The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

David R. Boyd, Alaya Boisvert, Lynda M. Collins and Kaitlyn Mitchell

Climate law

The case for constitutional environmental rights

By David R. Boyd, Alaya Boisvert, Lynda M. Collins and Kaitlyn Mitchell March 8, 2017 8 March 2017

The case for constitutional environmental rights

 

Nine in 10 Canadians believe the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms should protect their right to live in a healthy environment. It doesn’t, and the question is whether it’s worth the effort to try to amend the Constitution to include it.

Everyone knows changing the Charter is a huge challenge. But as is often the case, the hardest things are the most worth doing. Efforts to expand the scope of human rights often seem almost impossible in the beginning. Ask abolitionists, suffragettes or other civil rights activists.

The right to live in a healthy environment enjoys constitutional protection in more than 100 countries, from Norway and Finland to Brazil and Costa Rica. Empirical evidence demonstrates that this can be a game-changer. Adding environmental rights and responsibilities to a constitution leads directly to enactment of stronger environmental laws, improved enforcement of those laws, increased public participation in environmental decision-making and preventing roll-backs of key environmental laws. Most importantly, it also leads to better environmental outcomes.

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