Your Rights under the Environmental Bill of Rights
The Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) gives everyone certain environmental rights and responsibilities. That means that all of us - citizens, politicians, policy-makers, lawyers, business people and activists - have legal rights and formal procedures for participating in environmental matters. Here's what rights you have under the EBR:
Right to Notice
Because you can't participate in environmental decision-making if you don't know what decisions are being proposed, the EBR requires that certain government ministries let you know about the environmental Acts, regulations and policies they're drafting. The Environmental Registry gives you that information. It's an easy-to-use Internet database that keeps you up to date on environmental proposals, decisions, court cases and other related information.
The EBR also requires that government ministries develop Statements of Environmental Values (SEVs) to guide ministry staff when they make environmentally significant decisions. The SEVs, which are posted on the Environmental Registry, describe how ministries will integrate environmental values with social, economic and scientific considerations when they make environmentally significant decisions.
Right to Review and Comment
You have the right to review and comment on proposed laws and standards. Instructions for this are included right on the relevant Environmental Registry posting. Ministries are obligated to consider your comments before decisions are finalized.
Right to Appeal Ministry Decisions
The EBR gives you the right to apply for leave to appeal certain ministry decisions, such as the licences, permits, approvals and other instruments issued to industrial and commercial facilities. You should contact the ECO or consult a lawyer to proceed with an appeal.
Right to Apply for a Review
The EBR gives you a formal process for proposing that existing environmental Acts, regulations, instruments or policies be reviewed, changed or improved. You can also ask the government to consider establishing new ones.
Right to Apply for an Investigation
If you think that environmental Acts or regulations are being broken, you can ask the government to investigate the alleged violation. In some cases, you can go to court if you're still not satisfied with a ministry's response to your request.
Right to Sue
The EBR gives you the right to sue someone (for example, a polluter) for causing environmental harm to a public resource. In addition, if you experience economic or personal loss because of a public nuisance that's causing environmental harm, you can now sue for personal damages.
The EBR gives you added protection if you "blow the whistle" on the unsafe environmental practices of your employer. You now have legal protection from harassment if you report spills, unlawful emissions or other hazardous activities at your workplace.
What's My Next Step?
These resources are your guide to the Environmental Bill of Rights. It's not meant to answer all of your questions or as legal advice, but it will get you started on the right track. If you need more information, please contact the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.