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Some single-use plastics will be banned over the next 18 months

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OTTAWA — The federal government is banning companies from importing or making plastic bags and takeout containers by the end of this year, from selling them by the end of next year and from exporting them by the end of 2025.

The move will also affect single-use plastic straws, stir sticks, cutlery and six-pack rings used to hold cans and bottles together.

“Our government is all-in when it comes to reducing plastic pollution,” Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said Monday at a news conference on a St. Lawrence River beach in Quebec City.

The Liberal government is targeting 2030 to eliminate all plastic waste from ending up in landfills or as litter on beaches, in rivers, wetlands and forests.

Federal data show in 2019, 15.5 billion plastic grocery bags, 4.5 billion pieces of plastic cutlery, three billion stir sticks, 5.8 billion straws, 183 million six-pack rings and 805 million takeout containers were sold in Canada.

Bags, takeout containers and straws are among the top 10 items most commonly found during shoreline and beach cleanups in Canada, along with bottles, bottle caps, coffee cups and cigarette butts.

A 2019 Deloitte study found less than one-tenth of the plastic waste Canadians produce is recycled. That meant 3.3 million tonnes of plastic was thrown out annually, almost half of it plastic packaging.

Sarah King, head of the oceans and plastics campaign for Greenpeace Canada, said banning the six items is a step forward but disagrees it’s a sign Canada is all-in on plastic waste as Guilbeault claimed.

King said the six items on the list make up only about five per cent of the plastic waste Canada generated in 2019.

“It’s a drop in the bucket,” she said. “Until the government gets serious about overall reductions of plastic production we’re not going to see the impact we need to see in the environment or in our waste streams.”

King said recycling is not going to solve the problem, and the only way to end plastic waste is to stop producing most plastic.

France, which banned most of the items on Canada’s list last year, began phasing in a ban on plastic packaging for more than 30 fruits and vegetables this year. It is also in the process of banning plastic wrap used on newspapers, non-biodegradable plastic in tea bags and the free plastic toys handed out to kids with fast food meals.

Guilbeault acknowledged Canada is not first in banning plastics but insists it is among the leaders. He also said there may be additional items added to the list but overall, he said, “I don’t think we can ban our way out of plastic pollution.”

“Banning certain items is certainly part of the solution but regulating to ensure that companies who produce plastics use more and more recycled plastic as part of your content is also part of the solution,” he said.

The Deloitte report found part of the problem is the limited demand for recycled plastic. Canada intends to enact standards to force companies to use recycled plastic, in a bid to increase recycling.

“We have not closed the door to banning certain other single-use plastics.” Guilbeault said. “We’re starting with these ones because based on the data we have, these are the most harmful plastic substances, but it may be the case that we decide in the in the near future to ban some others.”

The final regulations published Monday don’t rule out some plastic alternatives to the banned items. Some beverage makers, for example, have already replaced six-pack rings with shrink wrap, which is not affected by Monday’s announcement.

Olivier Bourbeau, vice-president of federal affairs at Restaurants Canada, said the government needs to do more to ensure alternatives to the banned items are readily available.

Bourbeau said there are supply chain issues at play, noting one restaurant chain with dozens of restaurants in Ontario and Quebec is only receiving half of its orders for non-plastic takeout containers, and those containers can’t be branded with the restaurant’s logo.

“Nobody knew the supply would be that problematic,” he said.

He said the government needs to work with suppliers to make sure production can meet the pending demand.

The plan to ban exports of the six items is a change from December, when the draft regulations were published. Several environment groups were dismayed that Canada’s initial plan was to ban the items at home but continue to ship them abroad.

The ban itself was expected last year, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first floated the idea in June 2019. But COVID-19 delayed the scientific assessment that was needed.

Six months after that assessment, which was finalized in October 2021, the federal government listed plastics as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

A consortium of plastics producers is suing the government over the toxic designation in a case expected to be heard later this year. The Canadian Press has reached out to that group for reaction but has not yet received a reply.

Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia have already taken their own action against plastic bags, as have some cities including Regina, Victoria and Montreal.

Some retailers also moved faster than the government, with Sobeys eliminating single-use plastic bags at its checkout counters in 2020, and Walmart following suit this past April. Loblaws announced Monday morning it will ban bags by spring 2023.

Many fast food outlets replaced plastic straws with paper versions over the last several years as well.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 20, 2022.

 

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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Indigenous conservation Canada’s way of the future, Guilbeault says

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Tanya Ball began her career as a social worker for the Kaska Dene First Nation. Now she runs a land guardian program, working to monitor and protect a vast stretch of the band’s northern British Columbia wilderness.

But she’s still a social worker, in a way.

“Land guardians can help the land heal,” she said. “And the land can help the guardians heal.”

Ball is at the forefront of the new way Canada protects its remaining healthy rivers, lakes, forests, mountains and plains. Crown governments would once rope off an area deemed particularly scenic or good for outdoor recreation and call it a park.

No longer.

“There’s no future when it comes to conservation where the federal government is involved (and) Indigenous people aren’t involved from the get-go,” said federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault. “This traditional model is a thing of the past.”

