Environmental Bill of Rights

October 2022 – The Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) recently released a consultation paper that identifies how the province’s Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) could be amended to enhance environmental accountability. It is FOCA’s view that an updated and strengthened EBR can provide better environmental protection, public participation, and provincial government accountability. The LCO is currently seeking public feedback on this important topic. Learn more, and find out how to submit comment to LCO by November 25th: https://www.lco-cdo.org/en/our-current-projects/environmental-accountability-rights-responsibilities-and-access-to-justice/

December 1, 2021 – The Need for Government Outreach Programs  The ABCs of the EBR (Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights) (CELA)

You have a right to participate in certain government decisions affecting the environment under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993. Find out how to use the registry, request a review or investigation and seek leave (permission) to appeal a decision. https://www.ontario.ca/page/environmental-bill-rights

June 15, 2020 –  The Province of Ontario has revoked the regulation which had suspended key provisions of the EBR. FOCA welcomes this decision to reinstate the important public oversight contained within the Environmental Bill of Rights.  FOCA believes that to respect the public’s right to know and participate, the Province should retroactively disclose all proposals for laws, policies, regulations and instruments which would have been posted for comment, if not for the suspension regulation, and restart the comment period on those items which are not urgent COVID-19 actions.

April 17, 2020 – As part of Ontario’s emergency measures put in place in response to the pandemic situation, the Province has suspended key rights of the public to participate through the provisions of the Environmental Bill of Rights. FOCA believes this regulation is overreaching in its scope and scale and hinders the public’s ability to participate in decision-making to safeguard our environment.  You can read the letter submitted to the Province authored by Canadian Environmental Law Association and undersigned by FOCA and nearly 50 other groups, here.

April 7, 2020 –  Update: Ontario Exempts Itself from Public Participation via the EBR (COVID-19 update from CELA)

July 8, 2019 – Ontario’s Auditor General has appointed Jerry DeMarco as Commissioner of the Environment, and an Assistant Auditor General. Mr. DeMarco is one of Canada’s leading experts in environmental policy and law.

His team’s priority will be holding the Provincial government accountable for its responsibilities under the Environmental Bill of Rights and for provincial programs intended to protect the environment. Full News Release

April 1, 2019 – Despite significant widespread opposition to the move, and many thoughtful letters from FOCA member associations from across the Province (see details below), the Office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) has been closed, and many of its former responsibilities have now been transferred to the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario. It is important to note that most of the same environmental rights are still available including notification requirements via the Environmental Registry. One notable change: Ontarians must now submit applications for reviews and/or investigations directly to the ministry they want to conduct the review (versus applying to the ECO).

Read the explanatory letter received by FOCA from the Auditor General, by clicking here. (PDF, 4 pages)

November 23, 2018 – In response to the Province’s announced plans to eliminate the office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), FOCA has issued an important “call-to-action” for you:
  1. Read FOCA’s letter to the Premier (November 26, 2018; PDF,  2 pages)
  2. Add your voice by sending your own message to the Premier and your MPP; remember to copy president@foca.on.ca!

November 15, 2018 – FOCA joined partner environmental organizations across the country, in opposing the elimination of the ECO. Read the joint letter from environmental organizations to the Premier (Nov. 15, 2018; PDF, 4 pages)

Earlier News:
November 21, 2016 – The Province of Ontario is considering a revamp of their online public notification system, the Environmental Registry, and your comments are needed to make this tool more user friendly and effective. If you have an interest in getting timely notices and relevant background on key decisions made in the province on environmental legislation, regulations, or decisions, visit EBR #: 012-7929 to complete their short survey.
The comment period ends Dec. 21, 2016
August 2016 – Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) is under review. The EBR was first introduced over 20 years ago, and is a tool that affords citizens the right to participate and be consulted in decision-making on some environmental projects and government decisions. Since the EBR was enacted, a number of important environmental principles have emerged (including concepts such as ‘polluter pays’ and the ‘precautionary principle’).
Have your say! Comment by November 8, 2016. Information is posted, here. Final recommendations are expected to be released in March 2017.
August 2016 – A message from Dianne Saxe, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario:
In early 2016, ECO Saxe visited the FOCA office. At left: Steve Kerr, FOCA Board of Directors. At right: Terry Rees, FOCA Executive Director.

In early 2016, ECO Saxe met with FOCA. At left: Steve Kerr, FOCA Board of Directors. At right: Terry Rees, FOCA Executive Director.

There is good news about the environmental rights of Ontario residents, and an opportunity to make them better:

1.  A long awaited opportunity to update the EBR, 1993

Significant environmental decisions are too important to leave entirely to government. The Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) allows Ontarians to participate in such decisions, and to hold the government accountable for the results.

For 23 years, the EBR has helped citizens achieve better environmental outcomes (see some success stories here), but strengthening the EBR is long overdue. The ECO has called for EBR reform since 2005. In 2010, environmental groups used EBR tools to persuade the province to review the legislation, but nothing really happened until now.

Until Nov. 8, 2016, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) is finally seeking comments on Review of the EBR, (EBR Registry Number:012-8002). Our comments on some key EBR reforms, based on our office’s 23 years as guardian of the EBR, are posted here. If you care about environmental rights, don’t miss this chance to tell the government what you think.

2.  Better government compliance with the EBR

I am pleased with the great success our office has had in encouraging government ministries to improve their compliance with the EBR, since my appointment last fall. In June, we reported how each of 14 government ministries respect EBR environmental rights, and we are glad to see that they are continuing to improve. See eco.on.ca/reports/ebr-performance-checkup-2016/.

3.  Easy to use Registry Alert Tool and website

Ontarians have the right to know when the Ontario government is planning an environmentally significant decision — and to have a say in that decision. But exercising that right effectively has required a tedious manual daily search of the frustrating Environmental Registry.

Instead, the ECO has created a much-needed shortcut to help you stay up-to-date on the issues you care about. Once you register your keywords, you will get relevant Environmental Registry Alerts directly to your email the same day they are posted. See how to start your personal email alerts at http://alerts.ecoissues.ca/.

While you are there, check out our new website, packed with help in exercising environmental rights, and with our high quality, non-partisan research on energy, climate, and environment.

Terry ReesEnvironmental Bill of Rights