As International Plastics Treaty Negotiations Conclude in Ottawa, Fight Over Domestic Regulation Rages on - Oceana Canada

As International Plastics Treaty Negotiations Conclude in Ottawa, Fight Over Domestic Regulation Rages on

Health and enviro groups join appeal to protect feds’ ability to combat plastics pollution crisis

Press Release Date: May 1, 2024

Media contacts: Zoryana Cherwick, Ecojustice, 1-800-926-7744 ext. 277,; Lauren Thomas, Environmental Defence Canada, 647-687-2687,; Vaishali Dassani, Oceana Canada, 647-294-3335,; Laura Bergamo, Greenpeace Canada, 438-928-5237,

Ottawa, Traditional, Unceded Territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg People — After a decision from the Federal Court late last year upended Canada’s efforts to regulate plastic pollution, the legal fight is set to continue. The case is headed to the Federal Court of Appeal in the coming months, where health and environmental groups are intervening to defend the Canadian government’s ability to regulate plastic pollution to protect the environment and human health.

A coalition comprised of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence Canada, Greenpeace Canada, and Oceana Canada, represented by lawyers from Ecojustice, has been granted leave to intervene in the appeal.

The announcement comes as the fourth round of negotiations on an international plastics treaty concluded this week in Ottawa. The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastics Pollution (INC) aims to develop an international legally binding agreement to address the plastic pollution crisis.

At all stages of its lifecycle, plastic is a ubiquitous pollutant that threatens human health and the environment. Almost all plastics are made from fossil fuels. Once in the environment, they never disappear. They break down into smaller and smaller fragments, threatening the health of plants and animals, most notably ocean ecosystems. The human impacts of this crisis are borne disproportionately by Indigenous Nations and other frontline communities.

Industry opposition to plastics regulation, as evidenced in this lawsuit, is out of step with science and public opinion. At the international level, the last round of plastics treaty negotiations in Nairobi was attended by at least 143 industry lobbyists, a trend that continued this round, underscoring how industry interests and corporate profits are jeopardizing a much-needed global solution to this environmental emergency.

Lindsay Beck, lawyer, Ecojustice said:

“There is widespread evidence of the environmental and human health harms posed by plastic at all stages of its lifecycle. The Canadian government took a much-needed first step toward addressing these harms when it listed plastics as a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).

“We’re headed back to court, on behalf of our clients, to defend this critical tool in the federal government’s efforts to combat the plastic pollution crisis. As the impacts of plastic pollution worsen and compound, we need ambitious and urgent action at the local, national, and international level to protect communities and the environment.”

Anthony Merante, Senior Plastics Campaigner, Oceana Canada said:

“It’s no secret that plastic is ravaging our oceans. It’s found in the stomachs of whales, around the necks of seabirds and in wildlife — as well as in our own bloodstream. Microplastics are in the water we drink and the fish we eat. Big Plastic has yet to offer any solutions at the scale needed to address the plastic crisis. Canada needs federal action to protect the environment and people.”

Karen Wirsig, Senior Program Manager, Environmental Defence Canada said:

“We are looking forward to participating in the government’s appeal of the Big Plastic decision. Plastic is one of the most insidious and dangerous pollutants of our age. There is no doubt that it hurts the environment and our health. The government was absolutely right to list plastic manufactured items as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.”

Priyanka Vittal, Legal Counsel, Greenpeace Canada, said:

“As Plastics Treaty talks conclude in Ottawa, now more than ever, it’s necessary for Canada to be able to use its regulatory power to align national strategies with global targets to tackle the triple planetary crises, and align policy with public calls to action, and science. An overwhelming majority of people in Canada support strong government action to tackle the plastic crisis, and that must be represented to counter polluters’ attempts to block progress on real solutions.”

Dr. Melissa Lem, family physician and president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, said:

“Plastic has become ubiquitous in our daily lives – and this is causing a serious health crisis. Each stage of plastics production, use and waste causes harm to health. Thousands of chemicals in plastics have been linked to adverse health outcomes like cancers, endocrine disruption, and reproductive harm. In this context, it is absolutely right for the Government of Canada to designate plastics as toxic to better protect human health. The situation is urgent.”

Lisa Gue, National Policy Manager, David Suzuki Foundation, said:

“As the world met last week in Ottawa to put an end to plastic pollution, the stakes are clear. Plastics are harmful to human health and our environment. The federal government was right to designate plastics for what they are: toxic. We hope to see the courts defend listing manufactured plastic items under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and that the government will move forward to expand the ban on harmful single-use plastics as quickly as possible.”

Oceana Canada ( was established as an independent charity in 2015 and is part of the largest international advocacy group dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana Canada has successfully campaigned to end the shark fin trade, make rebuilding depleted fish populations the law, improve the way fisheries are managed and protect marine habitat. We work with civil society, academics, fishers, Indigenous Peoples and Environment and Climate Change Canada to return Canada’s formerly vibrant oceans to health and abundance. By restoring Canada’s oceans, we can strengthen our communities, reap greater economic and nutritional benefits and protect our future.

Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.

Environmental Defence ( is a leading Canadian advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) is a physician-directed non-profit organization working to secure human health by protecting the planet. Since its founding in 1994, CAPE’s work has achieved substantial policy victories in collaboration with many partners in the environmental and health movements. From coast to coast to coast, the organization operates throughout the country with regional committees active in most provinces and all territories.

David Suzuki Foundation is a leading Canadian environmental non-profit organization, founded in 1990. We operate in English and French, with offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. We collaborate with all people in Canada, including First Nations leadership and communities, governments, businesses and individuals to find solutions to create a sustainable Canada through scientific research, traditional ecological knowledge, communications and public engagement, and innovative policy and legal solutions. Our mission is to protect nature’s diversity and the well-being of all life, now and for the future.