CANADA REPORT

The People VS. Pollution

COURTNEY TOWER January 1 1970
CANADA REPORT

The People VS. Pollution

COURTNEY TOWER January 1 1970

The People VS. Pollution

COURTNEY TOWER

CANADA REPORT

PRINCE RUPERT, British Columbia, is beautiful to see but it reeks from end to end. Three fish plants dump offal over the ends of wharves, where it simmers and stews. Stinking pulp-mill effluent fills a shallow Pacific bay. Smokestacks belch acid clouds across a mountain scene. “On warm days, hardy fishermen in the area vomit,” says Dr. Donald Chant, poollution-fighting chairman of the University of Toronto’s zoology department. “But when I asked a resident how he could stand that smell, he looked me in the eye and said, T kind of like it.’ Another man said, ‘Yes, it’s the smell of money!’ ”

Across Canada, the fight goes hard against such a pioneer belief that our land, sky and water are infinitely able to absorb poisons in the name of progress. But public outcry is making itself felt. And Dr. Chant, leading a Toronto citizens’ group called Pollution Probe, has shown what aroused people can do: they won the national 90 percent ban on DDT, which begins this month.

The group, one of many forming in a riled-up Canada, held its own public inquiry last summer into the spray-poison death of ducks. It sought injunctions against the Metro Toronto Parks Department’s use of Diazinon, a member of the DDT family. It peppered the Ontario government with scientific data and expert opinion. Resources Minister George Kerr received 3,000 letters.

Ontario soon joined three countries and three American states in a fairly extensive ban on DDT (although the tobacco lobby won some exceptions, which perhaps makes a cancerous kind of sense). Quebec followed.

Probe then lobbied intensively in a reluctant Ottawa. Probe member Marshall McLuhan dined with Prime Minister Trudeau. And Dr. Chant slyly let it be known that the U.S. intended to announce a big DDT ban (it later announced a small one). That did it, a federal source admits:

“John Munro [health minister] had just said the Ontario ban on DDT was premature. If the U.S. was then going to ban it, we would look awful. So we decided to one-up the Americans.”

However ludicrous the reason, there is now a Canadian ban on DDT, which kills fish and wildlife and retards the photosynthesis in ocean plants that produces 70 percent of the world’s free oxygen. The ban was achieved by public anger, which rises now from fear. Eminent scientists talk soberly of the end of Man in perhaps 20 years if he continues pouring death into the air and the exhaustible seas. The scientists say that an exploding world population could use up food and oxygen supplies, while destroying the waters, forests and fields that produce the food and oxygen. What Dr. Chant calls “the red signs of danger” are evident — algae

chokes waters; fish, animals and birds are disappearing; carbon monoxide fills the air from automobiles, planes, power plants and heating.

The Canadian Society of Zoologists says bluntly: “The very survival of mankind is at stake.”

Montreal's poisoned smog is often so thick that only the tips of skyscrapers point through it, like grave markers. The acid rains from stacks in Sarnia and Sudbury are no better, although Ontario is stiffening controls. Montreal dumps 500 million gallons of raw sewage daily into the St. Lawrence, which still carries cargo but is unpleasant for anything else.

One of the world’s great salmon rivers, the Fraser, is an open sewer at Vancouver and far up into its spawning beds. Alberta preaches precaution, but opens a fifth of Willmore Wilderness Park to

mining operations. Lake Erie is in large part dead and Lake Ontario is dying of wastes from the U.S. and from a Canada that creates 1,500 pounds of garbage per person each year — four billion cans and two billion bottles and jars. St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Victoria, British Columbia, dump raw sewage into the sea. More than a quarter of the shellfish in beds along New Brunswick are made inedible by the offal of fish-processing plants. Young salmon die within minutes of being placed in the St. Croix River below a New Brunswick pulp mill. Under scant control, the 170 pulp mills are Canada’s biggest, most persistent and least apologetic polluters — they dump more than half the decomposable material that goes into our water courses each year, and threaten to leave if they can’t play dirty.

Even parts of our allegedly protected parks are foul, from logging and overcrowded campsites. The Lake of Two Rivers in Ontario’s Algonquin Park last summer tested at 150 times the unsafe bacteria level for swimming. “Algonquin Park was set up primarily to protect the headwaters of five river systems,” says Patrick Hardy, managing director of the Canadian Audubon Society. “It seems too bad to start our water off that way.”

But politicians and industrialists admit there never has been such public pressure about pollution. Ontario con-

trois are beginning to bite, and the giant Domtar Ltd. was charged in court last month with polluting Lake Superior. A Toronto think tank, Systems Research Group, is preparing strategies for all Canadian governments to use against pollution. Industry’s spending on pollution is steadily rising, although government sources say it is not as high as is often claimed. The business of producing anti-pollution equipment is worth perhaps $70 million a year and is touted as the coming glamour industry. But public heat must be sustained — some ways of doing this are shown on the following pages. Serious enforcement of the laws is the crux, or Canada will continue to be a paradox of law and ordure. □