Enviromental Commissioner of Ontario - Our Enviroment... Your Rights / Commissaire a l'environnement de l'Ontario: Notre environnment ... vos droits

Frequently Asked Questions

About The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

About the Environmental Bill of Rights

Statements of Environmental Values

About the Environmental Registry

Reviewing and commenting on proposals on the Registry

Appeals and Tribunals

Applications for Review or Investigation

Right to Sue

Protection from Employer Reprisals

Environmental Assessment

About The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

What does the ECO do?
Please see About the ECO.

Who is the ECO?
Gord Miller has been the Environmental Commissioner since 2000.

What are the Commissioner's key responsibilities and powers?

Can the ECO force the government to change the law, or undertake a review or investigation?
No. However, the ECO reviews how ministers handle public comments on issues and requests for investigations and reviews (which often pose questions about existing laws and policies). Each year he produces an annual report to the Legislature, in which he comments on these activities of the ministries, and points out the need for law reform in certain areas.

Can the ECO undertake a review or investigation itself?
No. The ECO does not have the legal authority to commence reviews or investigations in the same manner that other provincial agencies, such as the Ontario Provincial Police and the Ombudsman can.

Where can I get a copy of current and past ECO Annual Reports?
You can download them from the Publications section of our website, read them online, or you can contact our office to order hard copies or a flash drive containing a full archive.

What is the Supplement?
Each year the ECO receives dozens of applications under the EBR, and only a handful can be reported in summary form in the Annual Report. The Supplement contains in-depth analyses of applications, comments, and the ministries' responses to them; as well as reports on various other responsibilities of the ECO, such as tracking of unposted decisions, information notices on the Registry, and a record of applications for leave to appeal of instruments. You can download the Supplements from the corresponding Annual Report page.

Does the ECO offer training to the public on using the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR)?
Yes. The ECO's public information officer is available to give presentations explaining Ontario residents' rights under the EBR. This service is available to groups, organizations, or classes that have an interest in using the rights offered. Presentations can be tailored for specific audiences but are generally between 20 minutes and one hour in length. Depending on the size of the group, these presentations can be at the ECO's downtown Toronto office or at a location of your organization's choosing. You can also see an information presentation here.

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About the Environmental Bill of Rights

What is the Environmental Bill of Rights?
The Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) gives you a mechanism to participate in ministry decisions about the environment, and hold the government accountable for these actions. For more information please see About the Environmental Bill of Rights.

Which ministries are subject to the EBR?
Please see our list of ministries prescribed under the EBR.

What Acts, regulations, policies and instruments are prescribed under the EBR?
Please see the list here.

Are federal policies, Acts, regulations and approvals subject to the application provisions of the EBR and the Environmental Registry? Are the laws and policies of other provinces (e.g. Manitoba, British Columbia) subject to the EBR?
No. The EBR only applies to prescribed Ontario ministries and activities that can be investigated or reviewed by provincial officials. However, activities regulated by the federal government are potentially also subject to EBR applications, depending on the fact situation.

Does the EBR apply to municipalities and municipal by-laws?
No, but please see Municipalities and The Environmental Bill of Rights.

Where can I get a copy of the EBR?
You can download it from the e-laws website.

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Statements of Environmental Values

What are Statements of Environmental Values?
The Statement of Environmental Values (SEV) is a ministry statement that guides the ministry when it makes decisions that might affect the environment. For more information, please see Statements of Environmental Values.

Where can I get a copy of a ministry's SEV?
You can get them from the Environmental Registry website (they are listed on the right hand side).

How can I use SEVs?
You can refer to the SEVs when you are drafting comments on proposals on the Registry, or preparing applications for investigation and review to be filed under the EBR. You can also comment on whether a Registry proposal or decision reflects the goals of the EBR and is consistent with the ministry's SEV. For more information, please see Statements of Environmental Values.

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About the Environmental Registry

What is the Environmental Registry?
The Environmental Registry is a searchable electronic database of the Ontario government's environmentally significant proposals and decisions. For more information, please see our Environmental Registry page.

What types of things are posted on the Environmental Registry?
Prescribed ministries use the Registry to notify you of their proposals, decisions and exceptions regarding policies, Acts, instruments, or regulations that could significantly affect the environment.

How can I access the Environmental Registry?
You can access the Environmental Registry at www.ebr.gov.on.ca. There is also a permanent link on the left-hand side of this website.

Does it cost anything to search the Environmental Registry?
There is no cost (aside from the cost of your Internet access).

I don't live in Ontario. Can I comment on a proposal on the Registry?
Yes you can. There are no residency restrictions with respect to whom can comment on proposals.

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Reviewing and commenting on proposals on the Registry

How can I comment on proposals for Acts, regulations, policies and instruments that are posted on the Environmental Registry?
The ministries are required to post certain proposals for environmentally significant decisions on the Environmental Registry. More information about how to review and comment is available here.

