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environmental rights

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act is Canada's most important environmental law. And yet, in the likely event that you are not an environmental lawyer, you have probably never heard of it.
When I first heard about the Women's March on Washington back in November, I felt called to get involved. I've used my words and my voice over the years, but have never physically marched. It was finally the time! I decided to stand with the thousands of other concerned citizens and march in solidarity here in Toronto.
As astrology predicted, what happened during the conjunction of Uranus and Pluto in the '60s, would manifest globally when these two planets reached their first square. If you haven't heard, we just came out of a three-year period (2012 to 2015) where we experienced seven exact squares of Uranus and Pluto!
Ontario's health-based air quality standard for benzene is set to become law on July 1, 2016. Yet Ontario's Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is working to accommodate a request from two of the province's largest industrial benzene emitters -- the petroleum refining and petrochemical manufacturing industries.
Many communities in Nova Scotia are fortunate enough to live in an environment that is healthy -- the air is clean, they have ready access to clean water, and the land is free from harmful levels of contamination. But some communities are less fortunate.
Whether included in an existing law such as the Canadian Environmental Protection Act or by way of a new statute, national and enforceable air pollution standards would be a step towards a more equitable society, in which disadvantaged communities aren't left bearing more than their fair share of the national environmental health burden.
International law has decreed that denying civilians access to the basic necessities of life is a war crime. Yet according to experts we spoke with, there is still too little global awareness and action to protect vital water resources in war zones.
Many Canadians see our country as a human rights leader, but a United Nations committee says we should do better. In early March, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights concluded that Canada's lack of environmental protection and climate action mars our rights record. This recognition may be just emerging in international human rights law, but it's nothing new to Indigenous people and many others who directly depend on nature for food and livelihood.
When I was a boy, we drank water from lakes and streams without a thought. I never imagined that one day we would buy water in bottles for more than we pay for gasoline. Canada has more fresh water per capita than any nation, but many indigenous communities don't have access to clean drinking water. Surely, in a nation with so much natural wealth, we should expect better appreciation, treatment and protection of the air, water, soil and rich biological diversity that our health, prosperity and happiness depend on. The right to live in a healthy environment is recognized by more than 110 nations -- but not Canada.
The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act sets high standards but without the adequate funding, leaves communities without the necessary tools to meet those standards. Despite repeated pledges from the federal government to ensure clean drinking water, there are routinely more than 100 water advisories in effect in First Nation communities, with some living under advisories for up to 20 years.
Turning a blind eye to the links between race, socio-economic status, and environmental risks doesn't make the issue any less real. The fact is, environmentally harmful activities take place in some communities more than others. The proposed Act to Address Environmental Racism in Nova Scotia is a powerful step in that direction.
At any given time, there are thousands of Canadians who cannot safely drink the water out of the taps in their homes. In some extreme cases, they may not even have indoor plumbing. The worst part is that for many, help isn't on the way.
The Supreme Court of Canada's disappointing decision to reject a class action, launched by Nova Scotians who say their health has been compromised by the notorious Sydney tar ponds, has shed more unflattering light on the state of environmental justice in Canada.
By almost any measure, Canada fares surprisingly poorly when it comes to protecting the environment. In 2013, the Conference Board of Canada ranked us 15th out of 17 countries based on a wide range of environmental metrics. Yet as anyone who has paddled a river, hiked a trail, or spent time in Canada's gazillion wild and beautiful places will know, this is a country that should be leading the world on green performance.
The idea of a right to a healthy environment is getting traction at Canada's highest political levels. Federal Opposition MP Linda Duncan recently introduced "An Act to Establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights" in Parliament. If it's passed, our federal government will have a legal duty to protect Canadians' right to live in a healthy environment.