Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights

An Act to enact the Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights and to make related amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


Linda Duncan  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Second reading (House), as of June 6, 2019
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment enacts the Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights, which provides that every person residing in Canada has the following rights:

(a) the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment;

(b) the right to reasonable, timely and affordable access to information regarding the environment;

(c) the right to effective, informed and timely public participation in decision-making regarding the environment, including in relation to any Act of Parliament respecting the environment and any environmental policy of the Government of Canada;

(d) the right to bring a matter regarding the protection of the environment before courts or tribunals; and

(e) the right to request a review of any Act of Parliament respecting the environment, any instrument made under such an Act or any environmental policy of the Government of Canada.

The enactment imposes corresponding obligations on the Government of Canada to take all reasonable measures to give effect to the rights conferred.

The enactment also provides for an application by a person residing in Canada for an investigation by the responsible Minister of an offence under any Act of Parliament respecting the environment other than the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. In addition, it provides for an environmental protection action to be brought by a person in respect of such an investigation as well as an environmental protection action to be brought by a person against a person who has contravened or is likely to contravene an Act of Parliament respecting the environment if certain conditions are met.

The enactment amends the Auditor General Act to allow petitions for the review of any Act of Parliament to be made respecting the environment, any instrument made under such an Act or any environmental policy of the Government of Canada.

The enactment amends the Federal Courts Act to allow an application for judicial review to be made by a person not directly affected by the matter in respect of which relief is sought if certain conditions are met, including the condition that the matter relate to the protection of the environment.

Finally, this enactment also amends the Canadian Bill of Rights to provide that the right of the individual to life, liberty and security of the person includes the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Canadian Environmental Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2019 / 5:10 p.m.
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Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

moved that Bill C-438, An Act to enact the Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights and to make related amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, there are many in this place who know that I have long awaited the opportunity to debate this bill again. It is Bill C-438, an act to enact the Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights and to make related amendments to other acts, because that includes an amendment to the bill of rights.

This is the fourth time that I have tabled this bill in 11 years in this place over three Parliaments. I believe the first time I tabled it was as soon as I was elected, somewhere between 2008 and 2009. That bill was debated and went through committee, and I will get into that in a minute. Today, in the brief time I am allotted, I hope to say what an environmental bill of rights is, what its origin is, why it is needed, and who has endorsed the need for an environmental bill of rights.

The environmental bill of rights legally extends the right to a healthy, ecologically balanced environment to Canadians. It confirms the duty of the Government of Canada to uphold its public trust duty to protect the environment. It amends the Canadian Bill of Rights to add environmental rights. It extends a bundle of rights and tools to Canadians, including having a voice in decisions impacting their health and environment, having standing before courts and tribunals, and having the power to hold the government accountable on effective environmental enforcement and on the review of law and policies. It extends protections for government whistle-blowers who release to Canadians information that is relevant to health and environmental impacts.

As I mentioned, I have tabled this bill four times over 11 years in three successive governments. My bill actually survived a challenge and gained a speaker's ruling in my favour when the Conservatives tried to crush it in 2009. It did proceed to second reading and on to committee. Sadly, it was essentially shredded at committee. It then died on the Order Paper when the early election was called.

I retabled it again, as I mentioned, in 2011 and 2015 and again in a revised, updated form in 2019.

Why is an environmental bill of rights needed? Community voices, the voices of non-governmental organizations and indigenous voices are absolutely critical triggers for action to protect health and the environment. Federal law and policy is made all the stronger with public engagement, and public rights are absolutely critical to government accountability. That has been my direct experience over the almost 50 years that I have been an environmental lawyer and advocate.

I want to now give a couple of examples of what happens when the public is engaged and their rights are upheld, and what happens when they are not.

One strong example is an engagement that I had, along with a small community organization in Alberta. We were dealing with how to improve air emissions from coal-fired power. Coal-fired power is still the major source of electricity in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and it is huge in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Mercury from coal-fired power is the largest source of industrial mercury in North America, and mercury is a neurotoxin. It was the first substance listed by the federal government under the former Environmental Contaminants Act and was incorporated into the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, yet to this day, the federal government has never regulated mercury from coal-fired power.

I intervened as a volunteer in the review of the standards. It is a consensus process. I dug in my heels. If industry wanted to get their emissions standards for NOx, sulfur dioxide particulate, they had to agree to my recommendation that mercury had to be captured by that sector, and there had to be a law in place. To the credit of the Alberta government, they enacted that law.

That is a clear example showing that had my community not intervened, neither the federal nor the provincial government would have stepped forward, after 40 years of burning coal in Alberta, to actually stop the flow of mercury into our lakes.

Another example that we have been talking about over the last couple of months in this place is the issue of mercury at Grassy Narrows, and there is a different example. If the indigenous community at Grassy Narrows had been directly engaged in decisions on how those industrial operations were going to operate in their community and along the river and had been engaged on the issue of whether or not it was safe to put effluent that had high levels of mercury contamination into the river, and if they had been given the information on the potential health and environmental impacts and a seat at the table to have a say in how that plan should operate, I do not believe that we would be facing the health impacts and the expense of cleaning up that area now.

