Madam Speaker, the importance of the bill and what I wanted to underscore is that it is operative.
Earlier today, of all coincidences, I was speaking at a conference marking the 40th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms at the University of Ottawa law school with many brilliant people. I was not one of the brilliant people, but I was invited anyway. We were reflecting on 40 years of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and what was missing: What do we need going forward? There were perspectives on the need for socio-economic rights, that we address the enormous income inequality that is growing in Canada and globally, that we address the needs that we express in terms of human rights, but also the rights that were missing from the charter. We spoke of the importance of addressing this gap through environmental rights.
I will note parenthetically that Bill C-226, while being complementary to this right that we should have but do not yet have, we will not have this right if Bill S-5 passes and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act amendments do not create environmental rights as they should, but perhaps we can fix that through amendments.
What are rights without tools to enforce them? The environmental justice program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has, since 1994, created tools that can be used by communities, indigenous communities, people of colour communities, Black communities and low-income communities, who have been historically, and are to this day, deprived of a healthy environment, because they do not have the clout of white, wealthy neighbours. The tools are to hire a toxicologist, to hire an epidemiologist, and are so abbreviated and so well known in the U.S., the EJ program of the U.S. EPA. Environmental justice: that is what we are here for.