DFO Lawyers Advise VPA How to Circumvent Legislation
Lawyers for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in Ottawa have violated their mandate by manipulating the environmental assessment of proposed port expansion at the mouth of the Fraser River in Delta, British Columbia. DFO lawyers advised the proponent, the Vancouver Port Authority (VPA), how to circumvent a proper cumulative effects study of the project which is required under federal legislation.
The DFO lawyers advised the VPA that if the planned second phase of the expansion were fully included in the cumulative effects study of the first phase, the project would need to be reviewed by an independent Review Panel. To avoid this, the lawyers recommended that the VPA write a letter to create uncertainty about the second phase even though studies and plans for the second phase were well underway. The lawyers then reviewed the letter.
Then DFO lawyers permitted the VPA to use this information and write the most important section of a report to the Minister of Environment. This section dealt with the critical issue of adverse environmental effects of the project. The report was supposed to have been authored by DFO and Environment Canada (EC) as Responsible Authorities managing adherence to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA).
As a result of the DFO lawyers’ interference in the process and collaboration with the VPA, the Minister of Environment decided on an internal study approach instead of the required independent Review Panel. The skewed process continues to be pushed forward by Ottawa despite documented concerns by federal scientists that the conclusions of the studies are based on data and analyses for which there exist major flaws.
Delta-Richmond East MP John Cummins said if it’s true that federal officials advised the port authority on certain aspects of the environmental review, then “it’s an outrageous betrayal of their mandate.” (Delta Optimist, 06.04.19)
The irony is that in 2003, the Minister of DFO advised the Vancouver Port Authority that his department would not issue permits for the project authorizing destruction of critical fish habitat at the mouth of the Fraser River. One year later, DFO lawyers were advising the VPA how to get around the system in order to get the permits.
Documentation of Correspondence: