Environmentalists challenge government to give Canada's children a birthday gift: Federal Contaminated Sites Program needed

MiningWatch Canada, Sierra Club of Canada

For Immediate Release

(OTTAWA) The Sierra Club of Canada and MiningWatch Canada today challenged the federal government to give Canadians a gift they and future generations can truly enjoy; a contaminated sites remediation program. In a jointly released report titled, "TOXICanada: 13 GOOD REASONS TO ESTABLISH A CLEAN CANADA FUND," the groups highlight one contaminated or toxic site in each province and territory across Canada to illustrate the need for a program to deal with them.

"As we mark Canada Day, we hope the Chretien government will realize that to continue to be the number one country on earth, we have to address the growing problem of toxic waste sites," said Elizabeth May, Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada. Ms. May spent 17 days on hunger strike to draw attention to the plight of residents in Sydney's toxic neighbourhoods. "Sydney is Canada's worst site, but it is not the only one. National action is long overdue."

"I have been working to clean up toxic sites in Quebec for nearly 30 years," added Daniel Green, an environmental scientist with the Sierra Club of Canada, "and the lack of a clear national strategy and funding for cleanup is the single largest obstacle we face."

The report aims to draw attention to the growing amount of hazardous waste both produced and imported by Canada — there are thousands of landfills, abandoned industry sites and effluent run-off areas where toxics contaminate and leach into the surrounding environment, putting people and nature at risk.  Efforts to address contaminated sites when they do occur tend to be ad hoc and poorly planned.

"The real problem," said Jamie Kneen, Communications Coordinator for Mining Watch Canada, "is that no Cabinet Minister lives downstream from a toxic site, or has family in a community affected by hazardous waste."

The sites listed in each province are as follows: the Sleepy Hollow Landfill in PEI; Argentia in Newfoundland; the Miramichi River in New Brunswick; the Sydney Tar Ponds in Nova Scotia; Technoparc in Québec; Beckwith Township in Ontario; Lynn Lake, Manitoba; Uranium City, Saskatchewan; Swan Hills, Alberta; the Tsolum River in BC; the Giant Mine in the NWT; Faro Mine in the Yukon; and Resolution Island in Nunavut.

"The problem of toxics in Canada is largely overlooked by the general public and by government — there is no national registry or contaminated sites clean up program to address the problem," explained Angela Rickman, Sierra Club of Canada's Deputy Director. "The saddest part," she added, "was that it was difficult to chose only one site in each province, given the vast number that exist."

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Sierra Club of Canada: Elizabeth May, Daniel Green, Angela Rickman (613) 241-4611
MiningWatch Canada: Jamie Kneen (613) 569-3439