On June 15, the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development tabled its report, Healthy Environment, Healthy Canadians, Healthy Economy: Strengthening the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, and the French version, Un Environnement Sain, des Canadiens et une Économie en Santé : Renforcer la Loi Canadienne sur la Protection de l’environnement (1999).
Called a “ground-breaking” report by the David Suzuki Foundation, this review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) makes 87 recommendations to modernize the law. The Ecojustice blog , “Much to celebrate in committee report on Canadian Environmental Protection Act” summarizes some of the recommendations, including the introduction of national drinking water and air quality standards; “stronger enforcement provisions to ensure polluters are held to account; improved transparency, public reporting and consultation requirements; and faster timelines to ensure regulatory action is taken swiftly once a toxic threat is identified”. Most important, however, is the recommendation that the Act recognize and protect the right of every person in Canada to a healthy environment – a right recognized in 110 other countries.
The reaction from East Coast Environmental Law also notes this right to a healthy environment, and emphasizes the environmental justice implications: “ The Report… suggests that the importance of environmental rights to Indigenous peoples and vulnerable populations should be emphasized. … The Report acknowledges that environmental burdens aren’t shared equitably by communities across Canada, …… it also makes a number of recommendations that address environmental injustice. For example, it recommends that the Act be expanded to include an obligation to protect the environment in a non-discriminatory way; that it enhance the procedural rights that protect access to information, access to justice, and public participation in environmental decision-making; that it address the inequitable burden of toxic exposure in Canada; and that it recognize the principles enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
The response from the David Suzuki Foundation also summarizes the recommendations, and makes clear that these are not yet law. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and eventually Cabinet, will consider the report, with legislation expected in the fall. Ecojustice calls it “ a once-in-a generation opportunity to dramatically improve our most important environmental law.”