What is the right to a healthy environment?

The right to a healthy environment is the simple, yet powerful idea that all Canadians deserve to breathe clean air, drink clean water and eat safe food. These can only be guaranteed for all Canadians — today and into the future — through a nationally recognized right to a healthy environment, such as a federal environmental bill of rights or a constitutional amendment. This would embed our values as a country in our highest laws, strengthen our environmental performance and ensure all levels of government fulfil their duty to protect the people and places we love.

Isn’t my right to a healthy environment already guaranteed in the Canadian Constitution?

No. While more than 110 nations around the world already guarantee their citizens’ right to a healthy environment, Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms—the highest law in our country—does not mention the environment.

Opening up the Constitution is a difficult process—is it the right way to proceed?

It’s true that the comprehensive Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords failed. But there have been 11 amendments to the Canadian Constitution since 1982 on specific issues. The right to a healthy environment is a specific issue and enjoys tremendous public support. As with any major political change, if enough people come together to demand it, it can happen.

Amending the Constitution seems like a long-term goal. What can we do right now to protect our right to a healthy environment?

While constitutional recognition of the right to a healthy environment will provide the strongest level of protection possible for Canadian people and our environment, interim steps to this mountain top goal include environmental rights legislation at federal, provincial, territorial, aboriginal and municipal levels of government.