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The Federal Government is required under the Federal Sustainable Development Act, S.C. 2008, c.33 (“Act[1]) to provide Canadians with a strategy as directed by the precautionary principle.

The precautionary principle is defined in section 2 of the FSDA, for implementing any thing, action or process to develop, improve and protect our environment of threats of “serious” or “irreversible damage”, regardless of lack of full scientific data, or cost-effective measures to prevent “environmental degradation”.

The FSDA was passed in June of 2008, and as statutorily required, the federal government implemented the first written objectives to Canadians in a report known as the “Federal Sustainable Development Strategy” (FSDS) for the years 2010 to 2013. The Act requires that the FSDS be updated every three (3) years by the Minister of the Environment based on the precautionary principle. The federal government’s fourth and most recent update is entitled “Achieving a Sustainable Future. A Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for Canada 2019 to 2022” and was released on June 19, 2019[2] (the “2019-2022 FSDS”). Every Canadian including Indigenous organizations, non-governmental organizations, academics, businesses (large or small) are invited before the end of each reporting period to make comments on the draft report prior to its release. While the 2019-2022 FSDS report is complete, comments on the new report or ideas on implementation of its goals can be made on the federal government’s Commitments Board or by sending an email to ec.bdd-sdo.ec@canada.ca

As we enter a new decade, the re-elected liberal federal government will be working with Canadians to attain the thirteen (13) sustainable development goals by 2022. These goals include: lowering emissions; developing more green operations; preserving healthy coasts and oceans; growing clean technology; improving infrastructure; improving lakes and rivers; maintaining lands and forests; ensuring healthy wildlife; providing clean drinking water; creating sustainable food; connecting Canadians with nature; and, encouraging sustainable communities to live clean.  

The question is whether these development changes really affect each Canadian? The answer is yes.  

These development goals can only be achieved and sustained through action by individuals, the business sector and provincial governments. For example, in December of 2017, The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Canada (“ECCC”) the Honourable Catherine McKeena stated: “Sustained action on Great Lakes restoration is key to the health and economic prosperity of citizens in this important region.”[3] The ECCC gave close to $45 million in new funding to the Great Lakes Protection Initiative to take action on identified priorities (i.e. 2017 State of the Great Lakes Report). These priorities included reducing toxic and nuisance algae and harmful pollutants to restore water quality, and improving and protecting its ecosystem.

The creation of the Canada-Ontario Lake Erie Action Plan[4] set out 120 actions to help reduce phosphorus entering Lake Erie. The City of Hamilton has contributed $14 million[5] to the Randle Reef Sediment Project. Although this immense multi-year initiative remains on budget with the goal to be completed by 2022, it could only remain possible by the FSDA and application of the precautionary principle.

The 2019-2022 FSDS report is a free public document that all Canadians can easily access by downloading from the federal government website or visiting http://www.fsds-sfdd.ca/downloads/FSDS_2019-2022.pdf.  

This article was written with the assistance of and based on the research from Andrea Edward, Law Clerk.


[1] https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/f-8.6/page-1.html#h-240603

[2] http://www.fsds-sfdd.ca/index.html#/en/intro/annexes#tabs

[3] https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/corporate/transparency/priorities-management/departmental-results-report/2017-2018/results.html#toc3

[4] https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/great-lakes-protection/action-plan-reduce-phosphorus-lake-erie.html#toc4

[5] https://www.hamilton.ca/city-initiatives/our-harbour/budgets-and-fast-facts

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