Another situation that shows the poor system of enforcement of environmental laws is the failure in Fisheries Act. It is the only and most significant law in Canada for the protection and conservation of fish and fish habitat. Critically, it seizes individuals and even corporations or companies that are responsible in harming fishes and destroying their habitats. However, only fines and jail terms are the penalties available to avoid such damages. Below are some sections of the Fisheries Act that explains the rules and penalties regarding safety of the marine ecosystem: Section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act states:
“Subject to subsection (4), no person shall deposit or permit the deposit of a deleterious substance of any type in water frequented by fish or in any place under any conditions where the deleterious substance or any other deleterious substance that results from the deposit of the deleterious substance may enter any such water. ” In other words, it is illegal to put toxic substances into water where fish live. Section 36(4) states that no person contravenes 36(3) if that person deposits or permits the deposit of a deleterious substance that is authorized by regulations made under the Act.
Section 40(2) makes a contravention of s. 36(3) a summary conviction or indictable offence. The penalties available for violating s. 36(3) range up to fines of $1 million and three years in jail. Section 78. 1 of the Fisheries Act states that where a contravention of the Act is ongoing, each day constitutes a separate offence. (THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA’S FAILURE TO ENFORCE THE FISHERIES ACT AGAINST MINING COMPANIES IN BRITISH COLUMBIA, 1998) Despite these policies, many incidents of fish habitat destruction still occur.
A specific example is the mining operations in British Columbia. These mining operations have been a continuous causes of damage to fishes and their habitats with their past and ongoing drainage of acid mine and other heavy metal pollution. With this dilemma, there are two federal departments accountable in environmental laws enforcement. These are the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Environmental Canada. They are aware of these situations and always been updated and informed of these facts for extensive periods of time.
However, neither of the two supposed to be ‘responsible’ departments have strongly implemented the Fisheries Act against British Columbia mining companies for a long period of time. Search for legal records for prosecutions of mining industries in B. C. for violations of Section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act by the Canada government was done by the Submitting Parties. It came up with three cases from 1983, 1984 and 1985. The first case ended with the guilty verdict of Equity Silver in 1983. It also cost them a fine of $12,000.
The outcome of the second case was the conviction of Carolin Mines in 1984. A fine of $135,000 was collected from them. The third case, which involved the Westmin Resources, resulted in their conviction in 1985. They paid a fine of $80,000 for their offense. These occurrences are clear and undeniable evidences of the incessant violations of Fisheries Act Section 36(3). The decreasing number of salmon populations in British Columbia only shows the constant failures of Canadian Government in effectively enforcing environmental laws.
Furthermore, Canada faces some complaints recently regarding the lax implementation of environmental laws. According to a report, Canadian and American environmental groups collided to file a formal grievance to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) of North America. It came to their knowledge the alleged failure of Canada to enforce its Species at Risk Act. A side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA was done by Canada, Mexico, and United States.
Under this, they created an international organization, which is the CEC. Because many species have been migrating to the US, Mexico, and other countries, the situation of the Canadian government regarding the protection of species at risk has become internationally significant. The president of Nature Canada, Julie Gelfand, stated that “Canada is failing its duty of care toward the nations’ wildlife”. The president also added that their organization “wants Canada to take the Species at Risk Act seriously”.
Additionally, the environmental groups claim that federal government’s failure in enforcing the Act has resulted to some delays in the enlistment of critically endangered species, rejection of records for some species that are methodically proven to be at risk, unsuccessful identification and protection of habitats that species need for survival, and their total lack of protection in some provinces. These happenings may lead to a heightened risk of Canadian species extinction. ("International Commission asked to review Canada’s failure to enforce endangered species law ", 2006)