Those are the two differences in what happens when we have some environmental rights, the opportunity to be at the table and access to information. The other, Grassy Narrows, is an example of where we did not do that and there is a high cost, both health-wise and financially.

A number of times in this place I have raised concern with the impact of emissions on the indigenous community next to the Sarnia industrial complex and the failure of both levels of government to combat those and do proper health studies and control. That community has struggled just in trying to get basic information on what the emissions are, whether controls are in place and whether it is impacting their health.

Ongoing frustration was felt by indigenous communities in northern Alberta when they attempted to finally have a health impact study delivered in their communities on the impact of oil sands emissions on their health, despite the fact that there was a release quite some years ago about the high rate of rare cancers. A lot of work was also done by scientists, showing a buildup of contaminants in the Athabasca River, in the air and on the land.

Just this week, three chiefs in that area published an article in The Hill Times. They said the oil sands is the only activity in their area for employment and economic development. They invest in the oil sands. They demand to have a seat at the table on decisions as to whether or not they are going to allow the draining of the contaminated water in those tar ponds into the Athabasca River. It is going to contaminate the Athabasca River on to Lake Athabasca and on into the Northwest Territories. This has been going on for many years and the government, behind closed doors, has been making these decisions.

This is a perfect example of the need for an environmental bill of rights. If we had an environmental bill of rights, those communities would have the right to all that information, the right to the process that is going on, and the right to have a seat at the table in determining whether or not that is a wise decision.

The Mikisew Cree eventually had to go to UNESCO to demand that there be action on the impact of the Site C dam, the Bennett dam and the oil sands operations on the Peace-Athabasca Delta and the world heritage site. They issued directives, and we are still waiting for the government to act on those directives.

Two other final examples are pipelines. If the former Conservative government had actually listened to its advisers, if it had listened to first nations and if it had listened to the environmental community, it would have known it could not proceed with the northern gateway pipeline until it respected first nations' rights and interests. It was the same issue on the TMX pipeline, but as the court held, there was no consideration under the government obligations with regard to endangered species. Therefore, those projects have been stalled or cancelled.

If we had an environmental bill of rights, it would clarify the right to participate, the right to access to information and the right to access to experts and to legal counsel, so that one could come to the table in a constructive and informed way.

Who has endorsed this concept? Some provinces and territories have enacted an array of environmental rights, and some of those limited rights have been enacted in federal laws. Sadly, a good number of those laws were downgraded by the Harper government. That government downgraded the federal impact assessment process, thereby limiting the opportunities for people to participate and the kinds of projects that would be reviewed, including the expansion of oil sands projects and in situ operations.

The Liberals promised in the 2015 campaign that they would immediately strengthen federal environmental laws. Four years into it there is still no action on the report of my committee on reforming CEPA, which would have expanded environmental rights, and we do not know what the fate of Bill C-69 is. We are waiting with bated breath to know what will happen to all of those regressive amendments proposed in the Senate.

The North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation was a side agreement to NAFTA. It was enforced by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, where I had the privilege of working for four years as the head of law and enforcement. Under that agreement, Canada, along with Mexico and the United States, committed to public participation in conserving, protecting and enhancing the environment. It also committed to giving people the opportunity to comment on proposed environmental measures and the right to seek a report on effective environmental enforcement, stand before administrative, quasi-judicial and judicial proceedings, and have access to remedies. Those are exactly the provisions that are in the bill before us today.

Canada already committed years ago to move forward and uphold these rights. Therefore, I have tabled this proposal over and over again to try to encourage the government to respond to the current trade law. In a minute, I will speak about what the government could have done and was asked to do.

There is a side agreement to the proposed new trade law. However, I am sad to say it has been downgraded from the existing one. All of the trade deals that have been signed and sealed since NAFTA have downgraded the environmental rights enshrined in the side agreement.

The United Nations Human Rights Council special rapporteur was asked to look into human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a clean, safe, healthy and sustainable environment. He travelled the world for four years. On behalf of the Human Rights Council, he issued an environmental bill of rights framework for all nations to adopt. Guess what. It is exactly the framework in my bill.

Over 90 nations have extended these rights through constitutions, laws, court rulings, international treaties or declarations. Canada is far behind.

In 2009, the Aarhus convention was signed by many countries of the world, by and large by European and Scandinavian nations. It committed the signatories to provide access to information, public participation decision-making and access to justice and environmental matters. Canada said it did not have to sign it because it was already extending those rights. In fact, it has not done that yet.

Recently, to the credit of many in this place, many members of Parliament signed the environmental rights pledge issued by the David Suzuki Foundation through the Blue Dot campaign. We had a big celebration on Monday night, celebrating the fact that so many parliamentarians were committed to enacting environmental rights.

This is something interesting. In 2018, the Liberals held a federal convention and passed a resolution. That resolution reminded the Liberals that in June 2010, all Liberals members of Parliament present in the House of Commons voted in favour of Bill C-469, which was my environmental bill of rights. The convention reminded the members that the United Nations recognized environmental rights as a basic human right. They then passed a resolution, saying that the Liberal Party of Canada urged the Government of Canada to enact legislation establishing a Canadian environmental bill of rights.

