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Letter to Penner

September 3, 2009

Honourable Barry Penner
Minister of Environment
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2

Dear Mr. Penner,

I am writing to you on behalf of the board, staff and supporters of Toxic Free Canada, in response to the mention made to cosmetic pesticides in the August 2009 Throne Speech. It said, "British Columbians will be consulted on new statutory protections to further safeguard our environment from cosmetic chemical pesticides".

Prior to the Throne speech we had met with you, along with our health and environmental partners, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. All of us, along with the David Suzuki Foundation and other environmental, health and children's organizations in B.C. have been advocating for province-wide legislation banning the sale and use of cosmetic pesticides.

At our meeting, and our previous meeting with you in March 2009, we presented you with forceful evidence of the strong public support for such a ban, so we are hoping the consultation process referred to in the Throne Speech is one that deals with the question of HOW and WHEN to bring in a ban "to safeguard our environment from cosmetic chemical pesticides", and not about whether or not to have a ban. A focused consultation could lead to legislation being in place by January 2011.

There is ample scientific evidence of the harmful environmental and health effects from the chemicals contained in common pesticides. We provided you with a copy of our publication CancerSmart 3.0 The Consumer Guide, from which you can see that pesticides unnecessarily used to kill broad-leafed plants such as buttercups contain carcinogens, endocrine-disrupting and neuro-toxic chemicals. Everyone knows now that exposure to carcinogens is a major cause of cancer. We also know that for children and pregnant women, there are no safe levels of exposure to chemicals such as endocrine-disruptors and neurotoxins. And we know about the deleterious effect of the chemicals in common pesticides on bees, fish, frogs and birds, not to mention on our loveable pets.

There's also evidence of the drift effect of pesticide use. The argument is often made that people have a "right" to use these chemicals in their own backyards, but like second-hand smoke, they undermine the rights of their neighbours not to be exposed to dangerous substances.

Minister Penner, you should also not lose sight of the fact that more than 20 BC municipalities have already enacted pesticide by-laws and that the 2008 UBCM convention called upon you to bring in the province-wide ban. One of the interesting aspects of the debate on this resolution at the UBCM is that there was no discussion challenging the notion that we must bring in this legislation, rather all the debate from the floor was about HOW and WHEN to bring in the legislation. You should also note the August 2009 letter sent from the Retail Council of Canada in which it accepts the inevitability of provincial legislation. The main issue to discuss was HOW and WHEN.

Actually, government is trailing the marketplace, where we see many chain and independent stores already phasing out toxic pesticides and replacing them with less harmful substances. This proves what we've seen many times in our work, that the economy doesn't have to suffer when toxic chemicals are taken out of consumer products; rather than being a negative factor, responsible bans on known carcinogens and other toxic chemicals presents green entrepreneurial opportunities.

According to a 2008 poll, more than 75% of BC's population is in favour of a ban. Other provinces are moving quickly on their own bans. Both the Ontario and Quebec governments have taken action to protect their citizens and environment with provincial pesticide legislation. We hope B.C. won't be left behind.

We provided you with well-constructed and thought-out model legislation written by the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria, so you have a head-start on writing the legislation.

I am enclosing a list of quotes from major studies that highlight the harmful effects of pesticides on health and the environment, as well as a copy of our CancerSmart Consumer guide that lists the toxic chemicals in common pesticides.

Minister Penner - We look forward to you showing strong leadership as Minister for the Environment and championing this legislation. We look to you and your government as legislative representatives that understand the link between health and the environment and work to prevent cancer and other chronic diseases while protecting the earth for future generations.

We look forward to a consultation that moves us productively through the questions of HOW and WHEN to bring in a ban, and we hope to see our own made-in-B.C. ban by January 2011.


Mae Burrows
Executive Director, Toxic Free Canada

Premier Gordon Campbell
Honourable Ida Chong, Minister of Healthy Living and Sport

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