Bill 46 – Act to amend the Natural Heritage Conservation Act and other provisions
In a letter to the Chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, Christine St-Pierre, Ombudsperson Marie Rinfret commented on Bill 46, Act to amend the Natural Heritage Conservation Act and other provisions.
The Ombudsperson applauds the intention to modernize the Act and streamline the process for designating protected areas. However, she is concerned about the scope of prohibited access to ecological reserves and about the ban on all activities in these reserves.
Currently, the Act lists proscribed activities. Ms. Rinfret noted that, as it now stands, the bill prohibits all activity in ecological reserves. She understands that the intention is to enhance the protection of certain territories and natural environments. However, she feels that this could be achieved without the act becoming so restrictive. As she sees it, only those activities which could harm the environment or change the condition or appearance of ecosystems should be prohibited. The Ombudsperson therefore made a recommendation in that regard.
The bill specifies that anyone who carries out a proscribed activity is liable to stiff fines. Ms. Rinfret considers that the bill should be amended so that there is a gradation in the penalties provided for in the act. This way, payable amounts for offences would be reduced.