VICTORIA — The Environmental Bill of Rights, 2016, introduced in British Columbia today signifies an important step toward national recognition of the right to the healthy environment, representatives from Ecojustice and the David Suzuki Foundation said.
“Environmental rights are human rights,” said Margot Venton, Ecojustice lawyer. “This is a concept that transcends political lines, and we commend the members of the British Columbia legislature for this clear demonstration of their commitment to environmental rights and a more just society.”
The bill was introduced in the provincial legislature on Tuesday. If passed, it would enshrine legal recognition of a substantive right to a healthy environment in B.C. law and reinforce the government’s responsibility to protect and fulfil this right. In doing so, it would also set a powerful example for other Canadian jurisdictions to follow.
“From coast to coast to coast, the overwhelming majority of Canadians want to see our right to a clean and healthy environment recognized, respected and fulfilled,” said Alaya Boisvert, Manager of Blue Dot Government and Partner Relations with the David Suzuki Foundation. “British Columbia’s proposed environmental bill of rights is responding to the incredible groundswell of support for environmental rights, which has ignited a movement throughout the country. More than 45 municipalities in B.C. alone have passed municipal declarations recognizing their citizens’ right to a healthy environment thanks to the efforts of thousands of Blue Dot volunteers across the province.”
In September 2015, the Union of B.C. Municipalities passed a resolution calling on the province to enact an environmental bill of rights. In response, the Ministry of Environment stated, “that an environmental bill of rights is not needed in B.C. because the province’s existing and continually evolving environmental and natural resource regulatory regimes protect the public interest.”
“The province’s patchwork of environmental laws are insufficient to protect human and environmental health,” said Boisvert. “However, if the Environmental Bill of Rights is made law, it would complement and strengthen existing laws, lead to greater transparency around environmental reporting, and improve public participation in environmental decision-making processes. This is something all Canadians want, as clearly demonstrated by public opinion polls showing more than 85 percent of people agree we have the human right to live in a healthy environment.”
Ontario, Quebec, and the three territories already have some form of environmental rights legislation in place. In March, similar legislation was introduced in Manitoba, and an environmental bill of rights was introduced in the Nova Scotia legislature earlier this month.
“British Columbia’s bill is another indication of the growing strength of the environmental rights movement in Canada,” Venton said. “Globally, environmental rights have gained recognition faster than any other human right in the last 50 years, and Canada is clearly ready to join the conversation. When it comes to the recognition of environmental rights it’s not really a matter of if, but of when.”
Ecojustice and the David Suzuki Foundation are partners in the Blue Dot Movement, a national campaign to advance the legal recognition of every Canadian’s right to a healthy environment. Thousands of Canadians have mobilized to urge their governments to take action in support of environmental rights. And to date, more than 130 municipalities, including 47 in B.C., have passed declarations in support of the right to a healthy environment.