I have said all long, since the first day I was elected in 2008, that I would welcome the government of the day to take my bill and enact a full-fledged bill. Here we are with a couple of weeks left in this place and nothing has occurred. That is why I am delighted I can debate the bill, and I look forward to the response of some of my colleagues.

To date, over 3,000 Canadians have signed petitions, both e-petitions and hard-copy petitions, saying that they support the enactment of this environmental bill of rights. Ecojustice, the David Suzuki Foundation and, most recently, the Social Justice Cooperative Newfoundland and Labrador have endorsed this bill and called for action by the government to enact this law.

I look forward to hearing the comments from other parties in the House. It has been my absolute pleasure to work with other members of Parliament on environmental matters. I know there are strong promoters of environmental rights here, and I hope to hear from them this evening.

Canadian Environmental Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2019 / 5:25 p.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is such an honour to put this question to my friend from Edmonton Strathcona, who has decided not to run again and who has done stalwart environmental work.

I think I first started working with the hon. member for Edmonton Strathcona around 1984. We look younger than we really are. However, this is such essential legislation. She has tried so hard for so long. I want to commit to her that I will do everything possible, as leader of the Green Party, to promote the environmental bill of rights in the next election campaign. I do not think we can get it through this Parliament in the time remaining.

For those members from all sides of the House who recognize it is long overdue, I urge all of them to take a demand to their parties to include in their platforms in the next election a commitment to deliver an environmental bill of rights to Canadians, one which is long overdue.

I thank the hon. member for Edmonton Strathcona for her tireless work. She will be missed in this place.

Canadian Environmental Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2019 / 5:25 p.m.
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Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague. I thought we had been working since 1979, or I have been. She is a johnny- come-lately. We had a lot of fun working on many campaigns together.

The one thing I forgot to mention is that an endorsement of an environmental bill of rights is already in our party's platform. I am delighted to hear the representative for the Green Party say that she wants to put it forward in her platform. I am looking forward to it being in everybody's platform.

However, what I really want is for it not just to be in people's platforms. Whoever becomes government, if it is a minority and other parties are holding it accountable, let us hold it accountable to actually enact an environmental bill of rights.

Canadian Environmental Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2019 / 5:25 p.m.
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Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Edmonton Strathcona for getting her bill before the House once again. It truly was a pleasure and an honour to work with her on the environment committee. We did a lot of good work together and struck a great friendship. I, too, will miss her very much in this place.

However, as we have discussed in the past, Ontario has an environmental bill of rights. A mechanism exists within that bill is an environmental review tribunal. The member will remember that during the amendment phase of Bill C-69, one of the areas that I was strongly promoting was to have an environmental review tribunal. Unfortunately, that did not happen. However, is that part of the framework that the member has looked to as being part of this bill as well?

Canadian Environmental Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2019 / 5:25 p.m.
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Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his kind comments. It was a delight to work with him on the committee. He is one member who I will miss.

My bill was never intended to be the full environmental bill of rights. That is a job for the government. The Ontario environmental bill of rights is much deeper than mine and gives all the detail of the proceedings.

The framework of my bill would fully allow for the development of the mechanism of which the member is speaking. Many mechanisms exist at the provincial level that have not been carried forward to the federal level. It would be well worthwhile to have an open dialogue and consultation across the country about how best to set up this law when a government becomes elected and moves forward to enact it. I would hope it would move expeditiously.

I should mention that other provinces have put some of these measures into their specific laws. Quebec specifically has an environmental bill of rights, but it is not terribly detailed. I believe that in both Yukon and Northwest Territories laws there is a form of an environmental bill of rights. Therefore, we have examples we can turn to in building a federal one. We do not have to start at zero.

Canadian Environmental Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2019 / 5:30 p.m.
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Central Nova Nova Scotia


Sean Fraser LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the hon. member for Edmonton Strathcona for her work in introducing this bill and also for her advocacy and passion on environmental issues. We crossed over for a very short time when I was a brand new member of Parliament on the transport committee. I admired her intelligence, her work ethic and her ability to bring a perspective that represented her constituents' interests to every issue.

The proposed bill would establish a Canadian environmental bill of rights, and procedural rights would be built into that. Before I get too deeply into my remarks, I would like to advise the hon. member that the government is supportive of this bill at second reading to send it to committee. Of course, as the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands raised, there is a limited amount of time in this Parliament.

As the sponsor of the bill recognized in her remarks, our party membership at our convention in April 2018 was also behind this idea. It is deserving of an analysis so that we can better understand how adding a level of justiciability to environmental protections would enhance the quality of our environment for Canadians.

I note in particular that as a result of the committee study on CEPA done in 2017, the government tabled a response indicating that it would be undertaking consultations that would identify how to implement adding a rights-based approach to environmental protections under that piece of legislation. Those consultations are ongoing.

Before we get into the technical aspects, it is important to reflect on why this is important.

