May 24th, 2024

Environment commissioner gives Canada failing grade on contaminated sites in North

By The Canadian Press on April 30, 2024.

Federal Environment Commissioner Jerry V. DeMarco holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, April 20, 2023. DeMarco is giving the federal government a failing grade on reducing their financial liability in remediating contaminated sites in the north — and says they’re leaving some Indigenous Peoples out of the process altogether. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA – Canada’s environment commissioner says Ottawa is failing to remediate contaminated sites in the North, leaving Indigenous peoples at risk and raising the government’s own financial liability for the polluted areas.

Commissioner Jerry DeMarco says in a new audit published today that the government’s liability for contaminated sites increased by $7 billion in the nearly 20 years since the government launched a plan to remediate and reclaim abandoned mines.

More than 60 per cent of that liability is in the North.

DeMarco says at one mine there is still ongoing work needed to keep contaminated water from leeching into surrounding areas, while another still houses a large volume of arsenic, which needs to remain frozen underground.

Most of those sites are on Indigenous land, but DeMarco says Indigenous Peoples are not being fully included in the remediation efforts.

He says Ottawa has a lot of work to do to not just reduce its financial liability, but also address the very real environmental and health risks for current and future generations in the region.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 30, 2024.

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