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June 4, 2009
7:19 AM

CONTACT: Friends of the Earth Canada

Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, (613) 241-0085x26 or (613) 724-8690 cellular
Jody Lownds, Environmental Justice campaigner (250) 814-4117 cellular

Majority of Provinces Fail on Provision of Environmental Rights

Friends of the Earth Canada releases First Annual Score Card on Environmental Rights

OTTAWA - June 4 - On the eve of World Environment Day, Friends of the Earth Canada releases its first annual Score Card of Environmental Rights available in law to the people of Canada.  In the face of inadequate action by governments to protect our climate, water and other environmental assets, FOE assessed the rights available to individuals in Canada to take action to protect the environment.

Friends of the Earth determined that nine out of 13 political jurisdictions fail to provide adequate environmental rights to individuals residing in that jurisdiction. FOE analyzed  environmental rights “on the books” of each province and territory and of the federal government and scored them from “A” for Excellent down to “F” for No Effort.  A grade of “C+” was necessary to achieve a passing grade. 

Six of the 13 jurisdictions have unacceptable provisions for the most basic of environmental rights – that of information and notification (Alberta, Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, PEI and Saskatchewan).  Only five jurisdictions received a passing score for their public participation rights (Yukon “B”, Ontario “B”, and British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Quebec all with “C+”) and only two passed on the requirement for Government Response or Feedback (Ontario “B” and Canada “C+”)

“Here’s a prime case where green rhetoric has oversold the reality of environmental rights for the people of Canada.  The inadequacy of our environmental rights is shocking,” says Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada.  “Furthermore, we are dismayed to see the discrepancy between jurisdictions in the environmental rights afforded Canadians.  Every individual in Canada should have equal environmental rights to do their part to protect the environment.”

“This cross-Canada snapshot reveals a surprising absence of environmental rights measures that should be the building blocks for democracy,” says the report author Jody Lownds, FOE’s Environmental Justice Campaigner. “We want to work with people and groups across Canada to make sure all individuals in Canada in every province and territory can access equal environmental rights.” In order to do so, Friends of the Earth has developed a “Straight A” score card to describe what constitutes a full suite of environmental rights.
Friends of the Earth’s First Annual Environmental Rights Score Card assigns final grades:
- three jurisdictions are the worst performers – Alberta, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island scored “D” Newfoundland and Labrador hovered slightly above with “D+”
- four jurisdictions scored failing grades of “C” or “C-“ namely British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia
- three jurisdictions scored average performances of “C+” Quebec, the Northwest Territories and the federal government.
- The Yukon received the highest score of “B+”.
- Ontario received the second highest score of “B”.

Friends of the Earth cautions that there is probably an implementation gap – even when these environmental rights are on the books, they may not be satisfactorily delivered.  “That’s what seems to be happening now,” says Jody Lownds.  “Even when jurisdictions provide in law for environmental rights, the existing rights are not always fully implemented by the governments in charge or perhaps not widely used by citizens.”

As a case in point, there is a seldom used provision under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 wherein an individual can request an investigation if they believe there is a violation of that Act or regulations made under that Act.  Earlier this week, FOE helped Mr. Allan Williams, a Newfoundland resident, use this provision to request an investigation of alleged violations by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador for releases of PCBs to the environment in excess of regulated limits.

Detailed Report - Standing on Guard: Enviromental Rights in Canada, 2009




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