The environment is an important priority for any party that might find itself in government and for all Canadians. We rely on it for our livelihoods. We rely on it for our health.

It is not just us. Nature is important to protect for its own sake. I note in particular what an eye-opening experience it has been for me to serve in this capacity as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. One of the things that has jumped out at me every time I have read an article or visited a community that has seen the impact of wildlife loss is that since the 1970s, we have seen 60% of the world's wildlife lost. Canada, along with four other countries, represent three-quarters of the world's remaining wilderness. We have an opportunity, and in my mind an obligation, to do something about it.

I note in particular the historic investment of $1.3 billion we have made toward protecting nature. This is the single largest investment in protecting our natural environment in the history of our country. We are seeing projects roll out that are protecting critical habitat. They are protecting spaces for multiple species that will benefit for generations. We have examples in my own riding, along the St. Mary's River or the Musquodoboit Valley, which are home to important ecosystems that house species at risk. They also serve as important climate-mitigation infrastructure that occurs naturally, and perhaps more effectively than mankind is able to develop on its own.

Of course, a healthy environment is not just about protecting nature and biodiversity. We have the looming threat of climate change as well. We cannot depend on human health if we do not have environmental health. When I see coal plants continuing to burn, potentially for decades, we know that we are putting our communities at a heightened risk for lung disease and for childhood asthma, among other things. When I see the storm surges on the east coast that pose a physical risk to the residents who live there, the heat waves that have taken lives in Ontario and Quebec and the forest fires that continue to rage in western Canada, I know that we have a responsibility to take action. It really does impact our right to live if we do not have an environment that allows that to take place.

That is why we have embarked on the implementation of an ambitious agenda to reduce our emissions. It is so we can reach the level of reductions to prevent the worst consequences of climate change.

We know that Canada is warming at twice the rate of the global average and that we are feeling the consequences today. That is why we are moving forward with a plan that includes over 50 measures to help reduce our emissions.

We talk at length in this chamber about the government's initiative to put a price on pollution. What we are seeing is that by 2030, we are actually going to have 90% of our electricity generated by non-emitting sources.

We have made the single largest investment in the history of public transit in Canada. At the same time, we are taking advantage of the opportunities in the green economy by protecting our environment.

If we are to believe Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, there is a $26-trillion global opportunity in the green economy. By positioning ourselves in the front of that wave, we can do the right thing by our environment, protect the health of our communities and capitalize on economic opportunity. It would be irresponsible not to take these actions, based on the crass economics alone. We also know that there is a moral obligation to take this action.

Turning more directly to the issue of the substantive and procedural protections that could arise under an environmental bill of rights, I want to point out that substantive and procedural rights exist under federal legislation and policies today that provide important rights to Canadian citizens that could potentially be complemented if we better understand how a bill of rights could add to the protections, both substantive and procedural, that already exist.

I note in particular that under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, CEPA, there are opportunities for public participation when it comes to the pollutants we deal with in our society. We also know that there are protections for whistle-blowers who report those who violate the federal laws that are on the books. There are obligations around transparency for companies that use pollutants and there is an opportunity for individuals or groups to take civil action against offenders against the obligations laid out in that piece of legislation, and we are making efforts to enhance our transparency through proactive disclosure of information relating to the pollutants that we know are making their way into Canada today.

Good information is necessary. If we are not basing our decisions on facts, science and evidence, we cannot have much faith that the decisions we are making are going to lead to the outcomes we want.

It was disappointing for me during the last Parliament, before I got involved, to see that there was an effort to limit how much federal scientists could talk about their own research. In Nova Scotia, it was a big deal at home when we saw that the research that existed on the books at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography was being disposed of. This kind of information exists for a reason, and it is to help legislators make good policy that will improve the quality of our environment.

I note that there are other pieces of legislation at play as well that provide rights for the public to take part in discussions around the quality of our environmental laws. If we look at the Species at Risk Act, we see that any person can apply for a status assessment of a given species. A person could also request an assessment of imminent threat, and there is a duty on the government to make public the information about the status of different species. These are rights to allow the public to understand what information is out there and what research the government has done so that people can better understand what policies are being implemented, or perhaps not being implemented, and advocate changes that will help protect our environment.

Bill C-69 has come up over the course of the debate already. One of the things that this piece of legislation was designed to do was improve public participation in the decision-making process for major projects, including the need for early engagement. That gave the public an opportunity to take part before all of the decisions had been made, decisions that would eventually be litigated on the back end. In particular, we made a serious effort to help bring in the voices of indigenous communities across Canada to ensure that they have an opportunity to participate as well.

Bill C-69 would improve the public registry so that the public can have access in a timely way to the information about projects that are being proposed and can understand not only the opportunities for participation but also the current status of projects and the potentially adverse social, health or environmental consequences that could arise as projects go forward. It is all about making sure that good projects can proceed and that the economy can grow at the same time that we are making sure that the social outcomes we want—in particular, the protection of our environment—are not lost.

There are also laws, such as the Federal Sustainable Development Act, that put obligations on the government to enhance the accountability and transparency of the work of federal departments when moving forward with laws or policies that could have a negative impact on our ability to live sustainably in our environment.

