By Peter Wood
8/31/2017

An amazing opportunity has emerged, with the potential to change everything for the Blue Dot campaign and environmental rights in Canada. But we need to act fast!

On June 15, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development issued a report with recommendations to strengthen Canada’s primary law on pollution and toxics: the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. This is one of several environmental laws the federal government weakened in its infamous 2012 omnibus bill, referred to by some as the Environmental Destruction Act. The truth is that CEPA was overdue for an overhaul. It was supposed to be updated every 10 years, but never was.

 

TAKE ACTION NOW!

 

The opportunity:

For the Blue Dot movement, the most exciting thing is that the recommendations call for legal recognition of the right to a healthy environment. If implemented, this would be the first time in history this has happened federally. But this powerful concept is also woven throughout many of the 87 recommendations. For example, the review also recommends that the government:

  • Recognize the obligation to protect vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly
  • Reverse the onus of proof for toxic substances
  • Require national standards for air quality and drinking water
  • Institute mandatory labelling of toxins in consumer products
  • Improve access to information, public participation and justice

These recommendations form a package of improvements that, if implemented, could vastly strengthen environmental protection in Canada.

 

What this means for our campaign:

Until now, our campaign has focused on building a groundswell of support for environmental rights, mainly through securing municipal declarations (currently numbering 158, representing almost half of Canada’s population!). Since last fall, we have also pursued a new law, a federal environmental bill of rights. The idea is to establish an overarching framework that would guide all environmental laws, in addition to establishing basic principles surrounding the right to a healthy environment. This would ensure consistency and best practices common to all of these laws, such as public participation, access to information and transparency.

The new CEPA recommendations however, provide an opportunity to get the right to a healthy environment fast-tracked within an existing law. This is exciting!

Once established, it should be easier to push for similar language to be included in other environmental laws, and to pursue a stand-alone federal environmental bill of rights. The ultimate objective remains constitutional recognition of these rights, but this could take a while. In the meantime, getting this language into national laws will help get people and politicians on board with the concept.

Our objective remains the same, but in the near-term, we are shifting to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.

Challenges:

The CEPA recommendations provide an incredible opportunity to modernize Canada’s environmental laws, but these changes aren’t guaranteed! Heading into a busy legislative session, government faces many competing priorities on its agenda. The average Canadian is probably not aware that this is happening, and the mainstream media are not picking it up. This is far from a done deal, and the onus is on us to make it a priority for government.

 

What we are doing:

Here at Blue Dot HQ, we’re kicking into high gear! The ministers of environment and health have until mid-October 2017 to decide whether or not to implement the CEPA recommendations. It’s more important than ever that they hear from Canadians who believe these improvements are necessary.
We’ve developed a strategy to take advantage of this development and are providing tools to make it easy for our thousands of supporters to let their government know that they support the CEPA recommendations.

Here’s what you can do:

We invite you to use these tools and to share them with family and friends. Taking action and spreading the word are part of the grassroots core that the Blue Dot movement is founded upon, and our greatest strength. If you are going to take one action this year to support environmental rights, now is the time!

We are also keen to hear from you. Do you have ideas on how to make sure federal decision-makers hear our voices? Or how to get more people involved? We love to hear from the Blue Dot community!