Ottawa to Appeal Federal Court's 'Unconstitutional' Ruling Related to Single-Use Plastics Ban

The Federal Court had ruled cabinet's assertion that all plastic-manufactured items are toxic was 'unreasonable and unconstitutional.'
Ottawa to Appeal Federal Court's 'Unconstitutional' Ruling Related to Single-Use Plastics Ban
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault speaks during media availability at the Climate Positive Energy Initiative conference in Toronto on Aug.10, 2023. (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press)
Matthew Horwood

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says Ottawa will appeal a decision by the Federal Court that ruled the government’s listing of manufactured plastics as "toxic" was unconstitutional. The listing was a key step by the feds to ban some types of single-use plastic products, such as straws and shopping bags.

"We intend to appeal the ruling," Mr. Guilbeault told reporters on Nov. 20. “The body of scientific evidence showing the impacts on human health, on the environment of plastic pollution, is undebatable. And the Canadian public has been asking us to do this.”

Ottawa had sought to label "plastic manufactured items" as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Mr. Guilbeault declared on Aug. 1 a commitment to "zero plastic waste" citing the need to address climate change and pollution.

He told reporters that Canadians are "tired of seeing plastic pollution in their neighbourhood and in our streets, in our environment, clogging our waterways, polluting our oceans," and also mentioned cases of plastic pollution harming people.

"I mean, we're finding microbeads of plastics in our brains," he said. "It's affecting fetuses. It's affecting the growth of our kids. We have to put a stop to that."

The Federal Court, on Nov. 16, declared the order "invalid and unlawful," calling cabinet's assertion that all plastic-manufactured items are toxic "unreasonable and unconstitutional." The court also said that the order was unconstitutional because it exceeded Ottawa's ability to make criminal law.

The case was brought forward by the Responsible Plastic Users Coalition, made up of the companies Dow Chemical, Imperial Oil, and Nova Chemicals. They argued that the federal government had failed to provide enough scientific evidence to justify the regulations.

The latest measure would have compelled grocery retailers to reduce food plastic packaging. That follows Ottawa's 2022 ban on the manufacturing and importation of single-use plastics—which included checkout bags, ring carriers, stir sticks, straws, cutlery, and food service ware—as part of a goal to obtain zero plastic waste by 2030.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has expressed concerns with Ottawa's decision to add plastics to the toxic substance list, with Ms. Smith calling it an example of "federal overreach."

She urged the federal government to listen to the courts, to refrain from appealing the Federal Court's decision, and to delete "plastic manufactured items" from the toxic substance list.