Say it isn’t so

Say it isn't so Yukon Environment Act - misleading? Egad! That putrid smoke again. This open burning of garbage continues in 2009 in our "wild and larger than life" Yukon. My mind runs from a wish the Yukon's environment would get the same amount of mo

Yukon Environment Act – misleading?

Egad! That putrid smoke again.

This open burning of garbage continues in 2009 in our “wild and larger than life” Yukon.

My mind runs from a wish the Yukon’s environment would get the same amount of money thrown at it as the resource sector seems to get, to thoughts there must be legislation preventing ‘governments of the day’ from allowing this pollution.

And, yes, it is encouraging and hopeful to read the Yukon Environment Act, especially the preamble on page 7 and the environmental rights on page 14: “Recognizing the long-term economic prosperity is dependent on wise management of the environment; recognizing that a healthful environment is indispensable to human life and health; recognizing that every individual in the Yukon has the right to a healthful life and health.”

A bit farther, the act continues: “Recognizing that all persons should be responsible for the environmental consequences of their actions.”

OK, in this case, I’m thinking that must include the Yukon government.

Another heartwarming section – Part 1, Environmental Rights – on page 14 reads, “The people of the Yukon have a right to a healthful natural environment.”

Well, OK! Those smoldering heaps of plastics, polyStyrofoam, wet paper are bad enough, but when the construction pile burns complete with every type of construction material and chemical residue in it É there is no way this is ensuring our kids’, or our own “right to a healthful natural environment.”

Then the act continues, on page 15 – Right of Action -“Every adult or corporate person resident in the Yukon who has reasonable grounds to believe that a person has impaired, or is likely to impair the natural environment; or the government of the Yukon has failed to meet its responsibilities as trustee of the public trust to protect the natural environment from actual or likely impairment may commence an action in the Supreme Court.”

One thinks, great É something to go on and get this method of “waste management” stopped.

It is this present government’s second term in power; community people and local advisory groups have on many occasions sent letters and personally requested government staff and elected officials to stop burning.

These requests have been followed up by more letters.

The issue has dominated the Premier’s pre-budget community tours in the Southern Lakes area.

And, yet, with all the delays and stalling, the government makes plans to continue this burning.

So, a citizen would be foolish to not “commence an action in the Supreme Court,” as plainly written in the Yukon Environment Act.

Some more online research and some legal forms in hand, one gets more detailed legal advice and É guess what?

It must have been a different person, or perhaps maybe a different government that wrote the “Defenses” section on page 15, of the act. The part about “The people of the Yukon having a right to a healthful natural environment”É not so!

Persons providing legal advice say the way the act is written, if ‘a permit, licence, or other authorization is issued,’ this form of polluting is legal today in the Yukon.

It seems the government of the day can do what it wants. Just issue a permit, even if the terms in the air emissions permit are not being adhered to.

Perhaps this is simplifying it somewhat, but if this can happen with our Yukon Environment Act, it is like a false-fronted building.

It looks great on the outside, but is something totally different on the inside.

If any of the community dumps were situated within Whitehorse, burning would simply be stopped.

Then, instead of energies being spent by citizens to change this draconian waste-management method, and of government officials’ time defending these methods, energy would be put into sourcing recycling bins, initiating effective education about Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and setting up Lorne Mountain- and Marsh Lake-type waste-management facilities in Carcross and Tagish.

That will be a productive start to getting the people of the Yukon their ‘healthful natural environment.’

Theo Stad

Crag Lake