On May 6, 1991, Hudson, Quebec, a town just outside Montreal, became the first municipality in North America to pass a law banning the use of synthetic pesticides on public and private lawns and gardens (except for farms and golf courses).
The billion-dollar lawn care industry challenged the law, setting up a 10-year battle that ended in June 2001 with a unanimous (9-0) decision by the Canadian Supreme Court in favor of Hudson and its ban.
Emboldened, other Canadian municipalities enacted pesticide laws of varying degrees. The next big moment came when Quebec became the first province to restrict the sale and use of certain chemical pesticides in 2003. Ontario (Canada’s most populated province), followed suit on April 22, 2009 (Earth Day) and Nova Scotia just started phasing in restrictive laws.
New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have also recently passed laws, but, unfortunately, they contain loopholes that allow the lawn care companies to continue with business unfettered.
For a feel of the prevailing belief in Canada—the tide has turned—this from the Ontario's Ministry of the Environment:
"[T]he use of pesticides to control weeds and insects for purely cosmetic reasons presents an unnecessary risk to our families and pets, especially when we can have healthier lawns and gardens without chemicals.About 80 percent of Canadians are now protected by some sort of pesticide-restriction law and—are you sitting?—Home Depot stopped selling home-use pesticides in its Canadian stores in 2008.
"We have listened to medical experts – like the Canadian Cancer Society – who have made a convincing case for reducing our exposure to pesticides, particularly children who are generally more susceptible to the potential toxic effects of pesticides."
I’ll talk about the situation in the United States on Monday, but it’s very likely that most of our kids are playing on grass today that has been treated with pesticides for purely cosmetic purposes.