If given real emphasis, the right to a healthy environment would strengthen protections for communities and individuals across Canada, particularly those in vulnerable situations, such as people living in polluted communities or individuals exposed to biologically toxic chemicals. are more vulnerable to damage caused by contact. .
Bill C-28 requires the government to create a framework for enforcing the right to a healthy environment that elaborates on environmental justice – avoiding adverse effects that adversely affect vulnerable populations – and enacting laws. For sure the principle of non-regression cannot be weakened.
While a framework could help address the embarrassing environmental inequality faced by many black, Indigenous and people of color and low-income communities in Canada, placing these requirements directly into operational sections of CEPA, rather than placing them in a single section Will be more empowered to move to the About Framework document.
Bill C-28 will begin to address the cumulative effects of a range of toxic chemicals and harmful pollutants. Cumulative effect assumes that people are exposed to more than one hazardous substance at a time.
In places like Chemical Valley near Sarnia Ontario, many chemical plants and refineries emit pollution that affects neighboring communities such as the Aamjivanang First Nation, creating a “toxic soup” of air pollution. The new law would require the federal government to consider available information on the cumulative effects of various substances when assessing chemicals and pollution risks. Assessing the cumulative impacts could lead to stronger regulation of industry in pollution hotspots such as the Chemical Valley.
For the first time under CEPA, Bill C-28 requires the federal government to take vulnerable populations into account when making decisions about the regulation of toxic substances. Bill C-28 defines a vulnerable population as a group of individuals who, due to greater sensitivity or greater exposure, may be at risk of experiencing adverse health effects from exposure to substances.
Bill C-28 would also require the federal government to prioritize the prohibition of substances of “highest risk.” However, the bill defines “highest risk” for regulation, and the term “highest risk” is open to debate as to which substances actually constitute the “highest” level of risk. While amendments to CEPA have long been needed to prohibit substances highly toxic to human health, Bill C-28 uses confusing language and leaves the details to future unspecified regulation.
All federal parties must now make it a political priority to strengthen and pass Bill C-28. In a minority parliament, there is no time to waste and all politicians should work together to take this bill to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for review and important amendments.
Canadians can’t wait 21 more years to muster up the courage to update the federal government Canadian environmental protection act and finally provide environmental justice which it has rejected many of its constituents.
It was written with contributions from Sean O’Shea of the EcoJustice communications team.
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