Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Blue Dot Movement Seeks to Enshrine Environmental Rights in the Canadian Constitution

The Blue Dot movement has succeeded in encouraging a growing number of Canadians to demand the right to fresh air, clean water and healthy food. In less than one year more than 72,0000 Canadians and 44 municipalities have signed declarations supporting the initiative.The Blue Dot movement is working from the ground up starting at the municipal level. Then they will seek provincial and federal support. The ultimate aim is to enshrine environmental rights in a constitutional amendment.

The rights of Canadians were entrenched in law in 1960 when the Canadian Bill of Rights was passed. This was the first federal law that specifically set out fundamental human rights for Canadians. The Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) was first enacted in 1977, it also protects human rights, particularly in the areas of employment, housing and commercial premises. However, unlike the Canadian Bill of Rights, the CHRA applies not only to the federal government but also to the private sector in matters that are regulated directly by the federal government.

The Canadian Constitution was patriated in 1982 and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms became a fundamental part of it. The Charter does not embody all of our rights as Canadians; it only guarantees basic minimum rights. The Blue Dot movement seeks an amendment that would enshrine environmental rights in the constitution.

The Blue Dot movement started with a national tour in the fall of 2014 by the venerable Canadian scientists and environmentalist David Suzuki. This was followed by a telephone town hall in November of the same year. On Saturday, April 11th 2015 Blue Dot mobilized alongside thousands of others to send a message to Canada’s Premiers who were convening at a conference in Quebec city.  The Act on Climate March was the largest climate march in Canadian history. This peaceful protest demanded urgent action to protect our climate.

The Blue Dot movement organized a national day of action on April 19th.  At this event people across Canada showed their support for environmental rights. More than 2,700 people from at least 80 communities gathered in living rooms, parks, libraries and on nature trails. Thanks to the passion and dedication of these people more than a quarter of a million people have been reached online through the #connectthebluedots hashtag. Many hundreds of thousands more Canadians were exposed to the Blue Dot event through local news coverage across Canada.

The goal of adding environmental rights to the Canadian constitution is achievable. Such rights are already present in the constitutions of 110 countries around the world. For example, the constitution of the Maldives, a nation at risk of disappearing due to climate related sea level rise, includes environmental rights. It was written with the help of eminent Canadian law scholar Doug Schmeiser.

There is no reason to believe that Canadians cannot win the right to fresh air, clean water and healthy food. Like the right to religious and racial equality, the quest for environmental rights has an undeniable moral power that cannot be ignored.

No comments: