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The basic necessities of health, well-being and life shouldn't be subject to the shifting agendas of political parties.
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I recently travelled across Canada with David Suzuki Foundation staff, from St. John's to Victoria and up to Yellowknife, joined by friends and allies along the way. To resolve the serious environmental issues we face in Canada and beyond, we need people from across the country and all walks of life to join together to make protecting the people and places we love a priority.
While Winnipeg residents enjoy clean water, the people of Shoal Lake 40 suffer from substandard water. It's an abrogation of the basic right of all Canadians to have access to clean, safe drinking water. The fact that such deplorable conditions persist in places like Shoal Lake, and in hundreds of other First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities across Canada, is a national shame and must be resolved immediately.
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.
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Earlier this week, I learned that the Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE) has decided to drop its investigation into an April 2013 chemical leak at a Shell refinery in Sarnia. Why? According to an MOE spokesperson, there wasn't enough evidence to proceed further.
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The Charter is Canada's highest law and it applies to all levels of government across the country. It gives each of us inalienable rights -- ones that protect us from discrimination and guarantee our right to life, liberty and security of the person. We believe the Charter should include environmental rights too.
So how do we ensure that all Canadians have the right to enjoy clean air and water and healthy food? We could follow the lead of more than half the world's nations and enshrine the right to a healthy environment in our Constitution's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That's one of the goals of the Blue Dot Tour
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How can anyone who has even seen a photo of the Earth treat our small blue home with disdain and carelessness? How can anyone fail to recognize how precious and finite the resources, especially water, are -- and that we must share and care for what we have?
Canada was once seen as a country where respect for each other and our land, air, water and biodiversity were valued. Now, some government leaders and their industry and media supporters threaten those who dare question the mad scramble for short-sighted, short-term profits at the expense of the environment, our health and the world's climate systems, and label us "radicals."
Canada is blessed with some of the last vestiges of pristine nature on Earth -- unbroken forests, coastlines and prairies, thousands of rivers, streams and lakes, open skies, abundant fresh air.
We are also defined by our Constitution. Our Constitution's Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives us freedom of expression, equal protection from discrimination and the right to life, liberty and security of the person. But it doesn't mention the environment. How can we fully enjoy our freedoms without the right to live in a healthy environment?
In 1971, Bhutan, nestled in the Himalayas between China and India, rejected the idea of gross domestic product as the measure of progress. Instead, leaders focused on gross national happiness. Life expectancy in Bhutan has doubled over the past 20 years. Our leaders could brighten all our lives by considering what really makes our societies strong, healthy and happy.