How much time do I have to submit a comment?
Normally you have at least 30 days to comment on a proposal. In many cases, the ministries provide longer comment periods on proposals for Acts, regulations or policies. This information will be on the Registry posting itself.

If I submit a comment, who will see it?
Comments submitted under the EBR are part of the public record, and the content may be viewed by ministry and ECO staff and members of the public. Some privacy protections apply based on the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). If your comment is submitted online, the text of your comment will be viewable on the Registry by the public once the ministry makes its decision and posts a decision notice.

Do not include personal identifiers in your on-line submission. If you include personal identifiers in your on-line submission such as information about your location or neighbours, your comment will not be viewable on-line and only will be available for viewing, on request, at a ministry office and after personal identifiers have been blacked out. Your e-mail address and other related information supplied to the Ontario government to access the on-line comment feature will not be linked to your comment and in normal circumstances ministry staff will not be able to identify you.

Once I submit a comment, what happens next?
The ministry is required to consider the comments and, in their decision notice, explain any effects the comments had on the final decision (i.e., if the ministry made changes as a result of the comments). The ECO evaluates the impact of the comments on the final decision, and reviews the proposal against the decision to determine what changes were made.

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Appeals and Tribunals

Do I have any rights to appeal government decisions made under the EBR?
There is no right to appeal decisions made on policies, Acts and regulations. Certain decisions made on instruments by prescribed ministries are subject to appeal. For more information please see Appeal a ministry decision.

What types of decisions can you appeal under the EBR?
Certain decisions on instruments made under the EBR are subject to leave to appeal applications. The decision notice for the instrument (found on the Registry) usually indicates whether a leave to appeal application can be launched and where to file the application.

Who can appeal a decision?
Any resident of Ontario can file a leave to appeal application, including an incorporated group.

When must you apply to appeal?
You have 15 days to file your appeal. Holidays and weekends are counted in the 15-day period. The 15-day period is extended by a day if the last day of the appeal period lands on a holiday, as provided by the Legislation Act.

Can I join an appeal already underway?
Yes. Section s. 47(7) of the EBR provides that residents can apply to join in an appeal that is already underway. Please contact the relevant tribunal for details on their procedures and rules.

When must you send your application requesting to participate in an appeal?
Please contact the relevant tribunal for details on their procedures and rules.

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Applications for Review or Investigation

What is an Application for Review?
You can ask a minister to review existing policies and prescribed Acts, regulations, and instruments. Or you can ask a minister to review the need for new Acts, regulations and policies. For more information, see Apply for a Review or Apply for an Investigation.

Where can I get a copy of the form for making an Application for Review?
You can download a copy from here, or Contact the ECO.

What is an Application for Investigation?
Any two Ontario residents can join together to ask a ministry to investigate if they think someone has contravened or violated an environmentally significant Act, regulation, or instrument. For more information, click here.

How do I submit an Application for Investigation?
Click here. For more information, contact the ECO.

Can the ECO help me write my application?
The ECO cannot do the work for you, but can help you understand the process and make sure your application is complete.

Do I have to pay a fee to make an application for review or investigation under the EBR?
No.

If I submit an application for review or investigation under the EBR, do I have to give my name?
To make an application for review or investigation, you and your co-applicant must both be Ontario residents. Your application must include your names, addresses and proof of Ontario residency. The ministries are required by law to keep your personal information confidential. This means that only a small number of staff at each ministry will know your name. Your name may become public if you are asked by a ministry, and agree, to provide formal evidence in a court related to your application.

What does the ECO do with the personal information provided in an application for review or investigation?
The ECO enters the information on its internal database and uses the information to prepare reply correspondence. The ECO has policies which require staff to keep the names of applicants confidential. Staff also are prohibited from removing application files from the ECO premises.

What happens after I make an application for review or investigation?
You can find a complete rundown of the process at Apply for a Review and Apply for an Investigation.

If I don't like the government's decision on my application, do I have a right to appeal?
No. However, the ECO reviews how ministers handle requests for investigations and reviews and he comments upon decisions in his Annual Reports to the Legislature and Supplements.

Will my application for review or investigation be reported in the ECO's Annual Report?
All applications are reviewed in the Supplements to ECO's annual reports, which you can download from our Annual Reports and Supplements page. Selected applications are highlighted in the Annual Report. The ECO's reporting period ends on March 31st each year, and decisions on applications made after that date normally are covered in the following reporting period.

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Right to Sue

How can I sue over harm to a public resource?
Please see How to sue to protect a public resource.

How can I sue over a public nuisance?
Please see How to sue over a public nuisance.

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Protection from Employer Reprisals

How can I protect myself from punishment by my employer for participating in the EBR process, or for reporting my employer for violating an environmental law?
Please see Protection from employer reprisals.

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Environmental Assessment

How does the EBR apply to the Environmental Assessment Act?
Please see Got a question about Environmental Assessment?


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