New Primer On Canadian Environmental Laws And Tools Available

New Primer On Canadian Environmental Laws And Tools Available

By Kent Elson, Avi Grand, and Krystyn Tully: Lake Ontario Waterkeeper

In October, Lake OntarioWaterkeeper released the finalized Clean Water Primer #2: Federal Environmental Laws and Tools: A Canadian’s Guide to key policies, rules, and procedures that protect the nation’s waterways.

The Clean Water Primer #2 is meant to help citizens and environmental groups use existing laws to protect their waterways. The Clean Water Primer #2 is geared towards people ranging from law students to policy makers to activists with no prior legal experience. Wherever possible, Waterkeeper tried to write in a simple style and avoid technical jargon. The Clean Water Primer #2 is not legal advice – it is a handbook meant to help you identify some of the legal tools that are available to every Canadian concerned about water quality issues and to help you develop a strategy for action.

Legislation and environmental regulations are changing constantly. In some cases, the rules are improved for clarity and to reflect growing knowledge of environmental matters. In other cases, substantial changes are proposed that would dramatically change the way environmental laws protect Canadian waters.

The CleanWater Primer #2 explains the procedural tools that give citizens access to the decision-making process, including environmental assessments, access to information, and petitions and submissions to government agencies. The CleanWater Primer #2 also explains the rules that dictate what is and what is not allowed in Canada, including prohibitions on industrial pollution, shipping pollution, and interference with migratory birds.

In all, eleven different legal tools are covered:

  • Access to Information,
  • Canada Shipping Act,
  • Canadian Environmental Assessment Act,
  • Canadian Environmental Protection Act,
  • Citizen Submissions under NAFTA,
  • Environmental Petition to the Auditor General,
  • Fisheries Act,
  • Judicial Review,
  • Migratory Birds Convention Act,
  • Private Prosecution, and
  • Species At Risk Act.


Waterkeeper Mark Mattson and his co-host Krystyn Tully discussed the Primer on the October 10 episode of their weekly radio show and podcast, Living at the Barricades. The radio show provides an easy-to-follow overview of the different tools, the strengths and weaknesses of some of the individual laws, and more detail about some of the threats to environmental justice in Canada. You can download the podcast, Living at the Barricades, from

The Clean Water Primer #2 and the accompanying podcast help Canadians learn about their environmental rights and understand how to use the tools and processes available to them. They also serve as a backgrounder for policymakers and administrators seeking to understand the importance of legal tools to the general public – and what’s at stake if these tools are weakened or lost.

You can get a copy of the CleanWater Primer #2 at no charge:

Contact Krystyn Tully, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper for more info: (416) 861-1237 or



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West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.