Private Member’s Bill C-219 has a number of interesting parts, which should make people wary about the intent and purpose of it. It was introduce by N.D.P. M.P. Richard Cannings. As always, it can’t be assured that this won’t become law, or be embedded into other legislation at some point.
This Bill is to enact the Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights. Sounds harmless enough, doesn’t it? Let’s see what it says.
Paramountcy of Principles of Environmental Law
Environmental law principles
5 Every enactment must be interpreted consistently with existing and emerging principles of environmental law, including
(a) the precautionary principle according to which where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage to the environment, lack of full scientific certainty must not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation;
(b) the polluter-pays principle according to which polluters must bear the cost of measures to reduce pollution according to the extent of either the damage done to society or the exceeding of an acceptable level of pollution;
(c) the principle of sustainable development according to which development must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs;
(d) the principle of intergenerational equity according to which present generations of Canadians hold the environment in trust for future generations and have an obligation to use its resources in a way that leaves that environment in the same, or better, condition for future generations; and
(e) the principle of environmental justice according to which there should be a just distribution of environmental benefits and burdens among Canadians, without discrimination on the basis of any ground prohibited by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
To be blunt, this sounds somewhat Communistic. It gives the Government the right to act, even if there isn’t really a scientific or informed basis for doing so. Taken to its logical outcome, property could be seized, or businesses could be shut down in the name of protecting environmental rights.
The “polluter pays” is a reiteration of the climate change/Carbon tax initiatives that are ongoing, and is just wealth redistribution. If Carbon Dioxide is considered pollution, then almost anything can be.
All of this talk about equity and environmental justice also sounds like redistribution, but with language designed to conceal what’s really going on.
Things get interesting when you realize that anyone (at least in theory) can bring a Court challenge to protect their “environmental rights”.
Right of access to courts
9 (1) Every person residing in Canada has the right to bring a matter regarding the protection of the environment before a court or tribunal regardless of whether or not they are directly affected by the matter.
No challenge to standing
(2) The Government of Canada must not challenge the standing of a person residing in Canada to bring a matter regarding the protection of the environment before a court or tribunal on the sole ground that the person is not directly affected by the matter.
Right to request review
10 Every person residing in Canada has the right to request the Auditor General to review, in accordance with section 22 of the Auditor General Act, any Act of Parliament respecting the environment, any instrument made under the authority of such an Act or any environmental policy of the Government of Canada to determine whether, in order to ensure respect for the rights conferred under this Act, it should be amended, repealed or revoked.
Anyone familiar with the Court system knows that you need “standing” to bring a challenge. This means private interest standing (impacts you directly), or public interest standing (impacts society). This Bill would imply that public interest is automatic, so there’d be no need to prove a direct impact.
Also worth noting is that it says anyone “residing in Canada”. It doesn’t specify Canadian citizens. It also doesn’t say that people bringing such challenges have to be in country legally.
It would also amend the Canadian Bill of Rights by adding this section:
Canadian Bill of Rights
37 Paragraph 1(a) of the Canadian Bill of Rights is replaced by the following:
(a) the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person, including to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment as defined in section 2 of the Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights, and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law;
But here’s where that may get tricky: yes, the Bill of Rights mentions property rights. However, when anyone has public interest standing to bring a legal challenge, how secure are your property rights? How would we realistically decide which rights prevail?
And what happens if the Government decides to appropriate your property in some way on the grounds that it violates other people’s rights to a healthy environment?
The Bill’s sponsor, Richard Cannings, is listed 375 times in the Lobby Registry of Federal officials. In fairness though, many of these have nothing to do with the issue at hand.
Cannings’ recent meetings include representatives from:
- Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment Foundation
- Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
- Climate Action Network Canada
- Ecojustice Canada
- Environmental Defence Canada
- Greenpeace Canada
- Nature Canada
- The Nature Conservancy of Canada
- World Wildlife Fund Canada
There’s considerable overlap with Rosa Galvez’s Bill S-243.
It’s fair to ask who wrote Bills C-219 and S-243.
As we’ve seen with the 2005 Quarantine Act, and various Provincial Public Health Acts, harmless sounding legislation can be used as a basis to trample rights. While this environmental “Bill of Rights” seems great at first glance, how would things actually work?