Public opinion reaches tipping point on environmental rights

December 13, 2016

From a Canadian Environmental Law Associaiton media release: A Nanos poll released today shows Ontarians overwhelmingly favour legal recognition of environmental rights — including the right to clean air and water — and want stricter laws to protect the environment.

The public opinion poll, conducted November 14 to 19, found nine of 10 Ontarians believe the provincial government has the responsibility to ensure a healthy environment for all, and 97 per cent support the right to clean air and water.

The poll results come while the Ontario government is under increasing public pressure to act on a number of environmental health issues, including drinking water advisories and air quality concerns in First Nations communities.

"Human life, health and dignity depend on access to clean air, water and land," said Ecojustice staff lawyer Kaitlyn Mitchell. "Unfortunately, environmental hazards in this province affect some communities more than others. No matter where you live or who your political connections are, you should have the right to a healthy environment. That's why it’s time for our government to act."

Ontarians also report they are not opposed to stricter laws to protect the environment. Seven of 10 residents disagreed that environmental laws in Ontario are too strict.

"These results clearly highlight that the environment is important to the values of Ontarians," said Faisal Moola, director-general of Ontario and Northern Canada at the David Suzuki Foundation. "Many don’t believe our existing laws are strong enough and are looking to government to do more."

The provincial government is reviewing Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights, and will publicly release its plans to improve the bill early next year. In response to the auditor general's annual report, Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray recently remarked that the province's environmental assessment process also needs improvement, though he stopped short of making commitments.

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