Sustainability in Canada 101 – It’s Applied to Oil & Gas?!!!


First, I love renewable, green  & nature.  The idea of sustainable is fantastic, but it may not be as it appears to be, within Canada’s Federal Sustainable Development Act.  I have found ‘irregularities’, or at least, that may be my interpretation.  Which is exactly the point of this post.

With recent events & arrests occurring as a result of people peacefully protesting the KXL Pipeline, I have been trying to find any agreement, policy or exclusion that allows the oilsands & gas fracking by companies to be deemed “sustainable” in Canada.

What I have found is what, on the surface, could appear to some as an oxymoron of terms and legislation used by the Feds.  Clearly, there is something funky with interpretations here:

Oil and natural gas account for most of the energy consumed in Canada. While the Government of Canada is committed to developing alternative fuels and renewable energy, it also wants to ensure the sustainable development of our important oil and gas reserves.

You can find the link here.  Look at the left hand side of the page on the menu.  Note that the selection is entitled “Sustainable Gas & Oil”.

How can this be, you may ask, since sustainable is supposed to be protective of the environment, isn’t it?

Well, that’s true in “principle” or an idea branded into our thoughts. Which leads into what is termed a definition in the Federal Sustainable Development Act: the “precautionary principle”.

The word “principle” in itself, has a number of definitions, which includes a favourite, “assumption”.  When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.

And as stated, the “precautionary principle” is merely defined in the FSDA.  The Act itself is ‘guided’ by this principle.  If its a guide, it doesn’t necessarily have any real power.  That’s where the definitions of “sustainability” & “sustainable development” themselves become really interesting.  Under the FDSA, these two terms are defined without pairing, including, using, inserting any words in reference to protecting the environment.

Maybe I am just plain old ignorant here, but when agreements, legislation, contracts etc. are broken & then argued by lawyers in court, its the words & their applications within these, that are the main focus.  If “sustainability” means “means the capacity of a thing, action, activity, or process to be maintained indefinitely” and “sustainable development” means development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, I really don’t see how it really protects our environment except that I will have to “assume” that to some degree, the “precautionary principle” is being applied with respect to the Tarsands and gas fracking?

It is very important to note that the use of “sustainable” “sustainability” and “sustainable development” is all over the subsections & laws within the FDSA.  However, the “precautionary principle” isn’t even mentioned once within the actual subsections of the FDSA (how convenient, really), it is only demonstrated under the “Interpretation” section, under “Definitions”.  Defining something doesn’t make it law unless its actually made law.  Don’t believe me? Read the Act yourself & tell me if I am just plain old ignorant or blind as a bat.

So, to me, its all about branding & misleading information.  Take a look at how the Feds paint a pretty picture of what they want you to think “sustainability” means because they probably bank on the fact that most won’t go so far as to actually learn the legislation or how it can, might, may be applied.  I mean, I can also “recognize” something or someone. Doesn’t mean that just cause I give it or that person recognition that I will include, use or apply what I have “recognized”.  It doesn’t say its the actual law, again.  But it does give the appearance, or “recognition” of being environmentally concerned.

And when we get down to the use of “sustainable” paired with “oil & gas” on the Feds website, this could be evidence of what I have been trying to say.  We are being misled about what “sustainable” means, because if you look at the greater picture, it is really a very clever way of creating as much economy around our resources as possible, for the greater good of the “public interest.”

I commend the activists & real people who have been peacefully protesting against the TransCanada – KXL Pipeline.  To be arrested for actually supporting the real definition of the “precautionary principal”:

“means the principle that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation”

Are you wondering now what “Sustainable Oil & Gas” really means?  Because, call me ignorant, drilling up more oil & fracking for more gas are “threats of serious or irreversible damage” and will only cause immense “environmental degradation”.  I don’t think our Federal Government interprets it that way.

But what do I know?

As an addendum, please vote “NO” on this CBC Poll, which asks the question, “Are you in favour of the oilsands pipeline?” => PIPELINE POLL



  1. […] Act, these not so green and not so environmentally friendly types of energy, are sustainable.  Sustainability & Sustainable Development are such interesting definitions under that Act (OIL &a…, which is the only written terminology (as a definition) that eludes to the […]

  2. […] have suggested in several of my past posts, here & here, that sustainability in Canada is a really slippery slope, especially when it comes to […]

  3. What’s funny to me are the people trying to represent oil from the tar sands as ethical, since the alternative is oil from Saudi Arabia, a country that oppresses women.

    The truth is that it isn’t ethical to embrace either source fully. Oil itself isn’t ethical, because of the traumatic effects out-of-control climate change promises to have on people all over the world. I believe that unless we pursue sustainability as energetically as we can, we aren’t being completely ethical.

    • As far as the law is concerned, sustainability is a slippery slope. I love the precautionary principle, but unless it is actually applied or written in stone, this play of words with the law can be really rough.

  4. […] Canadian correspondent pointed me to her blog where she gives a very good case of what happens when you extend the definition of sustainable […]

  5. Sustainability does have more than one definition. When using the term it helps to clarify if it is regarding strong sustainability or weak sustainability. Both lead to sustainable initiatives, but are applied in different settings.

    I have not read the Act listed in your article so I am unsure which definition would apply, but the term may still be relevant even if it does not match the definition above.

    • Agreed. Sustainability can have lots of definitions. But it is the written definitions within the context of actual legislation that will be and are being applied. “The letter of the law.” Wonder what the definition of green is. Means so many different things to so many different people too.


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