Citizen Action Monitor

Bill C-469, a bill to establish a Canadian environmental bill of rights

Bill C-469 was recently submitted by NDP MP Linda Duncan

No 1187 Posted by fw, November 9, 2014

NDP MP Linda Duncan

NDP MP Linda Duncan

I first learned about Bill C-469 in an article by David Suzuki, The movement for environmental rights is building, published in Troy Media, November 5, 2014. Suzuki writes:

“The idea of a right to a healthy environment is gaining traction at Canada’s highest political levels. NDP MP Linda Duncan recently introduced An Act to Establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights in Parliament. If it’s passed, the federal government will have a legal duty to protect Canadians’ right to live in a healthy environment….An earlier attempt to pass a Canadian environmental bill of rights (also led by Linda Duncan) gained the support of MPs from various parties before its passage through Parliament was interrupted by the 2011 federal election.

A copy of Suzuki’s article is reposted in full at the SEE ALSO reference below.

But first, what follows immediately below are a few excerpts from Bill C-469, which can be accessed in full on Canada’s Parliamentary website by clicking on its title, An Act to Establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights. (NOTE: According to  another page on the website, “The information on this page is current as of November 7, 2014. However, the bill’s current status is difficult to determine from the website).

The formatting and numbering of the following selected excerpts are as they appear in the original document.

C-489

Third Session, Fortieth Parliament,

59-60 Elizabeth II, 2010-2011

HOUSE OF COMMONS CANADA

BILL C-469

An Act to establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights

Reprinted as amended by the standing committee on environment and sustainable development as a working copy for the use of the House of Commons at report stage and as reported to the house on February 17, 2011

Ms. Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)

SUMMARY

This enactment establishes the Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights whose provisions apply to all decisions emanating from a federal source or related to federal land, aboriginal land or a federal work or undertaking. The purpose of this enactment is to

(a) safeguard the right of present and future generations of Canadians to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment;

(b) confirm the Government of Canada’s public trust duty to protect the environment under its jurisdiction;

(c) ensure all Canadians have access to adequate environmental information, justice in an environmental context and effective mechanisms for participating in environmental decision-making;

(d) provide adequate legal protection against reprisals for employees who take action for the purpose of protecting the environment; and

(e) enhance the public confidence in the implementation of environmental law.

 

BILL C-469

An Act to establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights

Whereas Canadians share a deep concern for our environment and recognize its inherent value;

Whereas Canadians understand that a healthy and ecologically balanced environment is inextricably linked to the health of individuals, families and communities;

Whereas Canadians have an individual and collective responsibility to protect the environment of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations;

Whereas Canadians want to assume full responsibility for their environment, and not to pass their environmental problems on to future generations;

Whereas Canadians understand the close linkages between a healthy and ecologically balanced environment and Canada’s economic, social, cultural and intergenerational security;

Whereas Canadians have an individual and collective right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment;

Whereas action or inaction that results in significant environmental harm could compromise the life, liberty and security of the person and be contrary to section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;

Whereas the Government of Canada is the trustee of Canada’s environment within its jurisdiction and is therefore responsible for protecting the environment for present and future generations of Canadians;

Whereas the Government of Canada has consistently made commitments to the international community on behalf of all Canadians to protect the environment for the benefit of the world;

Whereas the Government of Canada’s ability to protect the environment is enhanced when the public is engaged in environmental protection;

Whereas Canadians seek to enhance and protect their ability to participate directly in environmental decision-making, to access environmental justice and to hold the Government of Canada accountable for the discharge of its environmental protection responsibilities;

And whereas Canadians want improved access to courts and administrative tribunals so that individuals, communities and public interest organizations may take action to protect our environment;

Now, therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:

SHORT TITLE

1. This Act may be cited as the Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights.

PURPOSE

6. The purpose of the Canadian Environmental Bill of Rightsis to

(a) safeguard the right of present and future generations of Canadians to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment;

(b) confirm the Government of Canada’s public trust duty to protect the environment under its jurisdiction;

(c) ensure all Canadians have access to

(i) adequate environmental information,

(ii) justice in an environmental context, and

(iii) effective mechanisms for participating in environmental decision-making;

(d) provide adequate legal protection against reprisals for employees who take action for the purpose of protecting the environment; and

(e) enhance the public confidence in the implementation of environmental law.

[End of excerpts]

SEE ALSO

The movement for environmental rights is building by David Suzuki, Troy Media, November 5, 2014

Protecting our country and planet, our health and the future of our children and grandchildren is absolutely necessary

The idea of a right to a healthy environment is gaining traction at Canada’s highest political levels. NDP MP Linda Duncan recently introduced An Act to Establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights in Parliament. If it’s passed, the federal government will have a legal duty to protect Canadians’ right to live in a healthy environment.

At the local level, the idea of recognizing citizens’ right to live in a healthy environment is already taking hold. Richmond and Vancouver, B.C., The Pas, Manitoba, and the Montreal borough of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie all recently passed municipal declarations recognizing this basic right.

The ultimate goal is to have the right to a healthy environment recognized in the Constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and a federal environmental bill of rights is a logical precursor. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms itself was preceded by a federal statute, the Bill of Rights, enacted under Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s Progressive Conservative government in 1960.

This isn’t a partisan issue. It appeals to people across the political spectrum and has broad support among Canadians. An earlier attempt to pass a Canadian environmental bill of rights (also led by Linda Duncan) gained the support of MPs from various parties before its passage through Parliament was interrupted by the 2011 federal election. In France, conservative leader Jacques Chirac championed the idea of environmental rights during his presidency. After more than 70,000 French citizens attended public hearings, the Charter for the Environment was enacted in 2005 with support from all political parties.

I’ve seen so many positive changes in our legal systems and social safety net in my 78 years – including adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. My family was incarcerated in the B.C. Interior during the Second World War, just for being of Japanese descent, even though we were born and raised in Canada. Like other people of colour, my parents didn’t have the right to vote until 1948. First Nations people on reserves couldn’t vote until 1960. And women weren’t even considered “persons” under Canadian law until 1918, when they were given voting rights. Homosexuality was a crime punishable by prison until 1969! I’m convinced that legal recognition for environmental rights will be the next big change.

Progress is possible when enough people recognize its necessity and come together to make it happen. Protecting our country and planet, our health and the future of our children and grandchildren is absolutely necessary. We can’t live and be well without clean air and water, nutritious food and the numerous services that diverse and vibrant natural environments provide.

Even in Canada, where our spectacular nature and abundant water are sources of pride, we can no longer take these necessities for granted. More than 1,000 drinking-water advisories are in effect in Canada at any time, many of them in First Nations communities. More than half of us live in areas where air quality reaches dangerous levels of toxicity. And from Grassy Narrows and Sarnia’s Chemical Valley in Ontario to Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, people are being poisoned because industrial interests and profits are prioritized over their right to live healthy lives.

It’s not about hindering industry; it’s about ensuring that companies operating in Canada, as well as our governments, maintain the highest standards and that human health and well-being are always the priority. Evidence shows strong environmental protection can benefit the economy by spurring innovation and competitiveness and reducing health-care costs. This is about giving all Canadians greater say in the democratic process and looking out for the long-term prosperity of Canada.

More than half the world’s nations already recognize environmental rights. It’s time for Canada to live up to its values and join this growing global movement.

There’s no date yet for a vote on Bill C-634, but its introduction has started a conversation among politicians in Ottawa. Let’s hope people from across the political spectrum will recognize the importance of ensuring that all Canadians have the right to a healthy environment.

Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

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