Future uncertain for network of over 640 environmental groupsResources for petitioning the government to reconsider are available after the break .
Today, the Canadian Environmental Network (RCEN), one of Canada’s oldest, largest, and most well-respected democratic institutions serving the environmental concerns of all Canadians, was forced to lay off its staff and is on the verge of closing its doors and those of its 11 regional offices.
The Network demands to know why it is being shut out of communications with Environment Canada regarding the promised funding for fiscal year 2011-2012. Neither Environment Minister Peter Kent nor his departmental officials have explained why they are not delivering on their promise of continued core funding for the Network, which comprises its key environmental constituency across Canada.
“The Canadian Environmental Network received a letter from Environment Canada in May this year stating their intent to continue core funding in the amount of $547,000 for the current fiscal year. In keeping with our over three-decades-long partnership, we ask that EC honour this letter,” said Olivier Kolmel, Chair of the RCEN.
“The RCEN consists of over 640 highly diverse large and small, rural and urban organisations from coast to coast to coast. The Network forms an invaluable and irreplaceable grid of communication among environmentally concerned Canadians and the Government of Canada.
Sample letter to your MP
October 13, 2011
[Mr/Ms John/Jane Doe, MP]
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Call to Preserve the Federal Government’s Partnership with the Canadian Environmental Network
I am writing to solicit your assistance in ensuring the continuity of a 34-year partnership between Environment Canada and the Canadian Environmental Network (RCEN). With our core funding having just today been cancelled and all staff laid-off as of tomorrow, we are seeking political champions. We request a meeting with you to discuss how to urgently and effectively re-establish this partnership.
The Canadian Environmental Network is composed of over 640 diverse community organizations, urban and rural, and from coast to coast to coast; a membership that accounts for at least 630,000 individuals directly involved through their groups. The Canadian Environmental Network has served as a critical consultative mechanism, and has most successfully coordinated transparent and constructive collaboration between Environment Canada and its stakeholders for the past three and a half decades.
This partnership has produced many noteworthy achievements. These include the development of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act; reforms to the Federal Environmental Assessment Review Office to create the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency in 1987; extensive work on Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's Green Plan in 1990; numerous initiatives, such as those on toxic substances, including the Chemicals Management Plan; and the Comprehensive Air Management System that was endorsed by the CCME in November 2010.
The strategic importance of this partnership also touches on economic considerations and social wellbeing. The RCEN has helped maintain and strengthen the foundation of our country’s economy by fostering collaboration that enhances operating certainty for Canadian businesses. Our partnership also makes a difference to Canadians “on the ground” in all our communities. Through the years, we have seen the creation of many jobs, and can account for many millions of dollars in terms of volunteer hours invested in promoting and seeing-through numerous federal projects and programmes. Over the decades, the RCEN has actively supported initiatives that range from Habitat Stewardship in Alberta, to waste and smog reduction in Toronto, and youth-led plantings of native species in Montréal. These remarkable examples only scratch the surface of what has been an internationally emulated model of collaboration that serves the interests and values of all Canadians.
I urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that this partnership continues. Please discuss our urgent situation with your colleagues in Parliament and with Minister Peter Kent. I would be pleased to meet with you to discuss our past work with Environment Canada and your recommendations to keep this alliance intact in the coming months and years. Please consider becoming a champion of the Canadian Environmental Network.
Olivier Kolmel, Chair
On behalf of the Board of Directors
Canadian Environmental Network (RCEN)
Sample letter of support
[your name and organisation]
RE: Increasing the Strength of the Canadian Environmental Network (RCEN)
I am contacting you to express my sincere hope that you will do all that is in your power to help us re-establish government support for the Canadian Environmental Network (RCEN). The RCEN is an internationally unique and highly respected network of national and community-based organisations. Environmental groups from many countries have approached us with a view to modelling the way in which we do our work—in both official languages.
