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Introducing Bill M236 — Environmental Bill of Rights Act, 2016

Today in the Legislature I introduced a bill intituled Environmental Bill of Rights Act, 2016.

This Bill specifically states that British Columbians have a right to a healthy environment and that it is the government’s responsibility to protect it for this generation as well as those to come. There are five key components to this Bill. The Bill:

  1. outlines the Rights and Responsibilities of the BC Government and its residents when it comes to environmental decision making;
  2. creates a publicly accessible one-stop-shop for environmental information;
  3. ensures that all ministries consider the environmental impacts their operations may be responsible for;
  4. creates an environmental commissioner responsible for investigating violations, providing the public an opportunity to participate in and access the decision making process, and providing regular reports about the state of the B.C. environment.
  5. protects whistle blowers who act to prevent or mitigate environmental damage.

I am no longer confident that the next generation of British Columbians will enjoy the same opportunities that we have today. The problem is that governments are frequently pitting the environment against industry and it doesn’t have to be that way.

The rhetoric that we hear in this province — the forces of no,’ ‘get to yes’ no matter what the question is — is not helpful to anybody, despite the fact that it’s a great sound bite. The intention of my bill is to create the rules in which industry can operate. Industry has crying out for this; the last thing industry wants is uncertainty. They want to know what the rules are. They want to know what the penalties are. They want to know how they can do business in British Columbia.

Municipalities in BC have recently expressed significant support for an Environment Bill of Rights Act, including 47 who have made a declaration affirming British Columbians rights to a healthy environment (in response to the Blue Dot Tour), as well as passing an endorsement at the 2015 UBCM Convention for a provincial bill outlining the same.

It’s time that we moved on from the outdated thinking that every environmental law brought forward is somehow an attack on industry. I have visited projects across British Columbia and the most successful businesses, which also create the greatest benefits for their local economy, are those that account for their impacts on the environment. This should become the norm for anyone who wants to do business in B.C.

Below I reproduce the video and text of the introduction of my bill. I also reproduce the accompanying media statement.


Video of my Introduction



Text of my Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled Environmental Bill of Rights Act, 2016, of which notice has been given in my name, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: Over the past decade, British Columbia has seen steadied erosion of the environmental laws in our province. The lack of any significant climate action from this province is a clear example. By outlining the rights and responsibilities of the B.C. government and the citizens of British Columbia, this bill is designed to complement and expand upon the existing legislation used when decisions impact the environment.

This bill reinforces British Columbians’ right to a healthy environment and the government’s responsibility to protect it for this generation and those to come. A version of this legislation has already been passed in five legislatures across Canada: Ontario, Quebec, Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories.

Furthermore, 47 municipalities in British Columbia have already made declarations concerning their citizens’ rights to a healthy environment. This was reaffirmed at the UBCM convention last fall when a motion was endorsed to call for legislation that grounded this right in environmental law.

I visited resource development projects across British Columbia. The most successful of these, which also create the greatest benefits for their local economy, are those that account for their impacts on the environment. This should become the norm for anyone who wants to do business in B.C.

The Environmental Bill of Rights Act introduces a number of new policy measures that will assure increased transparency and access to environmental decision-making and create a stronger framework for British Columbians to be included in environmental decisions made in this province.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of this House after today.

Bill M236, Environmental Bill of Rights Act, 2016, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Media Statement


Media Statement: May 16, 2016
Environmental Bill of Rights Act introduced by Andrew Weaver
For Immediate Release
Victoria B.C. – To safeguard the right of current and future generations to a healthy environment, British Columbians must be able to effectively engage with the provincial government’s duty to protect the environment under its jurisdiction – and to hold the government accountable when they fail to do so, says Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay – Gordon Head and Leader of the BC Green Party.

In order to accomplish this, today in the legislature Dr. Weaver introduced the Environmental Bill of Rights Act. By outlining the rights and responsibilities of the BC Government and the citizens of British Columbia this bill is designed to complement and expand on the existing legislation used when decisions impact the environment. The bill reinforces British Columbians’ right to a healthy environment and the Government’s responsibility to protect it for this generation and those to come.

“It’s time that we moved on from the outdated thinking that every environmental law brought forward is somehow an attack on industry,” said Weaver. “I have visited projects across British Columbia and the most successful businesses, which also create the greatest benefits for their local economy, are those that account for their impacts on the environment. This should become the norm for anyone who wants to do business in B.C.”

A number of Canadian jurisdictions have enacted similar legislation including Ontario, Quebec, Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. In addition, 47 municipalities across British Columbia have passed municipal declarations supporting the right to a healthy environment. A similar declaration was endorsed at the UBCM Conference last fall, which called on the provincial government to enact a provincial environmental bill of rights.

“While we talk a big game in this province about our environmental protections, the fact is that our environmental laws have eroded over time,” said Weaver. “I am no longer confident that the next generation of British Columbians will enjoy the same opportunities that we have today, and I am concerned with the burden we place on them when rushed processes and projects cause unnecessary environmental damage.”

The Environmental Bill of Rights Act introduces a number of new policy tools which will ensure increased transparency and access to environmental decision-making and create a stronger framework for British Columbians to be included in environmental decisions made in this province.

Any decisions involving environmental matters would be documented in a new, publicly accessible, online registry. Currently only certain types of information are available in a generally piecemeal format.

The Bill also creates a new independent Commissioner of the Environment, who is responsible for investigating violations, providing the public an opportunity to participate in and access the process, and providing regular reports about the state of the B.C. environment.

“Frankly, I think it’s time that British Columbians were given more tools to ensure that their province doesn’t just talk a good game about protecting the environment – but is actually doing the job they are elected to do,” said Weaver.

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Media Contact
Mat Wright – Press Secretary Andrew Weaver MLA
1 250 216 3382
mat.wright@leg.bc.ca

4 Comments

  1. Gina-Reply
    May 18, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    Yes, this is a good start. I would support and promote this legislation. Just today there was logging around a local favourite swimming hole….at Englishman river Sockeye Rd: trails, salmon spawn in the river of course and have been going there for 19 years. I will check out the destruction tomorrow. Zero consultation, will know more tomorrow. We the people need a say, and protections and yes appropriate guidelines that are conducive to sustainability and protection of wildlife/salmon as well as protection of areas that benefit the community as a whole. Thanks Andrew Weaver.

  2. Libby Dybikowski-Reply
    May 18, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Well done! Bravo.

  3. May 18, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Thank you, Andrew Weaver, for presenting this environmental bill to protect the rights of the citizens of this great Province . My hope is that it will not be dismissed by other parties for purely political reasons.

  4. Sharon Smith-Reply
    May 18, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Thankyou Andrew Weaver for representing the citizens of BC and pringing this Environmental Bill of Rights to the Legislature. Lets get it enacted and put into use.

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