Law Commission of Ontario launches consultations to enhance environmental accountability in Ontario

Several consultation processes will be organized over the fall of 2022

Law Commission of Ontario launches consultations to enhance environmental accountability in Ontario

The Law Commission of Ontario has launched a series of consultations to enhance environmental accountability in Ontario under the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR).

The EBR provides Ontarians with a “right to a healthful environment” or the right to receive information about and participate in the government’s environmental decision-making process. However, the LCO noted that while the provincial auditor general supervises these rights, there is limited access to courts to enforce them.

“The LCO believes the time is right for an independent, interdisciplinary, and balanced review of the EBR and environmental accountability strategies generally,” the LCO said. “The EBR was enacted over 25 years ago. Since then, the environmental, policy, and legal landscape in Ontario has changed considerably.”

The LCO determined that new issues have emerged since the inception of the EBR. These include significant developments in the relationship between the Crown and Indigenous peoples, the growing recognition of environmental justice, and the adoption of the right to a healthy environment by most member states of the United Nations.

“These new developments underscore the need to re-examine the substantive and procedural requirements of the EBR to ensure it reflects and is responsive to current realities,” the LCO said.

The LCO confirmed that the consultations would focus on the LCO’s consultation paper, which involves two sets of questions for public feedback. The first set relates to “potential reforms” to the EBR. While the second set involves “potentially more far-reaching and challenging questions” about emerging legal concepts of “environmental justice” and “right to a healthy environment” and inquires about how to account for Indigenous issues and legal orders in Ontario’s environmental accountability framework.

The LCO intends to consult with several stakeholders, including lawyers and legal organizations, environmental non-governmental organizations, industry representatives, academics, Indigenous communities, government and justice system leaders, and individuals interested in environmental issues.

Accordingly, the LCO will organize several consultation processes over the fall of 2022 and hold meetings, forums, and workshops on environmental accountability issues in the next several months. Written comments on the consultation paper may be submitted at [email protected]  until November 25. Once the consultations end, the LCO is expected to release a final report in early 2023.

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