By Alan Worsley
8/5/2016

The path to ensuring that every Canadian has the right to a healthy environment isn’t always a straight line. Since January, the Blue Dot movement — along with our tens of thousands of supporters, volunteers and partners — has been focusing on securing a federal environmental bill of rights.

In that time, Nova Scotia and British Columbia have introduced provincial environmental bills of rights, further proof that widespread support for the Blue Dot movement is sweeping across Canada, and our leaders are taking notice.

If you’ve been following national news you may have read about Grassy Narrows First Nation. In the 1960s and ’70s a pulp and paper company dumped 9,000 kilograms of mercury into Ontario’s Wabigoon River system, creating a health crisis in the nearby Grassy Narrows Indigenous community.

Today, Grassy Narrows’ families continue to suffer from deadly mercury poisoning despite reports showing that a cleanup is possible.

If, like me, you feel frustrated and powerless when you read about environmental injustices like that of Grassy Narrows, you’ll understand the role strong environmental laws — like an environmental bill of rights — play in protecting our health and local ecosystems.

Ontario is the only province in Canada with an environmental bill of rights. When the bill was introduced in 1993, it was at the forefront of environmental law and policy. Nearly 25 years later, the bill is outdated and inadequate for today’s environmental challenges. Without important improvements like access to environmental justice and the explicit right to a healthy environment, this law can’t properly protect Ontario citizens.

On July 14, the Ontario government initiated a 120-day public consultation on its
Environmental Bill of Rights, and the Blue Dot movement is mobilizing Ontarians to participate.

Ontarians have an opportunity to tell the government what they think should be done to strengthen protection of the environment and our health. With help from our on-the-ground organizers, Blue Dot supporters across Ontario will rally to demonstrate their support for a strengthened Environmental Bill of Rights — one that includes updated principles, the substantive right to a healthy environment and access to justice.

The David Suzuki Foundation has also launched a Call to Action — a simple online tool that helps guide citizens through the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights comment process, and provides suggested improvements to the bill, based on expert legal advice.

This issue matters in Ontario, but it’s also about setting a precedent for the rest of the country. The right to a healthy environment is constitutionally recognized in more than 110 countries. But not in Canada — yet.

During the review period, the Ontario government is also interested in hearing from citizens on environmental rights and responsibilities more broadly, and whether the right to a healthy environment should be included in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, our country’s highest law. This is the Blue Dot movement’s ultimate goal.

It’s now up to us to create a groundswell of support for environmental rights and demand improvements to the bill. If you’re an Ontario citizen, please add your comments using our Call to Action. Help us reach 10,000 submissions!

If you live outside of Ontario, you can help spread the word by sharing our Call to Action or this Facebook post with your friends and family in Ontario.

We don’t want to wait another 20 years for this opportunity, Ontario!

David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice are partners in the Blue Dot movement, a national grassroots campaign to advance the legal protection of all Canadians’ right to live in a healthy environment.