Resolving the Crisis: SNAP Québec proposes a special Summit on Biodiversity
Montréal July 14, 2016 – The Western Chorus Frog, Beluga Whale, Forêt des Hirondelles, Anticosti, Woodland Caribou, draft Hydrocarbons Act, delays in moving forward on the protected areas network - only a few unfortunate examples of inconsistencies that undermine public confidence in our government institutions. This situation is detrimental to both the environment and the economy, creates uncertainty and delays both conservation and development projects. Although Québec has shown that it can act as an environmental leader in several areas, we have a long way to go when it comes to the protection of biodiversity.
La Société pour la nature et les parcs (SNAP Québec) has asked the Government of Québec to organize a Special Summit on Biodiversity in the fall of 2016, to discuss three issues: environmental governance, scientific independence and transparency, and seeking an appropriate balance between protection and development.
More than any other current issue, the saga of Anticosti Island highlights a conflict of interest for the Québec government, because it is a financial partner of an economic project which presents a risk for the environment, but it is also responsible for issuing the environmental permits necessary for the project to proceed. We ask the Government of Québec to consider setting up an independent environmental protection agency, similar to the EPA in the United States, during this summit. Other models can be examined: for example, a government agency like Sépaq, a flexible organization which has allowed Québec to significantly advance the protection and enhancement of our provincial national parks, attracting passionate professionals to its members.
Scientific Independence and Transparency
Québec can count on a vast network of qualified scientists working in public or private organizations, or as consultants. These professional are mostly the result of investments in our education system and provide the Government of Québec with access to a large pool of scientific knowledge. Yet, an examination of the files on the western chorus frog and the beluga whale shows that scientific advice has not been freely circulated and were subject to external pressure.. SNAP Québec urges the government authorities to discuss the steps necessary to establish a professional association of biologists and conservation specialists at the Summit on Biodiversity, similar to the one in Alberta. This would also be an opportunity to set up a register in which all scientific information resulting from environmental evaluations could be filed and made accessible.
The Balance between Protection and Development
The proposed summit will mark the beginning of an extensive modernization of environmental laws and land allocation. Various current environmental issues provide ample evidence of the weakness of the tools available to the Government of Québec to protect threatened or vulnerable species, consolidate its network of protected areas or simply say no to projects that clearly make no sense from either an economic or an environmental perspective.
All of society will benefit by ensuring that those working to protect our environment and biodiversity have access to a minimum of resources so that they can properly understand economic development initiatives. Rebalancing is necessary to avoid the current situations of environmental anarchy, which do not serve the public interest and often lead to confrontation. The prevailing imbalance is striking: look at the share of the annual budget that the Government of Quebec allocates to the Ministry for the Environment: 25 cents per hundred dollar. That is, one quarter of one percent, 1.5 kernels per ear of corn. Choose your favourite image, but 0.25% represents crumbs for an issue defining our collective future.
In addition to the various issues raised here, the Special Summit on Biodiversity will be an opportunity to break down walls and bring together all community members. Whether entrepreneur or environmentalist, politician or citizen, we seek one common goal which will allows us to initiate a discussion and find solutions: we all want a better future for Québec.
Requests for interviews:
Communications Manager – SNAP (Québec)
514 278 7627 ext. 221
514 708 3085