Belle Park: Where was ministry?

Richard D. Lindgren, Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association, Toronto

Janet and Doug Fletcher should be commended for commencing a private prosecution under the Fisheries Act against the City of Kingston in relation to the former dump at Belle Park.
While the Fletcher’s allegations against the city must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in court, this ongoing saga raises serious questions about the role and responsibility of the Ministry of Environment and Energy. For example, it appears that for several years, ministry officials have been aware of the leachate problems at the former dump and have discussed the matter with the city. However, the ministry failed to exercise its powers under the Environmental Protection Act or the Ontario Water Resources Act to order the city to take remedial or preventive measures at the site.In the March 17 edition of The Kingston Whig-Standard, a local ministry official defended the ministry’s inaction by commenting that it was up to the city to address site problems (“City knew of problem, ministry official says”). In our opinion, the ministry’s laissez-faire approach is highly objectionable and clearly inconsistent with the ministry’s statutory mandate to protect Ontario’s natural environment.
However, due to massive staff reductions and budget cutbacks imposed upon the ministry by the provincial government, it seems likely that Ontarians will be increasingly left on their own to pursue legal remedies against polluters.
Regardless of the outcome of the Fletcher’s prosecution against the city, the ministry should be held accountable for its continuing failure to promptly and fully exercise its legal authority in this case.