"I am deeply disappointed in Canada continuing to put wild salmon at risk,” said Chief Bob Chamberlin of the Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwa'mis First Nation. “This process may have ended, but our struggle to safeguard wild salmon will not falter for a moment.”
The Commission on Environmental Co-operation said Friday that its three-member council had voted against looking into accusations that Canada violated its own laws by allowing fish farms to harm wild salmon stocks through the spread of parasites.
Canada and Mexico voted against the investigation, while the United States wanted to pursue it.
Canada argued that there is already a lawsuit before the courts in B.C. The commission's rules don't allow investigations into matters that are already the subject of legal proceedings.
The commission's staff had already concluded there was enough evidence against Canada to merit a deeper examination. They argued that the B.C. lawsuit is substantially different than what they were looking into.
But Canada said staff had no right to consider for themselves whether the legal issues were the same. They should only take direction from a member country, it argued.
The vote, which was taken five months after it was supposed to have been, ends the joint complaint from the First Nation, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations.
Canada is facing another vote on an investigation into its environmental practices. Environmental groups and individuals say Canada is breaking the Fisheries Act by allowing an unknown amount of tailings from the oilsands to seep into groundwater.
The deadline for that vote was supposed to have been Oct. 27.
The commission was created in 1995 to win environmental support for the North American Free Trade Agreement by ensuring the deal wouldn't boost commerce at the expense of clean air, water or land. Commission staff investigate public complaints that Canada, the U.S. or Mexico aren't living up to their laws and they can recommend an investigation called a "factual record" if they find enough grounds.
The investigation only proceeds if a majority of member nations approve it.
The commission has little or no enforcement power even if it does conclude a nation isn't living up to its environmental laws.
— By Bob Weber in Edmonton