Letter: Publishing notices after spraying starts defeats purpose

A call to restore municipal authority to ban the use of glyphosate

To the Expositor:

The September 4 edition of The Expositor contained a statutory public notice that the MTO’s contractor Pioneer would be spraying Roundup Weatherwax containing glyphosate on parts of its rights-of-way. The proposed spraying period was identified as from September 2 – September 22.

I spoke by phone with both the Pioneer and the MTO contacts about this. The purpose of these notices is to give the public warning before the work starts. Notices published after the proposed start date defeats that purpose! I have to say, both contacts were most helpful and apologetic, and made an offer to delay the start of the work. So far, so good! The purpose of this spraying was to control invasive species (phragmites) where they occur in the rights-of-way. This is about the only reason for which this kind of spraying can be justified – using a known poisonous substance as last resort to destroy something which, in turn, may be destroying native species. 

This in a week when Germany announced they are totally phasing out glyphosate by 2023. Austria became the first EU member to outlaw glyphosate use in July, with restrictions also in force in the Czech Republic, Italy and the Netherlands. France is planning to phase it out by 2023. Here in Canada, Montreal plans to ban the use of glyphosate, a commonly used herbicide marketed primarily under the trade name Roundup, by the end of the year. In 2015, the World Health Organization determined that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen. In the US, several civil suits against Monsanto, the manufacturer of glyphosate, that it causes cancer have been won and millions of dollars awarded against the company. 

On Manitoulin, The Expositor and Recorder have both been most supportive as campaigns led by different individuals (Pat Hess, Petra Wall, Zachary Nicholls, George Kopylov) have persuaded individual municipalities (Billings, Central Manitoulin, Tehkummah) to make statements on the record (Assiginack already had one) that they did not want pesticides used by utilities like Hydro One on their rights-of-way for vegetation management. We hope in the near future to meet with Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) to ask for an Island-wide statement emphasizing this.

But there are serious limitations to what they can do. Back in 2008, the Government of Ontario made a change to the existing Pesticides Act, which took away municipalities’ authority to pass bylaws banning its use and to render existing bylaws “inoperative.” Over the last two years, Petra Wall, Zak Nicholls and I have led petitions to Queens Park via MPP Mike Mantha asking a succession of environment ministers to restore this authority. We hope MMA will use its influence to add weight to those who signed those petitions. Meanwhile, we hope that whoever forms the government after the Federal Election will make bringing Canada into line with more and more progressive nations a high priority and ban this dangerous substance.

Paul Darlaston