By Darcie Bennett, director of communications and marketing
There is a direct connection between the quality of our laws and the health of our environment. In Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants us the right to free expression and protects us from discrimination. But it remains silent on the issue of our right to a healthy environment.
Environmental rights encompass things like the right to clean water, pure air, and safe food. They also include the right to information about proposed laws and the right to ask the government to investigate environmental violations. Since 1972, the right to a healthy environment has gained global recognition faster than any other human right. From Norway to Nicaragua, 92% of UN member countries now legally recognize their citizens’ right to live in a healthy environment. So why doesn’t Canada?
While countries around the world are strengthening their environmental laws and recognizing environmental rights, Canadians are having to fight harder than ever for their right to breathe clean air and to be protected from harmful industrial activities. Canada has no national drinking water law. And even though the oilsands are one of the biggest industrial projects on the planet, there is no national law that regulates the resulting pollution. Recognizing environmental rights would go a long way in rectifying those situations.
Countries that formally recognize environmental rights tend to have smaller ecological footprints and do a better job of addressing issues such as climate change and air pollution. That is why we are partnering with the David Suzuki Foundation to set our country on the right course.
If you haven’t had the chance, check out A Tale of Two Valleys. This two minute video sums up the difference that a recognized right to a healthy environment could make for residents of one of Canada’s most polluted communities.
This Canada Day, share the video with your friends and spread the message that strong laws are the best way to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the environment we depend on.