Conservation is now something Indigenous people lead instead of something done to them. Most protected areas in Canada are now being proposed by Indigenous groups, who aim to look after those lands themselves.

There are now about 80 protected areas in Canada monitored by the people to whom the lands originally belonged. Some are designated only by the local First Nation and some are part of the national parks system.

But more — many more — are on their way.

The most recent federal budget contains funding for at least another 27 Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas. Ottawa just signed a memorandum of agreement with the Nunatsiavut government in Labrador to develop one with both parties involved from the start.

It’s the only way Canada is going to fulfil its international promise to protect 30 per cent of its land mass, said Sandra Schwartz of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

“Achieving those protection targets for Canada are realistic,” she said. “Many of those opportunities are on Indigenous land.”

Indigenous conservation comes from the historic cultural attachment to the land and the political desire for a land base, said Val Courtois of the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, who has been involved in the movement for years.

“The assertion of rights in Canada has always been about that relationship to place. This is just a new way of describing that responsibility.”

Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas have been created under federal, provincial and band structures and vary widely in how they function and what they do. Some don’t meet international conservation area standards and won’t count toward Canada’s 30 per cent goal.

But they all involve some level of Indigenous co-management, they all involve land-use planning and they all involve guardians — local First Nations people charged and trained with stewarding the land.

Ball said her staff of eight takes water samples, makes maps, monitors hunting, delineates archeological sites, keeps track of visitor impacts, watches animal movements, assists conservation officers and runs research projects.

“They’re very busy,” she said.

One thing they don’t do is put up fences. Indigenous Protected Areas aren’t meant to keep anyone out, Courtois said.

“I would fall off my chair if I heard of an Indigenous group that is saying ‘let’s exclude everybody,’” she said. “There may be small portions that are particularly sacred, but the idea of exclusion of people is an antithesis of how we understand these places.”

Decisions on local development are made locally, she said.

Tara Shea of the Mining Association of Canada said her group generally supports Indigenous protection — as long as the process is transparent and potential mineral tenures are considered in advance.

“We strongly believe mineral development and biodiversity conservation can go hand-in-hand.”

There are challenges. While the federal government has set aside more than $300 million since 2018 for Indigenous conservation, Guilbeault acknowledges a source of permanent funding for such programs is still being sought.

“We don’t do permanent programs. The philanthropic world has played a huge role in conservation and will continue to. We welcome their involvement.”

Ottawa, the Northwest Territories, area First Nations and the U.S.-based Pew Charitable Trusts are currently negotiating a way for Pew money to finance the guardian program at the Edehzhie National Park and Indigenous Protected Area.

Another obstacle is the varying degrees of support from provincial governments, which control most of Canada’s Crown land.

“The level of enthusiasm varies,” said Guilbeault, who declined specifics. “Some provincial governments don’t believe in the government-to-government relationship.”

Courtois agrees.

“It’s tough for provinces,” she said. “They’re used to being in the driver’s seat.”

Ball believes Indigenous conservation is important for the whole country as a crucial component of reconciliation. She sees what happens if people from her First Nation go out on the land they once again help manage.

“Sometimes people want to come out just for the day. I just see a difference in people by the end of the day. Their behaviour changes, their mood has lifted,” Ball said.

“I think that’ll really help with social issues, too.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2022.

— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960

 

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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Russia is 'weaponizing' food, Joly tells Commonwealth partners – CBC News

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Commonwealth leaders, meeting for the first time in four years, discussed food security and the risk of starvation as Canada’s foreign affairs minister sought to lay the blame for the impending crisis at the feet of Russia.

“What is clear to us is that Russia is weaponizing food, and putting a toll on many countries around the world, and putting 50 million lives at risk,” Mélanie Joly told reporters late Friday, while giving a recap of the first day of the Commonwealth meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.

Ukraine is the world’s fourth-largest grain exporter and reportedly has more 30 million tonnes of grain in storage, waiting for export. Farmers are said to be building temporary silos and are worried because the summer harvest is only weeks away.

The country’s Black Sea ports of Odesa, Pivdennyi, and Mykolaiv and Chornomorsk serve as major terminals — shipping about 4.5 million tonnes of grain per month, but a Russian naval blockade is preventing movement.

A recent report from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) concluded that Russia is taking advantage of transportation bottlenecks to attack Ukraine’s food storage facilities.

Russian forces have attacked grain silos across the country and stolen an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 tonnes of grain from occupied regions, according to Ukraine’s Defence Ministry.

The CSIS report, posted online on June 15, noted “Russia destroyed one of Europe’s largest food storage facilities in Brovary, roughly 19 kilometres northeast of Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv.”

Journalists walk inside a destroyed warehouse for storing food, after an attack by Russia 12 days prior in Brovary, on the outskirts of Kyiv on March 29. (Rodrigo Abd/The Associated Press)

The subject of the Russian blockade of Ukraine grain exports will also be at the centre of the G7 leaders meeting, beginning Sunday in Germany.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last week delivered a scathing critique of the crisis, blaming the U.S. and not the Russian military actions in Ukraine for endangering food security, and rising inflation and fuel prices.

