Municipal Pesticide-Free Campaign
In 2006, Québec decide to bring together the patchwork of pesticide bylaws that existed in their municipalities and legislated a province-wide cosmetic pesticide ban.
In June 2008, Ontario announced they were doing the same, and have adopted legislation for the province-wide ban, with regulations to come.
Over 140 communities across the country have adopted pesticide reduction bylaws, aiming to protect the environment and health of its residents. Sierra Club Canada and many other community groups are ensuring that these bylaws are robust and will truly create pesticide-free municipalities.
In May 1991, the town of Hudson, Quebec passed a by-law to eliminate the cosmetic use of pesticides within the town's limits, in an effort to protect the health of Hudson residents. Two lawn pesticide companies, Chemlawn and Spraytech, were caught spraying pesticides in flagrant violation of the bylaw, and were charged (the maximum fine was $300).
Outraged, the pesticide companies challenged the municipality's authority "to forbid an activity legally authorized by a federal or provincial law." The Quebec court ruled in favour of Hudson.
The companies then appealed to the Quebec Superior Court. The Superior Court supported the earlier decision. Unwilling to let the matter die, the companies, undoubtedly backed by larger chemical manufacturing and distributing interests, pushed the case to the Supreme Court, which granted leave to appeal in November 1999. The case was heard on December 7, 2000.
Their challenge was dismissed, with costs, by the Supreme Court of Canada on June 28th, 2001.
Sierra Club Canada, along with other public interest groups, was granted intervener status in the Supreme Court case. This decision goes farther than simply upholding Hudson's bylaws, however. It points out that the relevant pieces of legislation in other provinces have wording that is comparable, with the implication that correctly-worded bylaws enjoy the same interpretation.
In addition, while upholding the right of municipalities to protect the health of their residents against environmental threats, there is no explicit mention of pesticides, which opens up the potential for bylaws prohibiting or restricting other activities or substances (MOX plutonium shipments, GMOs, dioxin, etc.) in communities.
In January 2005, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) formally recognized the role that municipalities play in the governing of pesticide use. They wrote that communities are able “to further regulate pesticide use, including use restrictions.”
So what are you waiting for municipalities, take this right and implement it!
Sierra Club Canada - Atlantic Canada Chapter's Achieving a Pesticide Bylaw Toolkit
Lawn and Garden fact sheets (pesticide risks and alternatives to chemicals)