Environmental challenges know no political boundaries. No matter what party forms government, we must not lose sight of the necessity for strong, dependable, and continued core support from Environment Canada to the hundreds of thousands of volunteers working through their environmental groups in Canadian communities large and small.
The more than three-decades-long partnership RCEN has developed with Environment Canada—and which was summarily and unexpectedly cancelled on 13 October—has produced many noteworthy achievements. These include the development of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act; reforms to the Federal Environmental Assessment Review Office to create the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency in 1987; extensive work on former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's Green Plan in 1990; and numerous initiatives such as those on toxic substances, including the Chemicals Management Plan and the Comprehensive Air Management System that was endorsed by the CCME in November 2010.
Increasingly, Canadians are faced with problems of damaged ecosystems, loss of species, serious air pollution, effects of acid rain and climate change, increased warnings about food and agricultural products, and spikes in disease for humans, wildlife, and ecosystems. RCEN has provided a door for government to conduct transparent consultation with, and feedback from, the public on policies and programs to help solve these problems.
The Canadian Environmental Network is composed of over 640 diverse community organisations among 11 provincial and territorial affiliate networks, urban and rural, and from coast to coast to coast; a membership that accounts for at least 630,000 individuals directly involved through their regional affiliates and groups.
The RCEN’s democratic delegate selection process has ensured that individuals representing groups from across the country are at the decision-making tables. By bringing representatives from rural and urban communities to participate in developing policies, we provide a full range of expertise (including biologists, planners, educators, lawyers, geologists, social scientists, engineers, chemists, doctors and other health care workers) of people working on the ground and outside government. This uniquely Canadian approach builds trust between the public and government through collaboration and consultation. By bringing diverse stakeholders, including representatives of industry groups, to a common table, we also resolve differences of opinion, settle compromises, and create solutions that would not arise without dialogue. With this process, better policies are developed that have greater legitimacy with the Canadian public.
Given the growing challenges we all face, the environmental network needs a dramatic increase in funding, not a decrease or outright cancellation. Currently, the RCEN’s funding has been discontinued, in spite of receiving a letter of intent to continue funding in May, and then a summary notice today (four and a half months later) that there will be no funding, leaving us with no opportunity to develop transitional funding strategies. As of Friday, 14 October, our national office will close. Many—in and out of government—believe that core funding of $10 million is a much more appropriate contribution to support the important expertise that our member groups deliver.
The RCEN is entering its 34th year. During this time, we have worked co-operatively with Environment Canada and other departments (including DFO, Health Canada, NRCan, Agriculture Canada, and DFAIT, to name a few) resulting in very significant environmental successes which, in addition to the ones mentioned above, include the following:
· The preservation of 12% of Canada’s wilderness, initiated by RCEN member groups through the forest and wilderness caucus and supported by all parties in the House of Commons.
· The RCEN member groups and affiliate networks do the lion’s share of environmental education in communities across the country.
· Our membership has made contribution to policy in areas such as the chemicals management plan, smog science, acid rain, environmental assessment, management of fisheries, marine ecosystems, species at risk—the list is long.
· We have facilitated input into environmental policy in all key federal portfolios, from natural resources to fisheries, health, education, and agriculture.
We cannot lose sight of the immense co-operative work that we have achieved during the last three-and-a-half decades. The model of the multi-stakeholder decision-making process that has been developed co-operatively between Environment Canada and the RCEN has been so successful that it is now being showcased internationally as a model for other countries to emulate.
Canada, like other countries, faces even more serious environmental challenges than ever, and we need the combined force of the RCEN and federal agencies to meet these challenges. We would like you to raise this issue with your elected officials and your colleagues to take the necessary steps to help us ensure that stable increased funding is included in future federal budgets.
As you are taking this matter forward, please call on environmental representatives in your area for further information and to jointly address local environmental issues. You can find their contact information on our website: www.rcen.ca.
(Signed by person writing this letter, who we hope would be meeting with their MP or influential colleague, or with the executive director/coordinator of their provincial affiliate.)