Why Environmental Rights?

In more than 110 countries, the right to a healthy environment is constitutionally protected. Many more countries also include this right in their national environmental laws. Sadly, Canada is not among them.

 

David Suzuki and children

David Suzuki talks about food systems

The Conference Board of Canada ranks us 15 out of 17 industrialized countries on a range of environmental indicators. Tragically, one in four low income Canadians lives within one kilometer of a major source of industrial pollution. Canada loses $100 billion a year from illness, injury and premature death because of exposure to pollution.

Our patchwork of environmental laws is simply not working to protect the people and places we love. Meanwhile, international examples demonstrate that countries with laws recognizing the right to a healthy environment perform better environmentally and economically than those without them.

85% of Canadians say our government should recognize the right to healthy environment 

A federal environmental bill of rights could improve Canada’s environmental laws by unifying and strengthening our legal framework. It is also an important stepping stone toward our ultimate goal of enshrining every Canadian’s right to a healthy environment in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A federal environmental bill of rights could do three important things fundamental to effective environmental protection:

  1. Ensure that Canadians have access to the information they need to be fully informed about government decisions that affect them and their environment;
  2. Allow Canadians to participate in the process of developing, implementing and evaluating environmental law; and
  3. Provide Canadians with access to the courts, as a last resort, where there is an irreconcilable conflict over environmental decision-making.

Some of us are motivated by love for the environment, some by health or justice concerns. people have joined the movement, with thousands volunteering to organize Blue Dot groups in their local communities. As a result, more that 150 Canadian municipalities have declared the right to a healthy environment, representing over 15.7 million Canadians. Now it’s time to guarantee these rights for everyone in Canada. Each one of us is making a difference by standing with others and demonstrating that the right to a healthy environment is an idea whose time has come.

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