Hot on the heels of several provinces introducing Environmental
Bills of Rights ("EBRs"), Ontario has just announced a review of its Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993. In March
2016, both British Columbia (Bill M 236-2016) and Manitoba (Bill 20) introduced EBRs (this was a
re-introduction of the Manitoba bill, which died on the order paper
when a provincial election was called). In May, 2016, Nova Scotia
also introduced an EBR (Bill 178). Prior to the provincial bills, on
December 3, 2015, Private Member Linda Duncan introduced a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights for the
second time in the House of Commons.
Ontario was at the forefront of environmental legislation when
it passed the EBR. At this juncture, the primary criticism of the
law is that it is fundamentally a statute about process. The EBR
allows for greater information and consultation with citizens, and
other processes for environmental participation, but it does not
create a substantive right to a healthy environment that could be
enforced through citizen-led legal action. In addition, the
government branches charged with obligations under the EBR have not
necessarily fulfilled their obligations. For example, the Ministry
of Environment and Climate Change ("MOECC") has a significant number of overdue reviews and a
backlog of outdated proposal notices.
You might wonder what accounts for all of this recent activity
related to EBRs in Canada. With the introduction of the Blue Dot Movement,
which we have written about before, as of July 12, 2016, 136
municipalities have now passed declarations in support of a right
to a healthy environment. The ultimate goal of the Blue Dot
Movement is to see a right to a healthy environment enshrined in
the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
As part of the Ontario government's EBR review process, the
MOECC states it
is also seeking ... input on the right to a healthy environment.
There is a movement in Canada to enshrine a right to a healthy
environment in a legislative framework, principally in the Canadian
Constitution. MOECC is seeking the views of Ontarians so that it
may be better positioned to contribute to the national
Otherwise, MOECC is seeking "public feedback on select
parts of the EBR through a discussion guide." You have until
November 8, 2016, to provide your comments.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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