Federal government failing First Nations on drinking water promise: report

February 9, 2017 / BlueDot.ca

OTTAWA — The federal government will not meet its commitment to end all drinking water advisories affecting First Nations communities by 2020 without significant changes to current processes, according to a new report, Glass half empty? Year 1 progress toward resolving drinking water advisories in nine First Nations in Ontario.

Released by the David Suzuki Foundation and Council of Canadians, and with advisers Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the report assesses the federal government’s progress in nine First Nations across Ontario. With 81 active DWAs — more than any other province — Ontario provides a snapshot of Canada’s First Nations water crisis.

“We are calling on the government to work with First Nations to make necessary changes to the way it addresses the lack of safe drinking water in First Nation communities,” said David Suzuki Foundation Ontario science projects manager Rachel Plotkin. “At present, it is not on track to meet its promise.” Continue reading

Blue Dot’s next challenge: Federal Environmental Rights

November 16, 2016 | By Amy Juschka for BlueDot.ca

Today in Montreal, David Suzuki will announce the second phase of the Blue Dot movement.

“In two short years, more than 100,000 people have joined the Blue Dot movement for environmental rights, and 145 cities and towns have recognized these rights at the local level,” Suzuki said. “We’ve reached a critical mass and are now turning to the next phase of this campaign — a federal environmental bill of rights.”

Suzuki and a panel of experts will be joined online and in person for a national town hall to plan this next phase of the campaign. It seeks the legal recognition of the right to a healthy environment — including the right to clean air and water, safe food and a stable climate — for everyone in Canada. This is a major step towards the campaign’s ultimate objective of enshrining environmental rights in our Constitution, something already enjoyed by 110 countries worldwide, but not Canada.

“Donald Trump’s recent victory in the United States demonstrates the importance of guaranteeing rights to environmental protection,” Suzuki said. “Issues as important as clean air and water should not be left at the mercy of political cycles.” Continue reading

Blue Dot goes to Parliament Hill

15 October 2016 / By Alaya Boisver for BlueDot.ca

On September 28, 2016 the David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice co-hosted a reception on Parliament Hill about the future of environmental rights and responsibilities in Canada.

Our goal was to introduce Members of Parliament (MPs) and their staff to the Blue Dot movement and the call for legal protection of everyone’s right to a healthy environment through a gold-standard federal environmental bill of rights. Continue reading

Nature’s right to exist gets a boost from key organizations

/ Mike Gaworecki for Mongabay

The United Nations and the world’s largest conservation organization are both pushing for equal rights for nature.

  • The more than 1,300 members from over 170 countries of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) signalled their support for nature’s inherent right to exist at the organization’s most recent World Conservation Congress, held in Hawaii last month.
  • These actions on the part of the IUCN will in turn help boost the efforts of wildlife conservation conventions such as CITES, which are especially crucial in the midst of skyrocketing illicit trade in endangered species, according to Linda Sheehan, executive director of the California-based Earth Law Center.
  • In August, just before IUCN members convened in Hawaii, the UN released a report prepared by 120 experts in economics, education, ethics, law, science, and other disciplines that recommended the rights of nature be included in our governance systems.
In 2008, Ecuador became the first country to enshrine in its constitution the right of nature to exist and thrive. Then Bolivia passed its Law of the Rights of Mother Earth in 2010, which not only recognizes the natural world’s rights but also grants Earth what’s been called a “legal personality,” thereby allowing legal action to be brought on the planet’s behalf by its representatives — namely, mankind.At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012, countries adopted a document titled “The future we want” that took a tentative step toward rights for nature by recognizing that it’s necessary to promote harmony with nature in order to achieve a just balance between the needs of current and future generations.Efforts are now underway in countries around the world to enact laws based on the same principle. Numerous communities and municipalities in the U.S. have already passed laws — often known as a “Community Bill of Rights” — establishing the rights of nature and humans to clean air, pure water, and healthy ecosystems. In fact, in 2014, an ecosystem in Pennsylvania filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit in defense of its own rights, the first action of its kind.