The question is, why do we need to advance this piece of legislation to the next stage to better understand the consequences that could arise? The protections, substantive and procedural, that I just laid out exist, quite frankly, in a scattered way. The idea of having a central bill of rights that could allow the public to better understand where their substantive and procedural rights exist is appealing to me and deserves to be better understood.

There are people who are disproportionately impacted by decisions around the environment, whether it is elderly people, children who will disproportionately bear the consequences of climate change or expectant mothers who will experience a different impact on their personal health and the health of their child. These are serious things that we should be considering, and I think that this bill is worth sending to committee so that we can better understand how to best implement the procedural and substantive rights.

I look forward to continuing the conversation with my hon. colleague off-line to ensure that we do not lose the momentum behind this idea because, quite frankly, it is an important discussion to be had in determining whether we should move forward with an environmental bill of rights.

I want to thank the folks back home in Central Nova who have raised this with me. It is important, and I welcome their advocacy.

Canadian Environmental Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2019 / 5:40 p.m.
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Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, there are two people I want to thank. First, I want to thank the Leader of the Government for her apology. I understand very well that things can move quickly in such an intense period. I accept her apology, although it was not necessary. I want to thank her.

Next I want to thank my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment, who spoke before me. I asked him some questions earlier, but unfortunately I found his replies unsatisfactory. It is important to acknowledge the situation in order to take action. The Liberals have not wanted to tell Canadians the truth regarding the Paris targets, which Canada will not meet under the Liberals' current plan.

I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-438, an act to enact the Canadian environmental bill of rights and to make related amendments to other acts. First reading of this bill was on April 5, 2019, and I am pleased to contribute to this debate.

I thank my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona for being so passionate about the environment. I was sad to learn that I will not have the opportunity to work with this wonderful, passionate, sensitive and kind woman during the next Parliament, if the people of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier put their trust in me, of course. Dear colleague, I truly appreciated working on this with you. I am a bit emotional because there are some colleagues, regardless of political stripe or beliefs, who are extraordinary people. I wanted to say that publicly.

Canadian Environmental Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2019 / 5:40 p.m.
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Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to tell my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona that I truly appreciate her and that I will miss her. She has been here for many years. She was elected in 2008, re-elected in 2011 and again in 2015. She is unfortunately leaving us at the end of this term. She is the NDP's critic for international development and the deputy critic for the environment.

I had the opportunity to work with her on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, and in writing my speech I learned that she had a lot of experience and knowledge about the exciting world of the environment. I am unfortunately discovering this now, but I did notice it when we worked together on the committee.

I want to give an overview of her career. She worked for the Environmental Law Centre in Edmonton, she was an international law consultant, she was chief of enforcement at Environment Canada and she was the assistant deputy minister for renewable resources for the Yukon government. She clearly knows her stuff. Hats off to her, once again. I want to express my heartfelt congratulations and love for her.

With respect to the bill, my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona recently wrote to us about it. She explained that the bill would enshrine the right of all Canadians to a healthy, ecologically balanced environment. She added that, some years ago, Canada accepted the principle endorsed by the World Commission on Environment and Development that all human beings have the fundamental right to an environment adequate for their health and well-being. This principle is reiterated in many environmental conventions and agreements signed and ratified by Canada.

It is important to mention this because I support this principle. In fact, I support this principle as a Conservative member. That is not all. I am also wearing a Blue Dot lapel pin, which I was given on Monday night when I participated in an activity with my colleague and the chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. Three members from three different political parties attended this event hosted by the David Suzuki Foundation.

Last fall, Blue Dot asked me to sign a pledge. When they invited me to speak on Monday evening, I was obviously pleased to do so and to say that the Conservatives believe in the environment and will take the necessary steps to meet the Paris targets. Here is the pledge that I signed and proudly hung up in my office:

The Pledge for Environmental Rights responds to the growing movement in Canada and around the world for legal recognition of the human right to a healthy environment.

Environmental rights are based on the simple yet powerful belief that everyone has the right to clean air and water. It is one of the fastest-growing fields of human rights internationally. More than 150 countries now recognize the legal right to a healthy environment, but not Canada.

More than 170 Canadian municipalities have passed resolutions recognizing their citizens' right to a healthy environment, and 9 out of 10 Canadians agree that Canada should recognize environmental rights in law.

I hereby pledge that, as a Member of Parliament, I will support the recognition in law of the right to a healthy environment for all people in Canada.

Members from other parties have also signed this pledge.

Bill C-438 features a number of poorly designed provisions that could very well put a lot of stakeholders in a tough spot. Not to mention that financial adjustments would have to be made. The legislative process will give us the opportunity to fine-tune the bill so that it can pass. However, with the current Parliament coming to an end, I have some doubt as to whether we will be able to get it across the finish line before then; my colleague has certainly been through this before.

That said, I would like her to know that I am committed to doing what needs to be done to effectively represent Canadians and to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to protect the environment.

I understand why the NDP has concerns about the government and cares so much about the environment.

