By Alvin Singh

On December 9, the day before International Human Rights Day, Toronto became the 100th Canadian municipality to pass a Blue Dot declaration recognizing its citizens’ right to live in a healthy environment. Now more than 10 million people across Canada live in communities that affirm their right to clean air, safe water and food, a stable climate and a say in decisions that affect their well-being.

“The right to a healthy environment is not only critical to protecting the city I grew up in, it’s also about protecting the health and happiness of future generations,” said Toronto-based Blue Dot volunteer Marianne Gallinger. “I have two kids, and it’s our generation’s responsibility to leave behind a positive legacy rather than a legacy of disaster. Toronto’s declaration elevates environmental activism to environmental realism.”

More than 100 nations recognize their citizens’ right to a healthy environment, but not Canada. Half of all Canadians live in areas where they are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution, 94 First Nations communities currently live under drinking water advisories, over 20,000 Canadians die prematurely each year because of exposure to environmental hazards and the total annual cost of pollution in Canada is more than $100 billion.

Legal recognition of the right to a healthy environment would allow for stronger environmental laws, better access to information and more opportunities for public participation in decision-making.

Toronto’s municipal declaration will, among other benefits, help provide a clear mandate for the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ensure residents have access to green space, preserve and expand critical habitat for monarch butterflies, and guide future decision-making.

“The voices of Canadians who want and expect a healthy environment are being heard by municipalities across the country, and it’s time for our provincial and federal governments to start listening as well,” said David Suzuki Foundation national organizing manager Sophika Kostyniuk. “This idea has arrived, and it is time for every level of government to protect its citizens’ right to a healthy environment.”

Join us in celebrating Toronto’s municipal declaration! Tweet a congratulatory message to Toronto Mayor (@JohnTory / #YYZ) using the hashtag #R2HE or share this exciting news with friends and family on Facebook!

*Photo by Chris Lyn via Flickr.