Ecojustice is declaring a major breakthrough after a Commons standing committee called for the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) to “recognize and protect the right of every person in Canada to a healthy environment.”
More than 110 countries recognize a healthy environment as a basic human right, but Canada isn’t among them, write lawyer Ecojustice scientist Dr. Elaine MacDonald and lawyer Kaitlyn Mitchell in a blog post published Thursday. Until that right is enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or stand-alone legislation, “it is crucial for the environmental laws we already have to fill this gap—to the extent that they can.”
Entrenching environmental rights in CEPA “would be a landmark step toward bringing Canadian environmental laws in line with the global environmental rights movement.”
The committee report calls on the federal government to introduce national drinking water and air quality standards, shift the burden of proof to manufacturers before high-risk substances can be sold or used in Canada, conduct cumulative impact assessments for harmful substances, require assessment and mandatory replacement of safer alternatives to harmful chemicals, and make future environmental health decision-making more transparent.
The committee report must now be reviewed by Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, then the full Cabinet. Ecojustice plans to follow the process every step of the way. “We have before us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to dramatically improve our most important environmental law,” MacDonald and Mitchell write. “Let’s make it happen.”