In 2015, when the Liberals were campaigning, they promised to be thorough and respectful, to bring in measures to protect the environment, and to do everything in their power to reduce their carbon footprint.

In 2019, nearly four years later, they have little to show for it. They did take one tangible action when they invested $4.5 billion in an existing pipeline that belonged to Americans. That money went to the country of Uncle Sam. It was supposed to help move another pipeline project forward, but nothing is working. We are not making any progress.

What was the point of investing $4.5 billion in an existing pipeline?

If I were the government, I would have invested $4.5 billion in innovative projects on green technologies. What I am saying is that the government should have invested that $4.5 billion in reducing our footprint and doing research and development. Many businesses that appeared before the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development showed that they had the technology to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Furthermore, the Liberal government added a tax. It is using the environment as an excuse to take more money out of the pockets of Canadians. History has already proven in Quebec and British Columbia that this does not work.

This is not a carbon tax or an environmental tax. It is a tax to try to recover some of the money they spent so recklessly.

The Liberals are not telling the truth about the environment. As I said earlier, they refuse to admit that they will not be able to meet the Paris targets. If they cannot even admit that, they cannot bring in a plan to fix the situation.

As far as we are concerned, unfortunately, this is a governance problem on the part of the Liberal government. That said, fortunately for Canadians, it will last only a few more months, until the election on October 21.

There is so much more I would like to say, but I must wind up. I want to assure all Canadians and the people of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, as well as my colleague who is leaving us, that I will be here to take all the necessary steps to protect our environment for us, for our children and for our grandchildren.

Canadian Environmental Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2019 / 5:50 p.m.
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Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to start by saluting my colleague, the soon-to-be-retired member for Edmonton Strathcona, for her diligence and perseverance in bringing this bill forward over 11 years. This is perhaps the fourth time.

Of course, the Liberal government has had four years to study this bill, and here we are in the waning hours of this Parliament, which is very regrettable. If we are honest with each other, I think the chances of this bill being enacted are slim to none. However, that does not mean that it is not an essential, thoughtful piece of work. It is like a judgment that is in dissent in a court, and eventually, over time, that dissenting opinion becomes the law of the land, which is what I hope happens in this context.

This bill is not radical. The Province of Quebec has had section 46.1 of its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms for years, which says, “Every person has a right to live in a healthful environment in which biodiversity is preserved, to the extent and according to the standards provided by law.” That is what Quebec did. For many years, Ontario had a bill as well, the Environmental Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, over the last few months, the new government of Premier Ford has gutted that bill, to the eternal shame of that government.

However, that does not mean we at the federal level cannot get it right at last. In fact, a number of people wrote in a book called International Law and the Environment as follows: “The emergence of individual environmental rights marks perhaps the most significant shift in the focus of international environmental law.” My colleague's bill would do just that.

I want Canadians to understand that this is not one of those feel-good bills with one sentence celebrating the heritage of one ethnic community that takes two sections to enact. This is a thoughtful bill, with 37 sections, 16 pages long. It was very thoughtfully changed in each Parliament to its status today, which is a fully thought-out bill that would do what other jurisdictions around the world have done.

Nor is this a new idea. I remember, back in the 1980s, writing a chapter in a book edited by the well-known environmental law scholar John Swaigen that talked about just this, and many of the principles in this bill were in fact discussed at great length in that book back in the 1980s. I salute my colleague for this excellent work.

The bill before us would create a number of specific rights, including my favourite, the right of access to environmental information in a reasonable, timely and affordable manner. As someone who has spent his career working on access to information, members can only imagine how happy I am to see that here.

However, I can tell members of the great disappointment of every single person who studied the Liberals' Bill C-58, that astounding reaction to the current Prime Minister's commitment to transparency. Every single commentator who has looked at that bill currently before Parliament has concluded that it is a travesty. It would take us backward, not forward. In fact, it is so ironic that the current Prime Minister, when in opposition, put forward a bill that would amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Access to Information Act to provide greater transparency, but that bill goes in the exact opposite direction.

Other key things in Bill C-438 are things such as a public trust doctrine, which has been used so effectively in the United States of America to preserve lands, such as in a parks context and so forth. Another is an ability for individual Canadians to get an investigation of environmental offences. It is a thoughtful amendment to the Federal Courts Act that would allow standing for environmental groups, if there is a serious issue at stake and they have a genuine interest, to basically get rid of all the obstacles that have been put in the way of individual citizens wanting to judicially review decisions they think are wrong in the environmental context. There is also whistle-blower protection. These are just some of the key ideas that are put out in clause 4 of the bill.

However, there is so much more in this bill that needs to be saluted and praised. There are five paramount principles of environmental law that are listed. I do not have time to go over them all, but they are the precautionary principle, the polluter pays principle, the principle of sustainable development, the principle of intergenerational equity and the principle of environmental justice. These are not just words; these are principles that would apply in the implementation of the bill.

As I said earlier, Quebec has had a very vigorous commitment to environmental justice, codified in its human rights legislation and in its charter of rights and freedoms. That is how important environmentalism and sustainability Quebec talks of biodiversity are in that context.

