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ACRE and Chelsea's pesticide bylaw


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In 1991 the Municipality of Hudson adopted a by-law restricting pesticide use. Residents of Chelsea serving on the municipal Environment Commission began, as of 1991, to investigate the possibility of implementing a similar by-law in Chelsea. The Hudson by-law was challenged by lawn care companies and Chelsea council indicated that it did not wish to pursue a by-law until such time as a decision had been rendered in the Hudson case. An educational and awareness campaign which consisted of posters, stickers and information pamphlets was put in place instead. In retrospect, this campaign was not effective. In the meantime, volunteers involved in the education campaign obtained copies of some by-laws from other municipalities in Quebec which restricted or prohibited the use of pesticides and drafted a first version of a by-law.

In 1993, the Quebec Superior Court upheld the Hudson by-law. Several other municipalities in Quebec passed pesticide by-laws. The lawn care companies appealed the Superior Court decision to the Quebec Court of Appeal.

In the spring of 1998 public consultations were held with respect to the formulation of Chelsea's Master Plan. Participating residents proposed a by-law restricting pesticide use as a means to protect the environment during the Master Plan discussions.

During the same period, Dr. Nicole Bruinsma, a local physician specializing in family medicine and Dr. Kelly Martin from the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario presented a lecture on the possible links between environmental contaminants and breast cancer. The impact on children's health was a prime component of the lecture.

Drs. Bruinsma and Martin pointed out that for those people who are concerned about their health and that of their children, they could voluntarily reduce their exposure to chemicals in the environment, for instance by avoiding certain plastics, electing not to use pesticides and buying organic produce. Members of the audience quickly noted that voluntary reduction of personal chemical use would not be sufficient to prevent non-voluntary exposure to chemicals in the environment but that one way to reduce non-voluntary exposure would be to stop the application of chemical pesticides for cosmetic purposes in the municipality.

The lecture acted as a catalyst to commence discussion on the cosmetic use of pesticides. Momentum grew quickly within the community to lobby the municipality to introduce a by-law to ban the use of chemical pesticides for cosmetic purposes in Chelsea, particularly after Dr. Bruinsma addressed council directly on the matter. In response, Chelsea's council created a sub-committee with the mandate to revise the by-law which had been drafted several years before. ACRE was founded shortly thereafter.

The Quebec Court of Appeal upheld the Hudson pesticide by-law.