He reinforced the message in a phone call last week with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was one of the Commonwealth leaders to skip this week’s meeting.

Africa is heavily reliant on Ukrainian and — to a lesser extent — Russian grain.

For those leaders who did show up in Rwanda, Joly said Canada has been clear in assigning blame for the crisis. 

Sanctions not to blame, Joly says

“This is not the fault of the Western sanctions,” she said. “This is really Putin’s war of choice that is affecting food security around the world.”

Ten members of the Commonwealth abstained from condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in a United Nations resolution last spring.

Joly said she believes Canada made “headway” at the conference in convincing some of those nations to stand more firmly with Ukraine, but she wasn’t specific.

In a policy session held before the meeting of Commonwealth leaders, there was a call for African countries to be more self-sufficient in food supplies to offset imports.

Agnes Kalibata, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), told the conference said that the agriculture sector in developing countries of the Commonwealth is “heavily underinvested.” She called for adequate funding to boost “the sector productivity, strengthen its resilience and deal with climate change, as well as create jobs, according to local media reports.

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Immigration Minister: Applicants can soon expect normal service standards – Canada Immigration News

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Published on June 25th, 2022 at 08:00am EDT
Updated on June 25th, 2022 at 08:29am EDT

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Canada’s Immigration Minister Sean Fraser believes meaningful steps are being taken to get the immigration system back on track.

Fraser acknowledged ongoing application processing and client experience challenges when he sat down with CIC News for an exclusive interview in Toronto earlier this week.

Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Minister expects things to return to normal by the end of 2022

“The COVID-19 pandemic hampered our immigration system in two main ways. It shut down a lot of our offices around the world…we lost a lot of our horsepower as a department.”

The second way, he explained, was Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) needed to pivot to transitioning those in Canada to permanent residence since travel restrictions limited the ability of those abroad to enter the country. This was happening as new applications continued to flow in, leading to an accumulation of inventory. Then in August 2021, Canada made the commitment to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees following the Taliban reclaiming power of Afghanistan and since February 2022, Canada has been looking to assist those impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The good news is I see light at the end of the tunnel…we’re on track right now to restore our pre-pandemic service standard by the end of this calendar year for virtually every line of business.”

Minister Fraser added the caveat that the service standard for Canadian citizenship applications may continue to lag a bit due to the inventory growing significantly at the start of the pandemic when in-person citizenship ceremonies were not an option.

Fraser: Three solutions to improve client experience and address backlogs

The minister believes the three solutions to improve the immigration system are “resources, policy, and tech.”

“On the resources side, we’ve added 500 more staff.” He also pointed out the additional $85 million and another $385 million allocated in recent federal budget announcements that will go towards improving application processing.

Meanwhile, Fraser believes Canada will need even higher levels of immigration to meet growing demand to gain Canadian permanent residence.

“The number one policy is our Immigration Levels Plan. We’re not going to chip away at the number of cases in the inventory if we don’t expand the numbers.”

In February, Fraser announced Canada would welcome over 430,000 immigrants annually beginning this year, by far the highest levels in Canadian history. He is set to announce the Immigration Levels Plan 2023-2025 by November 1st of this year, which may result in another increase in Canada’s targets.

With respect to the third solution, technology, the minister said that “digital platform modernization is going to greatly increase the reliability and pace of our system.”

“These measures are starting to have an impact…a couple of weeks ago we passed 200,000 permanent residents landed in Canada.” The minister noted this has broken the previous record by 1.5 months.

Work permits have almost 250% increased compared to last year.”

IRCC’s backlog has surged to 2.4 million persons during the pandemic and the department has struggled to achieve its own targets on the length of time it aims to process applications. Since the start of this year, it has made major announcements and changes as it seeks to reduce the backlog, processing times, and give its clients more certainty. In late January, minister Fraser held a press conference summarizing IRCC’s processing goals including the steps it was taking to increase staff capacity and modernize its processes and technology.

One of the benefits has been the reduction in the Express Entry backlog. The minister told CIC News that all-program Express Entry draws are tentatively set to resume on July 6. In addition, IRCC aims to get back to its pre-pandemic service standard of processing Express Entry applications within six months beginning in July.

Another benefit is that IRCC has introduced and is in the process of introducing more case trackers to allow applicants to review the status of their files. The minister says 17 lines of business will have case trackers by the end of this summer allowing applicants to digitally monitor their status.

While challenges remain, the minister expressed great optimism to CIC News.

“My sense is by the end of this calendar year, new applications coming in will have the kind of certainty that we’ll be able to meet our service standard and people will be dealing with 60 days or 6 months or 12 months, not an undetermined period of time.”

Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Special interview series with Minister Fraser

CIC News sat down with the minister on June 21, 2022 to discuss the future of Canadian immigration.

Over the coming weeks, CIC News is releasing a special series of articles elaborating on the interview with Minister Fraser on topics including:

Minister Fraser was in Toronto to speak at Collision, one of the world’s largest technology conferences.

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© CIC News All Rights Reserved. Visit CanadaVisa.com to discover your Canadian immigration options.

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