By Alan Worsley
3/21/2018

On February 15, 2018, The David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Ottawa, University of Ottawa Centre for Environmental Law and Global Sustainability, and University of Ottawa Human Rights Education and Research Centre held a symposium on environmental rights at the University of Ottawa.

The event brought together leading academics, advocates and policy-makers to highlight research in environmental rights and related policy developments.

Overall, the event was a huge success, and timely, given that the federal government is currently deciding whether to recognize the right to a healthy environment, as recommended by a review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Just prior to the symposium, more than 500 Canadian scientists called on the government to implement the CEPA recommendations. Canadian environmental law professors issued a separate letter the same week calling on the prime minister to recognize environmental rights.

For a personal account of the day’s events check out Danielle Gallant’s article at Environmental Justice blog.

Watch our short video with highlights from the day:

You can also view UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment John Knox’s full morning address here. (Spoiler alert: He invites Canada to get on-board with environmental rights!):

A full program listing is below.
You can find more detailed information on speakers and presentation abstracts here, and additional resources and reading material here.

This is a great time to let your MP know that you support the right to a healthy environment. It only takes two minutes, and it really helps! http://bluedot.ca/call-your-mp/ 

For other ways to support the right to a healthy environment, check out – http://bluedot.ca/join-us/ways-take-action/

Program

9:00 – 9:30 Registration

Light breakfast sponsored by the University of Ottawa Human Rights Research and Education Centre

9:30 – 10:00 Opening

Welcoming remarks – Prof. Heather McLeod-Kilmurray, co-director, University of Ottawa Centre for Environmental Law and Global Sustainability

Video greeting – Prof. John Knox, UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment

Morning moderator: Dr. Peter Wood, national campaign manager, environmental rights, David Suzuki Foundation

10:00 – 11:00 Panel 1: Setting the stage: Current proposals for environmental rights

  • MP William Amos (Pontiac), Government member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development – “The Standing Committee’s consideration of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act
  • MP Linda Duncan (Edmonton-Strathcona), NDP critic for international development, deputy critic for environment and climate change and vice chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development – “Thrice tabled Bill C202: Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights”
  • Ms. Florence Ferrari, deputy head of mission, French Embassy in Ottawa – “The French proposal for a Global Pact for the Environment

11:00 – 12:00 Panel 2: The need for legal recognition of environmental rights in Canada

  • Ms. Kaitlyn Mitchell, staff lawyer and environmental rights chair, Ecojustice – “Environmental rights as a pillar of environmental justice”
  • Mr. Mike De Souza, managing editor, National Observer – “Reflections on The Price of Oil series”
  • Ms. Vanessa Gray, Anishinaabe’kwe from Aamjiwnaang, land defender, founder of ASAP – “Environmental racism in Canada: The front-line reality”

12:00 – 12:45 Lunch (provided)

Afternoon moderator: Mr. Joshua Ginsberg, director, Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Ottawa

12:45 – 13:15 Keynote address

Prof. Dinah Shelton, Manatt/Ahn professor of international law emeritus, George Washington University Law School – “The benefits of a rights-based approach to environmental protection”

The keynote address is sponsored by the Environmental Justice in Canada Project.

13:15 – 14:15 Panel 3: The promise of environmental rights: theory and practice

  • Dr. David Boyd, associate professor, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia (via videoconference) – “The global environmental rights revolution”
  • Ms. Karine Peloffy, director, Quebec Environmental Law Centre / Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement – “The Quebec experience with environmental rights”
  • Prof. Nathalie Chalifour, associate professor, Faculty of Law and co-director of the Centre for Environmental Law and Global Sustainability, University of Ottawa – “Earth v Emissions – Litigating the right to a stable climate”

14:15 – 14:30 Break
Refreshments sponsored by the Centre for Environmental Law and Global Sustainability

14:30 – 15:30 Panel 4: Towards environmental rights in Canada

  • Prof. Lynda Collins, professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa – “The CEPA opportunity”
  • Mr. Eric Bertram, deputy director, Human Rights and Indigenous Affairs, Global Affairs Canada – “Voices at Risk: Supporting human rights defenders”
  • Dr. Peter Wood, national campaign manager, environmental rights, David Suzuki Foundation – “The Blue Dot Movement for environmental rights in Canada”

15:30 – 16:00 Closing Remarks and Call to Action

A reception will follow the program

 

Photo by Scott Walsh on Unsplash