YOUTH VOICE: Everyone has right to safe air, water, food

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms should include a right to a healthy environment, writes youth columnist Japreet Lehal

We have an opportunity in Canada to further support the environment by including in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms a right to a healthy environment.

This includes a right to clean and safe air, water, land and food.

Recently, there has been greater progress and awareness about the environment, both at the international and national level. A charter right can further support this.

Clearly recognizing such a right in our charter can help in the fight against contaminated water, air pollution and dangerous substances. In fact, this is long overdue, as many have already suffered the consequences of these problems.

We need to take action to ensure that no Canadian has to face these issues.

While an existing right in the charter can be raised in a legal context to help support victims of environmental injustice, having a clearly stated right would show a greater commitment. It could help communities prevent and respond to violations of the law which effect their environment by giving them stronger support in the form of a charter right.

According to environmental lawyer and author David R. Boyd, more than 140 countries make “environmental protection” mandatory in their constitutions, of which 98 countries have “a constitutional right to live in a healthy environment” (David Suzuki Foundation, Paper #1, The Importance of Constitutional Recognition of the Right to a Healthy Environment, 2013).

Countries that have taken such action have seen positive results.

According to Devon Page of Ecojustice and Peter Robinson of the David Suzuki Foundation: “These nations rank higher than others on environmental performance, leave smaller ecological footprints and have reduced toxic emissions that impact the health of their citizens.”

They also stated that in our country, there are communities where people do not have clean drinking water. According to a team at Ecojustice, where countries have added protections in their constitution, “there is more citizen participation in environmental decision-making and a reduction in environmental injustices, like exceptionally high levels of pollution in poor and marginalized communities.”

All levels of government should support this initiative. One hundred and forty-two  municipalities across the country have already made declarations for a healthy environment, according to the Blue Dot campaign by the David Suzuki Foundation, which is leading the effort to include this right in the charter.

A healthy environment helps ensure the overall wellbeing of society. A constitutional amendment will require broad support and multiple steps. Motivation and commitment from Canadians and government will help make this idea a reality.

Having a charter right to a healthy environment could help ensure that each and every one of us is able to live in a clean, healthy and safe environment.

Japreet Lehal is a Simon Fraser University graduate pursuing a law degree. He writes monthly for Peace Arch News.

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP detachment. (Contributed file photo)
RCMP investigating report of shots fired in South Surrey

Police say they have not yet found evidence to confirm incident

Bucketheads – A Star Wars Story is being filmed near the 19000-block of 16 Avenue in South Surrey. (Mychaylo Prystupa photos)
Star Wars fan film ‘Bucketheads,’ shot in South Surrey, makes its debut

Volunteer initiative features new LED screen technology

Darlene Bennett, right, speaking about her murdered husband Paul at a press conference in 2018. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Widow of Surrey murder victim seeking referendum vote on policing transition

Darlene Bennett files application with Elections BC seeking binding referendum vote

Canada’s Janet Leung steals second base during playoff action at the Softball Americas Olympic Qualifier tournament in South Surrey on August 31, 2019. Leung and her teammates have not been back to Softball City since, as the 2020 and now ‘21 Canada Cup tournaments have been cancelled. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck photo)
Canada Cup softball event cancelled for second straight year

Travel restrictions, health and safety concerns cited as reasons for cancellation

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

A Mountie issued B.C. RCMP’s first ticket for non-essential travel May 1. (Black Press Media files)
Driver ticketed, told to ‘return to the Lower Mainland immediately’ by Vancouver Island police

The motorist was originally pulled over for driving-related offences May 1

Adam Hamdan has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorist charges given temporary residence in Canada

Adam Hamdan had been facing deportation to Jordan, where he holds citizenship through his Palestinian parents

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Transit Police Const. Peter Kwok was filmed in December during an encounter on the Canada Line when a woman refused to wear a mask. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Woman who went viral by refusing to wear a mask on SkyTrain to pay $460 in fines

Footage of the December incident was recorded by the passenger, herself, and posted to social media

Lumber is shown in the back of a van in this recent image provided by the Saskatoon Police Service. The skyrocketing prices for lumber is fuelling a trend that has authorities across the country warning builders to keep their guard up. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Saskatoon Police Service-Const. Derek Chesney *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘It is a gold mine:’ Builders warned of rising lumber thefts across Canada

Many North American mills curtailed production temporarily earlier in 2020 because of COVID lockdowns

David and Julie Kaplan with their children Estelle and Justin. (Special to The News)
BC family whose move was stopped by COVID border closure back on the road

Maple Ridge’s Kaplan family will arrive at their new home in Nova Scotia on Wednesday

RCMP. (Black Press File)
Major Crimes called in after 2 bodies discovered on remote road near Penticton

A manhunt involving a police helicopter took place on May 10

Most Read