Environmental Rights: Bill C-469 moves forward

Environmental Rights: Bill C-469 moves forward

By Adam Driedzic, Staff Counsel

Federal Bill C-469, the Private Members’ proposal for a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights, has passed second reading in the House of Commons and will be considered by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Environmental bills of rights are emerging across North America and worldwide.  Some bills recognize substantive rights to environmental quality while others create procedural rights to participate in environmental protection.  Bill C-469 combines these two approaches.

ELC readers have asked whether similar legislation in other jurisdictions has made a difference, and whether focusing on procedure undermines substantive environmental goals.   To further this discussion, consider these procedural concerns since Bill C-469 was introduced in 2009:

  • Changes to environmental assessment process were buried in the 2010 budget bill;
  • The Information Commissioner gave Environment Canada a failing grade on access to information;
  • The Supreme Court of Canada refused to consider the enforceability of the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act; and
  • Complaints against Canada for not enforcing its own environmental laws continue to mount under the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation.

During the same period, issues of substantive environmental quality on which the ELC has commented included: the exclusion of “minor” waters and works from environmental assessment, the “incidental take” of migratory birds, and proposed Fisheries Act regulations authorizing the release of deleterious substances.

We welcome your comments on the value and proper role of environmental rights.

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