Health and enviro groups join appeal to protect feds’ ability to combat plastics pollution crisis 

OTTAWA/TRADITIONAL, UNCEDED TERRITORY OF THE ALGONQUIN ANISHNAABEG PEOPLE – After a decision from the Federal Court late last year upended Canada’s efforts to regulate plastic pollution, the legal fight is set to continue. The case is headed to the Federal Court of Appeal in the coming months, where health and environmental groups are intervening to defend the Canadian government’s ability to regulate plastic pollution to protect the environment and human health. 

A coalition 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, has been granted leave to intervene in the appeal. 

The announcement comes as the fourth round of negotiations on an international plastics treaty concluded this week in Ottawa. The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastics Pollution (INC) aims to develop an international legally binding agreement to address the plastic pollution crisis. 

At all stages of its lifecycle, plastic is a ubiquitous pollutant that threatens human health and the environment. Almost all plastics are made from fossil fuels. Once in the environment, they never disappear. They break down into smaller and smaller fragments, threatening the health of plants and animals, most notably ocean ecosystems. The human impacts of this crisis are borne disproportionately by Indigenous Nations and other frontline communities.  

Industry opposition to plastics regulation, as evidenced in this lawsuit, is out of step with science and public opinion. At the international level, the last round of plastics treaty negotiations in Nairobi was attended by at least 143 industry lobbyists, a trend that continued this round, underscoring how industry interests and corporate profits are jeopardizing a much-needed global solution to this environmental emergency. 

Lindsay Beck, lawyer, Ecojustice said: 

“There is widespread evidence of the environmental and human health harms posed by plastic at all stages of its lifecycle. The Canadian government took a much-needed first step toward addressing these harms when it listed plastics as a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). 

“We’re headed back to court, on behalf of our clients, to defend this critical tool in the federal government’s efforts to combat the plastic pollution crisis. As the impacts of plastic pollution worsen and compound, we need ambitious and urgent action at the local, national, and international level to protect communities and the environment.”  

Anthony Merante, Senior Plastics Campaigner, Oceana Canada said:  

“It’s no secret that plastic is ravaging our oceans. It’s found in the stomachs of whales, around the necks of seabirds and in wildlife — as well as in our own bloodstream. Microplastics are in the water we drink and the fish we eat. Big Plastic has yet to offer any solutions at the scale needed to address the plastic crisis. Canada needs federal action to protect the environment and people.”  

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

“We are looking forward to participating in the government’s appeal of the Big Plastic decision. Plastic is one of the most insidious and dangerous pollutants of our age. There is no doubt that it hurts the environment and our health. The government was absolutely right to list plastic manufactured items as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.”  

Priyanka Vittal, Legal Counsel, Greenpeace Canada, said: 

“As Plastics Treaty talks conclude in Ottawa, now more than ever, it’s necessary for Canada to be able to use its regulatory power to align national strategies with global targets to tackle the triple planetary crises, and align policy with public calls to action, and science. An overwhelming majority of people in Canada support strong government action to tackle the plastic crisis, and that must be represented to counter polluters’ attempts to block progress on real solutions.” 

Dr. Melissa Lem, family physician and president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, said: 

“Plastic has become ubiquitous in our daily lives – and this is causing a serious health crisis. Each stage of plastics production, use and waste causes harm to health. Thousands of chemicals in plastics have been linked to adverse health outcomes like cancers, endocrine disruption, and reproductive harm. In this context, it is absolutely right for the Government of Canada to designate plastics as toxic to better protect human health. The situation is urgent.” 

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

“As the world met last week in Ottawa to put an end to plastic pollution, the stakes are clear. 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.” 

Media Contacts

Laura Bergamo, Head of Media, Greenpeace Canada
1-438-928-5237; [email protected]  

Zoryana Cherwick, Communications Strategist | Ecojustice
1-800-926-7744 ext. 277,  [email protected]  

Lauren Thomas, Senior Communications Manager, Environmental Defence Canada
647-687-2687; [email protected] 

Vaishali Dassani, Communications and Media Manager, Oceana Canada
647-294-3335; [email protected] 

Image illustration by Ja’miil Millar