Advancing Environmental Equity: Have Your Say!

As part of the CAPE community of people dedicated to planetary health advocacy, I want you to know about an important opportunity that sits before us right now. 

But first, how did we get to this significant moment?

We finished 2023 riding on the energy of the landmark passage in June of Bill S-5 to modernize the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA). Among other changes that we advocated for, CEPA was amended with:

  • updates for the control of toxic substances and dangerous chemicals; requiring that priority be given to the prohibition of  the most hazardous substances, updates to the framework for assessing and managing toxic substances, and improvements in transparency and accountability
  • the right to a healthy environment is recognized for the first time under federal law with a new duty for the government to uphold the principles of environmental justice, intergenerational equity, and non-regression while also requiring consideration of cumulative impacts of toxics and their effects on vulnerable populations

In addition to CEPA reform advocacy, we’ve been supporting Bill C-226 – the National Strategy Respecting Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice Act since its introduction in early 2022. It’s hard to believe we’ve begun yet another year without this bill becoming law but we remain hopeful and are advocating for it to pass in the coming months.

That brings us to the opportunity right now!

With the right to a healthy environment now law under CEPA and the anticipated legal requirement to develop a national environmental justice strategy, the Government of Canada is inviting all who are interested to share their input on the new right, principles of environmental justice and the implementation of these new legal requirements.

As human health and environmental justice advocates, your expertise and perspectives are valuable to this conversation! You can embrace this critical opportunity and contribute by visiting the Advancing Environmental Equity portal (15-20 minutes to complete).

As an organization, CAPE is contributing to these discussions in many ways. To ensure meaningful contributions to the development of the implementation framework for the right to a healthy environment, the Coalition for Action on Toxics (CAT) (of which we are a member) organized a roundtable with a group of over 25 environmental, health, Indigenous, justice, and legal advocates. The event held on Feb. 2, 2024 generated critical conversations that will be considered in our submissions to the Government as they undertake public consultations on the right. 

We have also participated in meetings and public sessions to share our input on the development of the national strategy for environmental justice and we will make formal recommendations as part of the consultations.

Even while these consultations are underway, with specific questions to be addressed in the near-term, we have not let up on advocacy for further CEPA reform nor redress of environmental racism.

We have been circulating a new briefing note with our request that Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault uphold his promise of the introduction of a second bill to reform CEPA. AMP participants and CAPE staff asked MPs and Senators in dozens of meetings during CAPE’s recent Lobby Day to voice their support with the Minister for a new CEPA bill. You too can request that your MP support the introduction of a second CEPA bill and encourage them to bring it up with the Minister.

We’ve partnered with our friends at the David Suzuki Foundation on a petition to push the Senate to pass Bill C-226 and move it to eventual passage to law as soon as possible. We ask you to please take a minute and sign the petition. We are strategizing as a member of the Canadian Coalition for Environmental and Climate Justice (CCECJ) to ensure passage of this bill.

It is important that we share with the government the best ways to take action on all of these issues. And it is critical that they maximize the opportunity right now to create strong legal frameworks that uphold the right to a healthy environment and environmental justice. Please, visit Advancing Environmental Equity and be a part of this significant moment for change – for human and environmental health and justice. 

Thank you as always for your advocacy.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jane E. McArthur, Ph.D.
Preventing Toxic Exposures Program Director

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