Industry-led lawsuit against Canada’s plastics regulations back in court

The following is a statement from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)

Health and environmental groups intervene to defend government’s ability to tackle plastics pollution

Ottawa | Traditional, Unceded Territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg People | June 25, 2024A coalition of health and environmental groups are back in court to support Canada’s efforts to regulate plastic pollution, following a disappointing decision from the Federal Court late last year. The industry-led lawsuit centres around the listing of plastic manufactured items as “toxic” under Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).  

The coalition is comprised of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence Canada, Greenpeace Canada, and Oceana Canada, represented by lawyers from Ecojustice. The groups are intervening in the appeal. 

The groups maintain it is well within the federal government’s authority to list plastics as a toxic substance under CEPA. Doing so was a vital first step toward curbing plastic pollution on a national scale. The listing served as the legal basis for the government’s ban on common single-use plastics items, which took effect in December 2022. 

In a decision released last November, the Federal Court declared the plastics listing unlawful, putting the ban on single-use items in jeopardy. The appeal court granted a stay, however, allowing both the CEPA listing and the ban to remain in effect until a decision is reached by the Federal Court of Appeal.   

Lindsay Beck, lawyer, Ecojustice said:

“We are headed back to court because we know what’s at stake if plastics production and pollution is allowed to continue unchecked. Plastic pollution is ubiquitous and persistent, threatening human health and the environment from production to end-of-life.

The government’s efforts to tackle the plastics crisis using CEPA remains a critical first step towards addressing the proliferation of plastics pollution and ameliorating the disproportionate harms and injustices faced by communities on the frontlines of this crisis.”

Karen Wirsig, Senior Program Manager, Environmental Defence Canada said:

“We are proud to intervene in this appeal in support of the federal government. Plastics are one of the most insidious and dangerous pollutants of our age and the government was absolutely right to list plastic manufactured items as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The science is clear: plastics are toxic to the environment. We look forward to seeing the listing upheld and the important work of controlling plastics continue unimpeded by industry interference.”

Lisa Gue, National Policy Manager, David Suzuki Foundation, said:  

“Plastics are harmful to human health and our environment. The federal government was right to designate plastics for what they are: toxic. We hope to see the courts defend listing manufactured plastic items under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and that the government will move forward to expand the ban on harmful single-use plastics as quickly as possible.”

Anthony Merante, Senior Plastics Campaigner, Oceana Canada said:

“Plastic pollution has devastated the oceans. It is filling the stomachs of whales, choking sea turtles, and killing seabirds. Plastic has been found in the deepest parts of the oceans, in Arctic ice, and in rain clouds. Further, microplastics are building up in our blood, lungs, and brains. This has prompted Canadians to call for solutions and action to protect the environment and public health by eliminating harmful and unnecessary plastics. The federal government has responded; however Big Plastic continues to fight progress, providing no workable solutions to the crisis it created, despite what Canadians are demanding.”

Dr. Melissa Lem, Family Physician, President, Board of Directors, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) said:

“Plastics pollution is creating a health crisis. We cannot continue to accept the serious hazards for human health and the world’s ecosystems linked to unprecedented exposure to plastic and its by-products as the cost of doing business. Greenwashing by plastics companies does not negate the reality that 90% of plastics end up in parks, public spaces, waterways, oceans, and the human body. Listing plastic as toxic under CEPA is an important tool for health protection and environmental justice. The Government of Canada must be able to act on toxic plastics to protect public health.”

Priyanka Vittal, Legal Counsel, Greenpeace Canada said:

“Big Plastic is throwing fuel on our burning planet by blocking government action to address the pollution crisis it created. A growing global movement of people are calling for bold action to end the age of plastic, and this includes strong regulation. We hope the courts will uphold the listing of plastic manufactured items under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to allow the federal government to take further action to put people and the planet before polluters.”