The Environmental Bureau of Investigation (EBI), a division of Energy Probe Research Foundation, was established to investigate pollution crimes. In our early years, in response to requests from local citizens to help stop pollution in their communities, our staff and volunteers investigated pollution concerns, launched campaigns to publicize problems, alerted government regulators, and when necessary, launched private prosecutions.
Our first project began in 1996, under the guidance of then executive director Mark Mattson (who is now Lake Ontario’s Waterkeeper). At that time, we assisted environmental activist Janet Fletcher and the Sierra Legal Defence Fund (which is now called Ecojustice) in investigating a closed, city-owned landfill in Kingston, Ontario, that was leaching contaminants into the Cataraqui River. In 1998, the city was convicted on seven counts of violating the Federal Fisheries Act. The case went to the Ontario Court of Appeal, which upheld three of the seven convictions in 2003. In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada turned down the City of Kingston’s request to appeal its convictions.
Other groundbreaking investigations and prosecutions followed. We relied on several laws, including the Federal Fisheries Act, which forbids the deposit of a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish. In some cases, it was not necessary to lay charges – simply documenting pollution and bringing the evidence to the attention of the public and the government prompted regulators to crack down on polluters. Our work in Kingston, Deloro, and Hamilton is documented in the Prosecutions section of this web site. Information on our work in Montreal and Moncton can be found in the Investigations section.
In 2000, we published our Citizens Guide to Environmental Investigation and Private Prosecution. The Guide, combining information from legal texts and environmental guides with the hands-on experience that we had acquired, enabled us to leverage our expertise and empower individuals and organizations across Canada to undertake investigations in their own communities. The Guide provides the public with advice on researching and documenting pollution, on determining whether the contaminants violate a law or regulation, on pressuring governments to take action, and on starting legal proceedings if governments refuse to act. In recent years, we have focussed on updating and maintaining the Guide online.
This ongoing effort reflects our conviction that concerned citizens are the best defenders of the environment. We can’t trust governments to do the job on their own. Too many factors – including conflicts of interest, under-funding, and under-staffing – prevent regulators from investigating pollution and enforcing the environmental laws that are on the books. In the face of government inaction, the environment desperately needs citizens’ help. We hope that our presence on the web will help provide the knowledge – along with the inspiration – that ordinary citizens require to investigate pollution and to force polluters to comply with environmental laws.
If you have questions or comments, please contact us by e-mail at:
Or write to us at:
Environmental Bureau of Investigation
225 Brunswick Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2M6