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Canada blocking efforts to protect oceans from toxic dumping at crucial international meeting

GreenPeace press release, 26 October 1995

WASHINGTON, OCTOBER 26, 1995 (GP) At a crucial United Nations meeting on ocean pollution, Canada is opposing efforts to implement a global ban on the dumping of persistent organic pollutants, Greenpeace charged today.

Earlier this week, as many delegates moved closer to a Nordic proposal for a legally binding international agreement to stop toxic emissions, Canada's lead delegate Jeff Holland completely rejected the idea of a global ban. Instead, Canada is pressing for local and regional action, a totally ineffective strategy given the fact that toxic chemicals travel vast distances, maintaining their deadly impact.

The Canadian position offered in Washington inexplicably contradicts the Vancouver Declaration signed by numerous government scientists last June when experts from forty countries gathered in Vancouver at a meeting organized by the Canadian government. At the conclusion of the meeting officials from Health Canada, Environment Canada, and Agriculture Canada all signed a joint statement calling for "bans, phaseouts, and provisional severe restrictions for certain POPs" to be implemented at an international level. Canada's stated position at the UN conference also contradicts much stronger language on the POP's issue, as enunciated in its "Toxic Substances Policy for Canada".

"Obviously the Canadian government is now caving into the chemical industry's position," said Greenpeace International Campaigner Tim Birch who is attending the meeting as an official observer. "This is incomprehensible given the huge impact of persistent organic pollutants in Canada."

Birch pointed to an array of profound effects from POPs emissions:

And in the case of the sunken Irving Whale, which contains 8000 kilos of deadly PCB's, the Canadian government has an extremely clear demonstration of how difficult it is to contain toxic chemicals once they are released into the environment.

"With this kind evidence, the Canadian government's position at this conference shows gross irresponsibility to its citizens and the entire planet," said Birch. "There is a very real opportunity to make a dramatic step forward for the planet's environmental health and Canada is trying to stop it."

Over 100 countries are participating in the United Nations oceans pollution meeting being held over the next two weeks. This is the first followup to the 1992 Earth Summit where Canada, along with 150 other countries, committed itself to protecting the world's oceans from the dangerous impact of substances like POPs. Because they are so long-lived, POPs build up in the food chain and are now found in the tissue of all humans and wildlife. Health effects from these chemicals include infertility and other reproductive problems, immune suppression and developmental deficiencies in both humans and wildlife.

The United Nations Environmental Program has identified twelve chlorinated chemicals for priority action. However, investigations show that some governments who instituted bans still produce chemicals included in the "dirty dozen" for their own use or export. Furthermore, "dirty dozen" chemicals such as dioxins and furans are inevitable byproducts of industrial processes involving chlorine. For this reason, all processes and products which utilize chlorine must be phased out globally.


  1. The official name of the United Nations meeting is the "Intergovernmental Conference on Protection Marine Environment and Land Based Activities. The meeting is taking place from October 23-November 3, at the U.S. Department of State.
  2. The "dirty dozen" prioritized chemicals include: dioxins,furans, aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, mirex, hexachlorobenzene, toxaphene, hetachor, chlrodane, PCB"s and DDT.


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