Ontario, for many years, has had an environmental bill of rights, which has also been vigorous in its application. Unfortunately, it has met its fate. The environmental commissioner created under that statute is no longer funded by the Ford government, therefore bringing to an end a very positive experience that the jurisdiction has had with legislation not unlike what my colleague has brought forward today.

In the interests of time, I want to summarize. This initiative could have been acted on if the government were serious about environmental justice. Parliament has had this legislation before it for 11 years, four years with the current government. Here we are at the very last moment. It truly is tragic, certainly regrettable that we are unable to see this forward. The government says that it will send it to committee. That means absolutely nothing.

With two weeks left of Parliament, Canadians need to be reminded that it is a complicated bill, thoughtful bill. It would need to go through committee. It would have to go to the Senate and the like. Frankly, it is too little too late.

If the government were truly committed to environmental justice, to the of principles of which I talked, to the very specific things that would make it easier for individual Canadians to be empowered to achieve environmental justice, it would have done something with this. However, it has not and here we are.

Canadian Environmental Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2019 / 5:55 p.m.
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Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Madam Speaker, my congratulations to my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona on getting this bill onto the floor. I am privileged to have the opportunity to speak to it.

I would like to tell a story. It is a true David and Goliath story. It is a story that starts in a small rural community that is up against the world's largest waste company, Waste Management Inc.

It starts in 1998, when I was on the municipal council in Tynendinaga Township and Waste Management Inc. came to our council meeting to present a fantastic idea it had to build a 200-acre mega-dump that would take in 750,000 tonnes of waste and 250,000 tonnes of contaminated soil a year in, once again, a small rural community, which just happened to have a fractured limestone base that would be underlying this landfill. The site would have been on vertically and horizontally fractured limestone.

This is a pristine area of the country. This is a part of the country where every home, farm and business relies on wells for water. It is a site that would be upstream from the Mohawks at the Bay of Quinte and upstream from the Bay of Quinte itself, which has been listed by the U.N. for a number of years as one of the worst polluted bodies of water in the world.

When Waste Management Inc. had finished presenting, the reeve of the day, Margaret Walsh, and I looked at each other. They wanted to do what on fractured limestone? It was not going to happen on our watch.

We then proceeded to have multiple town halls to educate the area residents about this travesty: this mega-company wanted to build a mega-dump in a neighbouring community. Everyone, of course, was up in arms. It was plain wrong to build it on this site.

After those town halls, the Concerned Citizens Committee of Tynendinaga and Environs was born. A core group of individuals headed the committee, starting with the chair, Steven Geneja; Margaret Walsh; me; Ed File; Allan Gardiner; Mary Lynne Sammon; and Chief R. Donald Maracle, of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, because the Mohawks were very interested in this fight.

We also were very fortunate to have a brilliant professional team in lawyer Richard Lindgren, from the Canadian Environmental Law Association; hydrogeologist Wilf Ruland; and a toxicologist, Dr. Poh-Gek Forkert, who, by the way, actually wrote a book about this fight called Fighting Dirty.

We launched massive fundraising campaigns, sign painting campaigns, awareness campaigns and protests. Over the next eight years, we submitted over 6,000 documents opposing this landfill expansion and petitions. It was to the point that the former environmental commissioner of Ontario, Gord Miller, called the Richmond Dump “arguably one of the worst sites in Ontario to ever locate [a] landfill”. He went on to say that it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to monitor the site.

After eight years of fighting this battle, lo and behold, in 2006, the Ontario government decided to reject the expansion proposal, stating that there were significant environmental risks associated with expanding this landfill. Everyone, of course, celebrated, thinking that we had won the battle. No, we had not, because there was a 50-year-old leaky dump right next door to where they wanted to build the original landfill that was still open. We suspected that there was toxic leaching into the surrounding environment and local wells.

In 2007, I took over as chair of the committee. Colleagues need to understand that this was eight or nine years later, and volunteers are starting to get burned out. This was such a demanding fight for a small rural community to undertake, but there was still, thankfully, a hard-core group of individuals, including Mike Whalen, the present chair of the committee; Ian Munro; Marilyn Kendall; Jeff Whan; Steve Medd; Marilyn Carey; Janelle and Ken Tulloch; Carolyn Butts; Fred Whelan and Howard O'Connor. Once again, they were just hard-core individuals who deeply cared about our community and were willing to make whatever sacrifices necessary to ensure that we protected our community from this landfill.

Lo and behold, in 2010 the province announced the forced closure of the landfill. Unfortunately, the very same day, Waste Management came back and announced another terms of reference for an environmental assessment. It was the first time in Ontario's history that a company lost an environmental assessment and turned around and asked for another one in exactly the same location with virtually the same proposal.

We were appalled. We were angry. We were determined that we were not going to allow this project to continue. We redoubled our efforts to defeat what they called the Beechwood Road Environmental Centre. What an oxymoron, if I have ever heard one.

