TORONTO, June 18, 2008 - Ontario's nurses are dismayed that the province's ban on pesticides, passed in the Legislature today, doesn't go far enough to protect public health.
"When the premier announced a ban on the use and sale of cosmetic pesticides on Earth Day, we stood side by side with him and applauded what we thought was a step forward to protect people from these poisonous chemicals," says Wendy Fucile, President of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario. "But today, we see what the province's legislation actually means is that municipalities will be stripped of their tough municipal bylaws to protect people, and the provincial legislation will serve as a ceiling, not as a floor upon which stronger local regulations can build.”
Fucile says while nurses recognize that Bill 64 is an improvement over the current situation because it does ban the use and sale of pesticides, the alarms health and environmental groups are sounding about the legislation must not be ignored. She says over the last few weeks, these groups have been continuously urging the government to amend the bill so that municipalities are allowed to have tougher bylaws governing pesticide use.
“Community action to protect pubic health mobilizes best at the municipal level. It is a grave mistake to demobilize that capacity, as this legislation will do,” Fucile says, adding that RNAO is calling on the government to correct this mistake by restoring this essential municipal power as quickly as possible and treating municipalities as full partners in public health.
RNAO Executive Director Doris Grinspun says nurses are also concerned about an open-ended exemption clause that could, in the future, allow extensive non-essential use of chemical pesticides. "This undermines the intent of the legislation, which is to protect people's health, especially the health of children who love to play. They can't read signs warning them that the grass has been sprayed with harmful toxins," she says, adding that the chorus of public opinion is also calling for a tough pesticide ban. "People want to know their neighbours’ lawns are safe. Nurses needed the government to show strong leadership on this, but they have let us down."
Grinspun says as Bill 64 becomes law, the association will hold the government accountable to make sure the legislation works to protect and enhance public health despite its flaws. That means RNAO will closely watch as regulations are developed, and bring any risks to the public's attention.
The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.