a new relationship with Indigenous peoples based on respect for rights as set out in the Treaties, the Constitution and international human rights instruments. We were deeply disappointed that their written response to the UN Committee continued the previous government's practice of downplaying and misrepresenting the profound gaps in human rights faced by Indigenous peoples in Canada."

Judy Da Silva, who has travelled to Geneva from the Grassy Narrows First Nation, said, "Some of our children continue to be born with mercury poisoning and for decades nothing has been done to clear the poison from our river. In the past Canada has not respected our rights but I still have hope that the tide will finally turn for us and that the Prime Minister will honour his word."

View February 25, 2016 Huffington Post article
View February 23, 2016 Amnesty International article
View February 23, 2016 The Council of Canadians article
View February 23, 2016 CBC News article
View February 22, 2016 CBC News article
View February 22, 2016 article
View CESCR - International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

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Canada's New Climate Test 28 February 16

The United Nations climate change summit in Paris produced a global framework (supported by 195 countries) that expressly supports a global peak and decline of greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. The Paris Agreement set an ambition to limit global warming to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C. United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has tabled the Paris Agreement for ratification at the UN headquarters in New York City on April 22, 2016. The United States and Canada are expected to sign at that time.

The Climate Test is a proposal being delivered jointly by environmental groups and civil society in Canada and the U.S., to President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau calling on them to align their governments' energy policy and decision-making with the demands climate science has laid out for us and the international climate agreements our leaders have forged.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr announced Canada's intention to apply a climate test to major energy infrastructure proposals. Right now energy policy is based on an outdated model that suggests business as usual for years to come and thus continued burning of fossil fuels at levels that would mean climate catastrophe.

The 'business as usual' approach looks at individual oil pipeline or LNG terminal proposals without worrying about the oil sands mines or gas fields they're connected to. The new 'climate test' approach will include the carbon pollution from the project being proposed and the carbon pollution from the development associated with it.

“Proposed energy infrastructure, such as oil sands pipelines and LNG export terminals, have important climate consequences that must be considered by regulators and elected officials. Approving projects that facilitate emissions growth across Canada is not in the public interest in the absence of a credible plan to meet the country's climate change commitments. Canada will now assess how infrastructure investments support long-term prosperity in a world transitioning to renewable energy. - Erin Flanagan, federal policy director at the Pembina Institute

View February 23, 2016 Climate Test press release
View February 23, 2016 Common Dreams article
View February 23, 2016 Maclean's article
View February 1, 2016 Pembina Institute article
View January 27, 2016 Pembina Institute article
View January 27, 2016 Government of Canada statement

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Manitoba NDP Promises Environmental Bill of Rights 14 February 16

Manitoba's NDP government has endorsed the Suzuki Foundation Blue Dot campaign.

The campaign seeks protection of the right of citizens for a clean environment, that is: clean air, clean water, clean and safe food, and fully functioning ecosystems that provide services to nature and humans. Implicit in these goals is protection from climate change impacts.

Municipalities and cities are endorsing environmental rights for citizens and signing onto the campaign. Manitoba is the first province to take this step. Included in Manitoba's intention are a code of practice to enforce these environmental rights, with independent oversight to review government department policies and actions.

The Manitoba government posted a set of questions, and requested comments from Manitobans about potential content for the Manitoba Environmental Bill of Rights. No public registry is in place for the public review. Draft text is not yet available.

EcoJustice Canada, a charitable group of environmental lawyers, released its advice for the contents of the future Manitoba Bill of Environmental Rights. Manitoba Wildlands endorsed the EcoJustice advice in its comments, while commenting that some of the comparisons to the Ontario EBR system do not apply in Manitoba.

To date there is no Bill in the Legislature, though a session of the Manitoba Legislature begins February 28, 2016. If the Environmental Bill of Rights is tabled it could go to committee, including for public presentations, before the session ends. The Manitoba provincial election is dated April 19, 2016.

View October 16, 2015 Manitoba Government news release
View Manitoba Environmental Bill of Rights web page
View Blue Dot Campaign, Suzuki Foundation

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Manitoba Wildlands2002-2014