It was a big week for new environmental laws in Ontario. Last week, on November 3, a trio of environmental laws–each of which has suffered a tortured history of introduction, death, and re-incarnation–finally received royal assent and came into effect: the Great Lakes Protection Act, 2015, Invasive Species Act, 2015, and the Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015. Congratulations to the Wynn government.
As we have previously blogged, the GLPA had already twice been introduced before dying on the order paper. The Act aims to “protect and restore the ecological health of the Great lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin” and to “create opportunities” for stakeholder participation. One of the GLPA’s key features relates to the development of “geographically-focused initiatives,” which are designed to facilitate locally authored solutions for some of the most pernicious issues plaguing the Great Lakes.
Various iterations of this Act have also been introduced and died over the last several years. This Act is the province’s first concrete, legislative attempt to deal with the issue of invasive species such as Asian Carp and dog-strangling vine. It will apply to species designated by regulation by the Lieutenant Governor and, temporarily, to species designated via ministerial order under certain circumstances. The Act introduces prohibitions related to invasive species (such as possession, deposit, and release). It also sets up an exception permitting regime for prohibited activities
The province has been under pressure for years to introduce legislation aimed at curtailing the practice of “SLAPPs” (strategic lawsuits against public participation), and finally it has. SLAPPs have long been critiqued by environmental groups for silencing public participation and public debate.
This Act brings into force amendments to Courts of Justice Act, the Libel and Slander Act, and the Statutory Powers Procedure Act, that are aimed at protecting expression on matters of public interest. Dianne helped to lead Ontario Bar Association support for this Act.