Ecojustice Blog – Healthy communities Posted on August 29, 2017 (updated: August 29, 2017)

Now’s our chance to strengthen Canada’s environmental laws

Dr. Elaine MacDonaldScientist
Toronto Islands by Kiev Victor via Shutterstock
Photo by Kiev Victor via Shutterstock

Continuing to work towards ensuring your right to a healthy environment gets enshrined in federal law

Strong, enforceable and fair environmental laws are vital to the health of our communities and nature.

That’s why we jumped at the opportunity to participate in the federal government’s sweeping review of key environmental laws: Fisheries Act, National Energy Board Act, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and Navigation Protection Act.

And we weren’t the only ones letting the government know that it’s time to modernize environmental laws.

During the past month, you’ve made sure the government knows that people expect them to strengthen Canada’s environmental laws to create better protections for our communities, the environment, and the climate.

Thank you for standing with us and keeping the pressure on our elected officials. You made our calls for change stronger.

But we still have work to do.

We all deserve clean air, safe water and a non-toxic environment

When it comes to protecting human health and the environment from toxic pollution, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) is an important piece of legislation. Not only does it set out the framework Canada uses to determine which substances are toxic and need to be regulated but it also guides decision-making about the safety of newly approved substances. Despite all of its strengths, it’s been nearly 20 years since this law was last updated and CEPA is showing its age — take for example the emergence of new science that underlined the hazardous nature of endocrine-disrupting substances that toxicologists believed to be safe in 1999 when CEPA was enacted.

When the Standing Committee launched a review of CEPA in 2016, we gave extensive verbal and written submissions on how the government can modernize CEPA, and make it more effective. For example: The need for effective management of chemicals in consumer products and substantive environmental rights and environmental justice recognized.

The Committee’s final report made some major breakthroughs and took into consideration our recommendations on environmental rights, toxics regulations and protections for vulnerable populations. Right now, these recommendations are being considered by the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, and eventually Cabinet.  But first, we need to make sure these updates are eventually written into law.

You can help make it happen. Here’s how:

Tell your MP: We want you to reduce toxic pollution in our air, water and products

We all want harmful chemicals out of our food, our bodies, our environment and the products we use every day. Unfortunately, CEPA is failing to do enough to protect vulnerable communities or defend us from exposure to toxic chemicals that put our health and the environment at risk.

Now’s our chance to ensure that the federal government gets CEPA right.

As their constituent, your MP cares what you think. That’s why we’re asking you to let them know that you want to see meaningful changes made to CEPA that will help reduce toxic pollution, protect our communities, and enshrine your right to a healthy environment in federal law by ensuring the following updates are made:

1. Recognize our right to a healthy environment

2. Ban the most dangerous chemicals unless they can be used safely

3. Find safer alternatives to toxic chemicals

4. Increase protections for Canada’s most vulnerable populations and communities

5. Address the cumulative effects of multiple chemical exposures

6. Create binding and enforceable national air and drinking water quality standards

7. Mandate faster timelines for regulating and banning toxic chemicals

8. Strengthen the enforcement of CEPA

9. Ensure mandatory labelling of toxic chemicals in consumer products

10. Require the re-assessment of chemicals if new concerns arise and give Canadians the right to request an assessment

11. Demand stronger and more transparent assessments of new substances before they are introduced into Canada.

Let’s make sure the government gets it right

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve Canada’s most important environmental legislation to make sure it protects human health and the environment.

The Committee’s CEPA report brings us one step closer to ensuring all of us — no matter where we live, how much money we make, or the colour of our skin — have a legal right to a healthy environment. Now the ball is in the government’s court. Let’s make sure it gets it right.

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