Early in 2012, the province finally came back and approved a deeply flawed environmental monitoring plan. Finally, we had had enough. We said, okay, this finally opens up the opportunity for us to ask for leave to appeal to an environmental review tribunal to finally have a semi-judicial process of environmental and legal experts studying this issue.

We then entered into a three-year period of negotiations with Waste Management to try to resolve the 36 recommendations. After that time, finally, in 2015, we had a trial and we finally had a judgment. Of course, the judgment fell completely our way, and we finally forced Waste Management to test for a chemical called 1,4-dioxane that only exists in leachate. We have to remember that leachate has up to 10,000 chemicals.

The company was always testing for chemicals that exist in the natural surrounding environment, so when there was a spike, they would say “Oh, it's just Mother Nature, not leachate.” Lo and behold, when they finally started testing for 1,4-dioxane, many of the wells were contaminated, including six residential wells. It was absolutely appalling that the company was able to hide this contamination for decades without anybody being aware of it.

Here we are in 2019, and we are still trying to delineate the contaminant attenuation zone. This is now massively off-site from the landfill. It is a kilometre south of the landfill so far from circumference of the landfill, and it is still continuing to move.

Why do I tell this story? How does this relate to an environmental bill of rights?

Dumps are the underbelly of a post-consumer society. As I mentioned, there are up to 10,000 chemicals in a landfill. Everybody thinks, “out of sight, out of mind; it is in a dump”. No, these chemicals exist within our environment. They exist in our homes, they exist in our workplaces, they permeate society, and we need to have a mechanism in place to actually deal with these chemicals.

In Ontario, we have an Environmental Bill of Rights, and we have a mechanism within that bill of rights called an environmental review tribunal. This is put in place so that citizen groups like ours could hold the government to account and could force a decision that will overturn a poor decision made by government. That is why it is so vitally important for us at the Canadian level to have a Canadian environmental bill of rights.

I would like to finish up by recognizing a number of individuals who were deeply involved in this fight and who, unfortunately, are no longer with us. Margaret Walsh, Steve Geneja, Al Gardiner, Mary Lynn Sammon, and Howard O'Connor all passed during that time. The best years of their lives were wasted fighting this landfill, non-stop. It is an incredible burden to a small rural community to be up against the world's largest waste company.

However, it was not in vain. If we had not fought that fight, today, 21 years later, we would have 21 million of 25 million tonnes of waste that would be leaching into our local environments and contaminating our residential wells, our farm wells, our business wells, our children. That fight was not in vain.

We will continue to fight the good fight. We will fight on the side of the angels, on the side of you angels who are there now fighting with us to protect our beautiful, pristine rural communities.

As long as I am a member of Parliament, I will never stop fighting to have a Canadian environmental bill of rights.

Canadian Environmental Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2019 / 6:05 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise and talk about important issues. A number of days ago we had a fairly healthy and robust discussion with respect to our environment and how important it is to this government.

As members know, we brought forward a motion recognizing the state of emergency with respect to our environment. We all have a very important role to play. Yesterday was World Environment Day, which is recognized internationally. One of the things I have found over the years when dealing with environmental issues is that the people who have really taken that active interest spread across all the different social and economic strata in our society. There are young people, people who are not so young and people of different ethnicity or economic status in life, all of whom really care about the environment.

Over the years, I have seen the words sustainable development, and things of that nature, which we can never talk enough about because there are so many things we can do within budgets and legislation to encourage that sustainable development. We have a government that has demonstrated that over the last few years with a number of policy positions that have really had a profoundly positive impact and will continue to have an impact on the environment here in Canada.

The most obvious that comes to mind is the price on pollution. For the very first time, we have national assurances that there will be a price on pollution from coast to coast to coast. Prior to this government, the price on pollution was very much patchwork. Some provinces had it and other provinces did not. Through strong national leadership we will ensure that it is from coast to coast to coast.

Even within this most recent budget, we have an announcement to try to encourage Canadians to look at electric cars—

Canadian Environmental Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2019 / 6:10 p.m.
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Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I would love to compare and contrast that point of order to one I raised the other day with respect to relevancy.

I can assure you and the member that my debate is absolutely relevant to having a bill of rights with respect to the environment.

I see you are anxious to stand, Madam Speaker. I suspect my time has already expired.

Canadian Environmental Bill of RightsRoutine Proceedings

April 5th, 2019 / 12:10 p.m.
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Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-438, An Act to enact the Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights and to make related amendments to other Acts.

Madam Speaker, I rise today to re-table the Canadian environmental bill of rights. While similar measures have been enacted by some of the provinces and territories, no such law has been enacted at the federal level. The bill would enact into federal domestic law international commitments made decades ago by Canada and measures recommended by the special rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council.

First, my bill would enshrine the right of Canadians to a healthy, ecologically balanced environment.

Second, it would enshrine the Government of Canada's public trust duty to protect the environment, including legislating and enforcing environmental protection laws.

Third, it would extend to all Canadians the right to hold their government accountable through access to environmental information, participation in decisions impacting their environment and standing to seek judicial intervention where those rights would be denied.

Enactment of this bill has become all the more critical as environmental rights and protections have been eroded and promised reforms have not been forthcoming.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)