Now the United Nations and the world’s largest conservation organization are both pushing for equal rights for nature, as well.

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The Constitutional Right to a Healthy Environment

from Law Now

by David R. Boyd, Ph.D., J.D.

January, 2013

Fifty years ago, the concept of a human right to a healthy environment was viewed as a novel, even radical, idea. Today it is widely recognized in international law and endorsed by an overwhelming proportion of countries. Even more importantly, despite their recent vintage, environmental rights enjoy constitutional protection in over 100 countries. These provisions are having a remarkable impact, including stronger environmental laws, better enforcement of those laws, landmark court decisions, the cleanup of pollution hotspots, and the provision of safe drinking water.

Canada, unfortunately, is a holdout. Our constitution does not mention the environment, and Canada is one of a dwindling number of countries that refuse to recognize the right to a healthy environment. There are six compelling reasons why Canada needs to modernize its constitution to include this fundamental human right.

First, Canada trails behind other countries when it comes to protecting the environment. According to the Conference Board of Canada, we rank 15th out of 17 large, wealthy, industrialized countries on a comprehensive index of environmental performance indicators. A study done by Simon Fraser University researchers ranked Canada’s environmental record 24th out of 25 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Our magnificent natural heritage is at risk.

Second, our poor environmental record inflicts a high cost on human health and well-being. The World Health Organization estimates that 30,000 premature deaths in Canada each year are caused in whole or in part by environmental hazards. This eye-opening figure is consistent with research done by the Canadian Medical Association estimating that air pollution alone causes tens of thousands of premature deaths (and billions of dollars in preventable health care costs) annually.

Third, the constitution’s silence on environmental protection has been acknowledged as problematic for more than 100 years. Back in 1912, Prime Minister Laurier’s Commission on Conservation reported that constitutional uncertainty about environmental protection was undermining efforts to address water pollution. In 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada came within a whisker of striking down critical provisions of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act because of the absence of a clear constitutional basis for the law.

Fourth, environmental rights and responsibilities have been a cornerstone of Indigenous legal systems for millennia. For the Haida, the Anishinabek, and the Mi’kmaq, the Earth’s sentience creates corresponding rights and obligations for both humans and Nature. As the Supreme Court of Canada has repeatedly observed, incorporating Indigenous law into the Canadian legal system is an important step toward reconciliation with Aboriginal people.

Fifth, as of 2012, 177 of the world’s 193 UN member nations recognize this right, either through their constitution, environmental legislation, court decisions, or ratification of an international agreement. The only remaining holdouts are the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, China, Oman, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Brunei Darussalam, Lebanon, Laos, Myanmar, North Korea, Malaysia, and Cambodia. The rapid spread of this right is remarkable, given that its first formal articulation came just 40 years ago in the Stockholm Declaration that emerged from the first global earth summit. Today, citizens in 108 nations – from Argentina to Zambia – enjoy a constitutionally protected right to a healthy environment. In more than 100 countries, the right is explicitly recognized in environmental legislation. As well, 120 countries – in Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa – have signed legally binding human rights treaties that include the right to a healthy environment.

Sixth, an overwhelming majority of Canadians – over ninety percent – believe that governments should recognize their right to a healthy environment. Indeed, a majority of Canadians erroneously believe that the right to a healthy environment is already included in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Would constitutional recognition of environmental rights and responsibilities make a difference in Canada? Based on our own experience with advances in respect for human rights since repatriation of the constitution in 1982, and the experiences of other nations where the right to a healthy environment enjoys constitutional status, the answer is definitely yes. There has been tremendous progress in protecting certain human rights in Canada since 1982, as demonstrated by the sea change in respect for Aboriginal rights and the affirmation – both legal and more importantly cultural – of same-sex marriage.

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