Animal welfare groups ask province to withdraw pesticide bill

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Animal welfare advocates are asking the Progressive Conservative government — and its dog-loving premier — to kill a bill rolling back a ban on cosmetic pesticides.

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Animal welfare advocates are asking the Progressive Conservative government — and its dog-loving premier — to kill a bill rolling back a ban on cosmetic pesticides.

“The premier has shown that she’s a dog lover, and this bill has the potential to impact dog welfare,” said Brittany Semeniuk with the Winnipeg Humane Society, one of several animal welfare organizations calling on the province to withdraw Bill 22 (Environment Amendment Act — Pesticide Restrictions).

“Why is she supporting legislation that potentially puts animals at risk when you don’t know what chemicals they are now going to be coming into contact with?” Semeniuk, an animal welfare specialist, said in an interview Thursday.

Brittany Semeniuk, animal welfare consultant for the Winnipeg Humane Society. (Jason Halstead / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The legislation that has passed second reading, gone to committee and is expected to become law next month amends the Environment Act.

It removes the prohibition (installed by the NDP government in 2014) on the application of certain pesticides to urban lawns, and the sale of those pesticides is no longer subject to provincial regulations. It expands the list of where use of those pesticides are prohibited — schools, hospitals and daycares — to include municipal playgrounds, picnic areas, dog parks and provincial parks.

The Winnipeg Humane Society, Little Red Barn Micro Sanctuary, World Animal Protection, Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre, Free from Farm Sanctuary, Save a Dog Network Canada, Humane Society International/Canada, Fur-Bearers, D’Arcy’s Animal Rescue Centre, and Manitoba Animal Save have written to Environment Minister Jeff Wharton and Health Minister Audrey Gordon asking them to withdraw Bill 22.

“This dangerous and regressive bill would put wild and domesticated animals throughout the province at risk of illness, and even death, by eliminating many of Manitoba’s restrictions on the cosmetic, or non-essential, use of pesticides,” the letter says, citing research that points to risks associated with their use.

“Increasing the non-essential use of these products in Manitoba would be egregiously irresponsible and unscientific (and) violate the precautionary principle of international and domestic environmental law, which mandates that, where scientific evidence shows there is a risk of serious or irreversible environmental harm, preventative action be taken to protect the environment and human health.”

Kaitlyn Mitchell, a lawyer representing Animal Justice, said if the bill passes it may take the government to court and push for municipalities to ban cosmetic pesticides.

“If the province does roll back restrictions on cosmetic pesticide use, animal protection, environmental, and health groups will certainly need to consider other options, whether that means focusing on municipal bylaws or going to court to challenge Bill 22,” Mitchell said in an email.

“No other province has reversed course after enacting a cosmetic pesticide ban, so this move truly would make Manitoba an outlier.”

Premier Heather Stefanson, who has spoken publicly about her love for her dogs and weekend walks with pets, wasn’t available to comment Thursday.

Manitoba relies on Health Canada to evaluate pesticide products “using a robust science-based review process,” her spokesperson said.

All pesticides sold or used in Manitoba are federally approved under the Pest Control Products Act and continuously reviewed by Health Canada to ensure pesticide products do not present unacceptable risks to Canadians and the environment, the spokesperson said.

“Pathways of exposure, including dietary, drinking water, and residential exposures, are considered in the risk assessments.”

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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