Ontario restores fundamental environmental rights law
The Canadian Environmental Law Association welcomes the government of Ontario’s decision to restore the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1994 (EBR). By way of regulation effective June 15, 2020, Ontario revoked the regulation which had suspended key provisions of the EBR since early April.
The announcement provides a response to the letter from CELA and nearly 50 civil society organizations which raised concerns about the harmful suspension regulation and asked for its immediate repeal. Signatories noted that while emergency measures aimed at protecting the health and well-being of Ontarians during the COVID pandemic are necessary and welcomed, the suspension of the EBR was perilous because it eliminated public knowledge and accompanying rights to weigh in on environmentally significant decisions using the Environmental Registry.
These shared concerns were further profiled in a Request for Review filed by Ecojustice, on behalf of the former Environmental Commissioner Gordon Miller and Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. Again, the applicants urged the province to reinstate the EBR, noting that the removal of the legal obligation for ministries to consider their statements of environmental values undermined government accountability for decisions that might significantly affect the environment.
While the province has released a list of informational bulletins indicating the COVID-19 related matters exempt from the EBR because of the suspension regulation, further action is still needed. To respect the public’s right to know and participate, the province should retroactively disclose all proposals for laws, policies, regulations and instruments which would have been posted for comment, if not for the suspension regulation, and restart the comment period on items which are not urgent COVID-19 actions.
We commend the province’s decision to reinstate Ontarians’ environmental rights and thank everyone who voiced support for EBR and a right to a healthful environment.
Ontario restores Environmental Bill of Rights
From the Wilderness Committee
In early April the Ford government suspended Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights requirements for public postings and consultations on projects with potential environmental impacts, citing the COVID-19 emergency as an excuse. On Monday, those requirements were restored after weeks of public opposition.
Thanks to the 376 of you who spoke up for environmental transparency and democracy in your letters to the editor, the suspension was lifted much earlier than anticipated.
While there’s still work to do to make sure the government is transparent about what projects were approved during the suspension, this is a win for the environmental movement that you were a key part of — great work!
With the Environmental Bill of Rights requirements restored, we can continue to be your environmental watchdog and alert you to ongoing proposals for projects and regulation changes that could have disastrous consequences for wildlife, wetlands and woodlands.
But for now, let’s celebrate a win for environmental democracy and public participation!