10/13/2014 11:39 EDT | Updated 12/13/2014 05:59 EST

Canada's Right to a Healthy Environment Must Be Part of the Charter

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Canada's environmental framework is broken. But a Charter right that protects each and every Canadian's right to a healthy environment could start to repair the damage.

Ecojustice has partnered with the David Suzuki Foundation to share this new vision for how we can revolutionize the way we protect the people and places we love.

This exciting and powerful concept is the focus of our latest special report, The Right to a Healthy Environment: Canada's Time to Act.

After nearly 25 years of fighting for legal precedents to keep our air breathable, water drinkable and communities healthy, we at Ecojustice have become all too familiar with how Canada's environmental laws are failing to protect us.

Canada's patchwork of environmental laws and weak regulatory standards mean that thousands of people, disproportionately those in First Nations communities, do not have access to clean running water. Thousands of others, like our clients Ron Plain and Ada Lockridge of Sarnia, Ont., are subject to harmful levels of air pollution every day. And dozens of toxic chemicals already banned in other wealthy countries can still be legally used within our borders.

These injustices make a clear case for why Canada needs to take bold action and recognize the right to a healthy environment in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Consider that for every new case Ecojustice take on, there are a dozen other communities facing similar threats to their local environment and health. But when it comes to ensuring that every person in Canada can breathe clean air, drink fresh water and live in a healthy community, we shouldn't have to pick our battles.

Groups like Ecojustice can't be everywhere at all times, which is why we need a law that can.

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.

By enshrining the right to a healthy environment in the Charter, we can align our highest law with our most deeply-held values. As our special report explains in more detail, the right to a healthy environment could be a powerful catalyst in improving the quality of our laws, our environment and our health.

In the last 50 years, the right to a healthy environment has gained recognition around the world faster than any other human right. More than 110 countries now recognize their citizens' right to a healthy environment.

Now it's Canada's turn.

This piece was written by Devon Page, Ecojustice's executive director. Ecojustice is one of Canada's leading charities using the law to protect and restore Canada's environment. Learn more at


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