Media Releases

Federal Court Finds Restrictions on Plastic Unconstitutional

TORONTO—Animal Justice is expressing disappointment in a decision released today by the Federal Court that strikes down a federal decision to list plastic manufactured items as “toxic” under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (“CEPA”)–Canada’s most important environmental law.

Animal Justice intervened in the case of Responsible Plastic Use Coalition v Minister of Environment and Climate Change to fight the plastic industry in court and defend the decision to list plastic as toxic. The case was brought by a coalition of Canada’s largest plastic-producing companies, asking the Federal Court to strike down the toxic listing. The listing was an incredibly important step that allowed the government to create regulations to ban some of the most harmful and unnecessary single-use plastics, including checkout bags, stir sticks, cutlery, and six-pack rings.

Because Parliament has amended CEPA through Bill S-5 since the listing decision was made, today’s ruling will not immediately impact our new law.

“Plastic pollution kills millions of animals like turtles, fishes, whales, and seabirds each year, subjecting them to unimaginable suffering,” said lawyer Kaitlyn Mitchell, director of legal advocacy with Animal Justice. “Today’s decision is a disappointing step backward in Canada’s fight to address our global plastic disaster, but the fight is far from over. Thankfully, Canada updated CEPA since the listing decision, and we are hopeful that the government will continue to take strong, science-based steps to protect animals, people, and the planet from the devastating impacts of plastic pollution.”

Every year, Canada produces more than four million tonnes of plastic waste. The government’s science assessment, on which the decision to list plastic manufactured items was based, shows that plastic pollution poses a hazard to wildlife and the environment. There is clear evidence that single-use plastics, the most common type of plastic pollution found in the environment, kill land and aquatic wildlife and cause suffering, injury and death to turtles, fish, whales, seabirds and other animals. Other plastic items, such as plastic waste from the fishing industry, also cause significant harm across ecosystems. Lost and discarded fishing gear, known as “ghost gear”, makes up the vast majority of large plastic pollution in the ocean, and can entangle and kill animals for decades.

“The Federal Court decision is a setback, but we urge Canada to continue its efforts to protect animals from death by plastic, including single-use plastics as well as fishing gear,” said Mitchell. “In this time of global ecological crisis we need more action and leadership from the federal government, not less.”


The Federal Court decision is available here.

Kaitlyn Mitchell
Director of Legal Advocacy
[email protected]