By Peter Wood
8/31/2017

UPDATE: This post has been updated to reflect the government’s response to the review on October 6, 2017

An amazing opportunity has emerged, with the potential to change everything for the Blue Dot campaign and environmental rights in Canada.

In response to a review of Canada’s primary law on pollution and toxics: the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the federal government has agreed that “changes are needed to modernize and improve CEPA” and that it intends to report back on progress by June 2018.

Among the recommendations being considered is that Canadians should have the right to a healthy environment!

You can help by encouraging government to follow through on these commitments and to put forward a bill to amend CEPA. If government has not done so by April 2018, there may not be enough time for this to become law before the next federal election.

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 160, 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.

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:

Although the government has committed to looking into amending CEPA, we are concerned that if these changes are delayed much further they may not happen before the next election. Realistically if we don’t see a bill to amend CEPA introduced by April, we might not have this chance again until 2020. 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.

 

How you can help:

The tools provided below make it easy to let government know that you support the CEPA recommendations, including the right to a healthy environment

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!

Photo credit: Ottawa Tullips Festival by Michel Rathwell is licensed under CC BY 2.0