The excessively broad risk of personal liability for
municipal councillors and staff in the Ontario Safe Drinking Water Act was supposed
to improve public health and safety, but could it do the
opposite, by frightening individuals into making poor public policy
decisions? Opponents of fluoridation have started to threaten
councillors with personal liability for fluoridated water, in the
hope of changing municipal policy on water treatment. The
province created this problem, and they should fix it.
For example, a group called Concerned Residents of Peel to
End Fluoridation recently told Peel Region councillors that
fluoridated water creates a significant health risk for which they
could be personally liable. The group claims that fluoridation
of drinking water violates:
Section 7 of Charter because the harm is disproportionate to
In essence, the group claims that fluoridation causes harm
to human health without reducing tooth decay which, they claim,
would be better controlled with fluoridated toothpaste. They claim
that the worldwide practice of fluoridating drinking water is based
on outdated and poorly understood science, and should be
We are in no position to evaluate the scientific controversy
that the group raises. But if there is a valid scientific argument
for changing the practice, surely it can be raised and carefully
considered without threatening the individual councillors of a
specific municipality with personal liability. The decision whether
or not to fluoridate drinking water is an important question of
public policy and of scientific interpretation, not of malfeasance
or negligence by individual councillors. In fact, it's
really a question for Health Canada, not for any particular
municipality to resolve.
By all means, governments should periodically reevaluate
all the contaminants in municipal drinking water, including
chlorine and fluoride. But, in my view, section 19 of the Safe
Drinking Water Act should be amended so that it cannot be
used to threaten individual councillors into taking any particular
scientific decision contrary to the advice of their staff. The
province created the opportunity for this abuse, and they should
Peel Region Council voted to defer a move to reopen the issue
until September, when the region's legal staff will present an
opinion on Hasan's arguments.
We will follow this case to see how it unfolds.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Ontario's Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change continues to roll out its Climate Change Action Plan with its proposed GHG guide for projects that are subject to the province's Environmental Assessment Act.
The Imperial Oil refinery pled guilty to one offence for discharging a contaminant, coker stabilizer, thermocracked gas, into the natural environment causing an adverse effect and was fined $650,000...
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).