Canada's "chronic inability" to get anything done on the environment, Part I

Johanne GelinasSome notes from the 2005 Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, released Sept. 29. The commissioner is Johanne Gelinas (left), currently in the fifth year of her term.

“A recurring theme throughout this year's Report is that the federal government suffers from a chronic inability to see its own initiatives to completion; it starts out but rarely, if ever, reaches the finish line” [The Commissioner’s Perspective, p. 4]

“Safe drinking water is a basic requirement of human health, and Canadians assume that the water they drink will be of high quality in a developed country like ours. The truth, however, is that when federal responsibility is involved, not all Canadians can assume that their drinking water is always safe. The government is not working hard enough to protect Canadians from unsafe drinking water.” [The Commissioner’s Perspective,  p. 5]

“In examining federal responsibilities for the safety of drinking water, we found gaps that may put people's health at risk. “ [The Commissioner’s Perspective,  p. 5]

Gelinas says that in 2001, an audit by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada found a significant risk to the quality or safety of drinking water in three-quarters of the water systems in First Nations Communities. The feds approved a First Nations Water Management Strategy in 2003. This five-year initiative was funded with $600–million.

“Expectations were raised that the 1996 Oceans Act and the 2002 Canada's Oceans Strategy would help solve these problems; however, those expectations have not been met. The main tools of the Oceans Act—integrated management plans and marine protected areas—have not accomplished the desired results. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has fallen far short of meeting its commitments to develop and implement these tools.” [

[The Commissioner’s Perspective,  p. 5]