Province launches pollution snitch line but critics say it’s a ‘distraction’

Published On May 25, 2021 | By Nathan Christian | Crime, News
A sign in a parking lot mentioning not to litter the place. The province established a phone app that allows people to report environmental crimes. Photo credit: Nathan Christian

The province launched an online tool allowing residents to easily report pollution incidents and suspected environmental crimes through their smartphones.

But an advocacy group said Ontario’s move it’s a well-planned distraction.

The new tool enables anyone to report illegal waste dumping, unsuitable pesticide usage on land, water, or in the air, and noise pollution by uploading pictures, audio files, and videos on the contact form.

The app also allows for real-time updates on the incident after it was reported.

Jeff Yurek, the Minister of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks, said the province takes environmental violations seriously and has zero-tolerance for illegal polluters.

He said the people of Ontario are eager to do their part to protect the environment.

“That’s why we made a commitment in our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan to develop digital solutions that will improve public reporting of pollution and ministry response times,” Yurek said.

Complaints can also be reported at 1-866-663-8477 any time.

“With your help, we can hold polluters accountable and ensure compliance with the environmental laws we have in place to protect our air, land, and water for generations to come,” Yurek said.

Toronto resident Ella Sarkisyan said she was hoping for an anti-pollution line for some time.

“It is really cool that it will give us updates that someone is working on it,” she said.

She said she believes pollution in Toronto has increased and is impacting the climate of the city.

“Summer never started on the month of May,” Sarkisyan said. She said snowfall has also been less in the last few years.

Toronto weather statistics show annual snowfalls have been decreasing since 2008 when a total of 216.5 cm fell, compared to 152 in 2020. So far this year, 63.8 cm has fallen in Toronto.

The mean temperature in 2008 was 8.3 C and was 9.9 C last year.

Sarkisyan said population growth is the main causing factor of increased pollution in Toronto.

“People from all over the world are coming here to live and to meet up the demands of everyone production industries are rising,” she said. “Traffic pollution, construction sites, production factories are the key sources of pollution.”

Keith Brook, the program director with Environmental Defense, a Canadian environment advocacy organization, believes the government can have more of an impact if the it monitors polluters.

Ontario launched a phone app that allows people to call in suspected environmental crimes.
Ontario launched a phone app that allows people to call in suspected environmental crimes. Photo credit: Boris Misevic/Unsplash

“This chip line doesn’t really make sense because it’s not the responsibility of the individuals to catch polluters,” he said. “It’s rather the responsibility of the government.”

The organization has been working with every level of government for the past 30 years to safeguard the environment, including protecting lakes and battling climate change.

“We’re trying to work (between) both Ontario and the federal government to make new rules to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the environment and to make more plastic more recyclable,” Brook said.

After undoing many programs within environmental legislation, such as the Cap and Trade program, the cancellation of the Green Energy Act, and abolishing the previous climate change program plan, Brook said the government is pretending to be concerned over the environmental issues.

“They don’t meet with environmental groups, they won’t talk with the environmental groups, they are very problematic with environmental issues,” he said.

“They have truly shown from their actions that they are not interested in environmental protection so in that context we really need to be skeptical this is actually meant to help anything,” Brook said. “I think it’s instead to distract (people) from the fact they are quite hostile to the environment.”

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