Historically, canaries were used as alarm systems in underground coal mines to protect against carbon monoxide. If the canaries died, the miners would know to evacuate the mine. For the Kootenai River Watershed, Westslope Cutthroat Trout are the canary of the mine. For decades, people have warned the Canadian government that trouble is ahead due to toxic levels of selenium pollution in this watershed. When the population of Westslope Cutthroat Trout collapsed in 2017, our alarm system was tripped. This watershed is sounding the alarm, and the Canadian government has failed to come to the rescue.
Recently, the Environmental Law Center at the University of Victoria took a deep dive into Canada’s history of regulatory negligence to demonstrate that the population decline is not the first alarm bell to ring.
In Canada, the federal government has jurisdiction over fish, fish habitat, transboundary impacts, and impacts on humans. Yet, they have put the fate of the Kootenai River ecosystem in the hands of the Province of B.C., which has grossly failed to protect this watershed.
For the last 40 years, Teck Resources has polluted the Kootenai River Watershed without any regulatory oversight by B.C. In fact, B.C. has gone as far as weakening the water quality standards in Teck’s discharge permits. The water quality standards in Teck’s permits are nowhere near as stringent as the limits in B.C.’s own Water Quality Guidelines.
Even with a mound of evidence pointing to the need for immediate action, Canada is considering approving four new coal mines in the Elk Valley. If approved, B.C. will be home to the country’s largest coal mine, and pollution will continue to threaten aquatic life, water quality, and human beings for centuries.
Canadian regulatory negligence goes far beyond the waters of the Kootenai River watershed. B.C.s lack of environmental protections are impacting transboundary waters in Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Alaska.
Sign the petition today to request that the U.S. Department of State and Global Affairs Canada work together with indigenous governments to address mining pollution in the Kootenai watershed.