A new kind of crime stopper – Environment Canada’s enforcement officers
From coast to coast, Canada’s incredible natural environment is part of our national identity. Our amazing natural resources are not only beautiful places to look at and enjoy, our biodiversity – the abundance and variety of life in our wild spaces – is key to cultural, economic and social prosperity.
Across the country, Environment Canada has well over 300 enforcement officers working on the front lines to protect wildlife, habitat and natural resources. Since 2007, the Government of Canada has invested more than $40 million to enhance environmental enforcement to increase the number of enforcement officers on the ground, and to support these officers with better forensics laboratory support, data collection and analysis.
Environmental enforcement officers – like Sandra Lalande – prevent and investigate pollution.
Photo: © Environment Canada, 2010
As an environmental enforcement officer specializing in pollution prevention, Sandra Lalande tackles cases that hit corporations with fines and penalties for failing to comply with environmental regulations. Sandra is based out of Montreal, where her job is a dynamic mixture of office work and field work, ensuring that every day is different.
“While the cases can be demanding, the results are worth it. You play a role in making a real difference in our environment and protecting our natural resources for future generations,” Sandra says.
Investigations may include testing effluent from facilities that could pollute water, measuring the quality of emissions coming from smoke stacks that could pollute air, and testing soil to ensure leaking chemicals are not contaminating the earth.
Enforcement officers also work with industry to prevent pollution before it happens. They inspect facilities to make sure that operations meet environmental standards. They provide advice on preventative measures, and monitor operational reports to see that these measures are working to keep our environment clean. At the end of the day, businesses that don’t take precautions as required by the law may face tough new penalties under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
For example, an Edmonton dry cleaning company recently pleaded guilty to storing toxic chemicals in open containers (risking a spill) and for not having proper drain plugs available to prevent a spill from draining in local water sources. The company was fined $10,000. In 2009, a transportation company was jointly prosecuted by Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada and ordered to pay a total of $1,000,000 in penalties as a result of 2 spills of harmful substances into fish-bearing waters in Alberta and British Columbia. Under the Environmental Damages Fund, judges may order that financial penalties be used to restore or enhance the environment, so that the “polluter pays” to help correct the damages.
Protecting wildlife species at home…
Sheldon Jordan is the National Director of Wildlife Enforcement who enforces federal environmental laws to protect Canada's wildlife, habitat and natural resources.
Photo: © Environment Canada, 2010
In addition to keeping a watchful eye on pollution, Environment Canada also has wildlife officers who specialize in wildlife. Sheldon Jordan is a new kind of crime stopper, managing a team of enforcement officers who protect Canada’s wildlife and habitats from poachers, smugglers and other criminals. They follow tips, monitor high-risk areas, and collaborate with other enforcement organizations. “Imagine your day starting with a phone call that your officers have just confiscated a truck full of endangered species’ meat. These situations have to be investigated,” Sheldon says.
…And around the world
Canada’s wildlife enforcement officers don’t just protect wildlife at home, they help protect wildlife around the world. Under the Convention on International Trades in Endangered Species (CITES), Canada works with other countries and partners such as Interpol to control illegal international wildlife trade in endangered species from every corner of the globe, so that offenders cannot escape justice simply by crossing a border.
Wildlife enforcement officers can never be sure what a day will bring – whether it’s someone trying to cross the border in a vehicle packed with 35 endangered rattlesnakes, videos of illegal hunting being posted on the Internet, or someone trying to use falsified documents to import stuffed endangered African lions.
Wildlife officer, Brenda Buchart, demonstrates one of the illegally imported products confiscated by officers.
Photo: Micheline Brodeur © Environment Canada, 2009.
Although officers had to shake their heads at the man who tried to hide endangered snakes in his pants at a border crossing, violating Canada’s wildlife protection laws is no laughing matter. In Sarnia, Ontario, a man recently convicted of capturing endangered and threatened turtles for illegal sale as pets was sentenced to 9 months in jail and 3 years probation. Financial penalties and fines can range up to $1,000,000, under the Species at Risk Act, or the Migratory Birds Convention Act.
Strong and effective enforcement of Canada’s environmental and wildlife protection laws is essential to the Government’s action for clean air, clean water and the conservation of wildlife species and their habitat. Though EC’s enforcement officers may not know what their next investigation will turn up, their dedication and commitment ensures that the wildlife and environment - which are so key to our Canadian identity - remain safe.
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- Environment Canada has well over 300 enforcement officers working on the front lines to protect wildlife, habitat and natural resources
- The work of an enforcement officer can involve following tips, monitoring high-risk areas, collaborating with other enforcement organizations to catch illegal hunters and importers
- Businesses that don’t take precautions as required by the law may face tough new penalties under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act
- The Convention on International Trades in Endangered Species (CITES) protects wildlife species from illegal trading.