Private members bill will address ‘civil rights issue of our generation’

OTTAWA – Canada’s leading environmental law organization, Ecojustice, is enthusiastically supporting a historic federal bill that would enshrine the right of all Canadians to a healthy environment. The proposed Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights, introduced by Member of Parliament Linda Duncan, received first reading before Parliament on Thursday, October 29, 2009.

“Environmental health is the civil rights issue of our generation and this bill is a way of securing environmental rights for Canadians,” said Ecojustice lawyer Will Amos. “All members of Parliament should set aside partisan differences to pass this important legislation.”

For years, Ecojustice has recommended that governments recognize the right to a healthy environment. In 2008, Ecojustice drafted a federal Environmental Bill of Rights on behalf of Friends of the Earth and Sierra Club Canada. Quebec and Ontario have already established legally-binding environmental rights for their citizens, as have at least 130 other countries. Environmental rights are also protected by many regional and international agreements.

“The right to live in a healthy environment enjoys legal recognition in the majority of the world’s nations. Canada has been the behind the curve, but this Bill offers the hope that we might catch up,” said Ecojustice lawyer Margot Venton.

The proposed Bill would impose a legal duty upon the federal government to protect Canadians’ right to a healthy environment, improve access to environmental information and provide whistleblower protection for Canadians who report environmental crimes. It would also improve access to justice and accountability by giving Canadians the right to bring the federal government to court when it fails to implement environmental laws.