CAPE is in the House!

By Jane McArthur, Toxics Program Director

A mention by a parliamentarian in the House of Commons during committee deliberations on a bill is a pretty clear indication of having been noticed. That is exactly what happened in the final meeting of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (ENVI) during their clause-by-clause consideration of Bill S-5 to modernize the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).

NDP MP Laurel Collins, in her efforts to see support for amendments put forward by Liberal MP Patrick Weiler and Bloc Québécois MP Monique Pauze that would incorporate action on air quality in the implementation framework of the right to a healthy environment section of the bill, noted 

“I’m sure other members have gotten the outreach from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, really emphasizing the importance of ensuring that we are tackling the issue of air quality…They quote the UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, David Boyd, and say that one area where CEPA is failing is clean air…Air pollution is the single-greatest environmental risk to human health and one of the main avoidable causes of death and disease globally.” 

She went on to urge everyone to support legally enforceable air quality standards. While there was not enough support for passage within this bill, intel points to a future remedy. 

CAPE has engaged at every stage of the bill since it was first introduced in the Senate in February 2022. The impacts of our CEPA Reform advocacy have been realized along each step of this bill’s progression. From issuing press releases with coalition partners, to training supporters on MP meetings, the submission of briefs on priority amendments to both the Senate and House environment committees, meeting with Senators, MPs, and government officials, online actions seeking support for amendment proposals, and testifying before committees – CAPE staff, board members, and supporters have sent a clear message that a strengthened Bill S-5 and a modernized CEPA would better protect the health of people in Canada.

In addition, the recent Advocacy and Mobilization Program (AMP) Lobby Day saw CAPE physicians, nurses and health care providers in face to face meetings with multiple MPs and Senators.  The power of the health care voice – from the personal stories and connections to environmental health concerns, along with the presentation of the hard asks on Bill S-5 – was evident. 

Decision-makers are paying attention to CAPE and the critical work we are all doing together for planetary health! Without the sustained advocacy of our CAPE and our allies it is unlikely that this bill nor the strengthening amendments that were adopted would have come to pass.

If you haven’t yet messaged your MP for their support of Bill S-5 to update Canada’s most important environmental law, click here for our easy online action:

And stay tuned for updates on what the final version of the bill will be as it makes its way through these final steps in parliament in the coming months! 

For now, here’s the latest communications from our coalition: