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What is the Environmental Bill of Rights?

Region: Ontario Answer # 378

The Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) was passed in Ontario in 1993. It gives every Ontario resident a formal right to participate in the environmental decisions of the Ontario government. People now have a formal right to get information on most environmentally significant proposals of any of the 14 Ontario government ministries that are listed under the EBR. They also have the right to comment on these decisions.

The EBR has created two primary ways to improve environmental decision-making in Ontario.

1. Individuals can participate

Individuals can now participate in environmental decisions by doing any of the following six things:

  1. Comment on environmentally significant proposals,
  2. Ask for an appeal of particular environmental approvals,
  3. Ask for a review of an existing policy, act, regulation or instrument if they feel it is not protecting the environment,
  4. Ask for an investigation of violations of environmental law,
  5. Use the courts to sue about a public nuisance or to protect a public resource, and
  6. Be protected from reprisals by employers when reporting workplace violations of environmental laws or when using any other of their environmental rights.

2.  Office of the Auditor General of Ontario (formerly the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario)

On April 1, 2019, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario became part of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario. The Auditor General’s Office assumed responsibility for overseeing and reporting on the operation of, and government’s compliance with the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR).

The 14 ministries listed under the EBR are required to post environmentally significant proposals on the Environmental Registry. The Ontario public can be notified and comment on these proposals and can also ask ministries to review environmentally significant laws, policies, regulations and instruments, such as permits. They can also ask ministries to investigate when they witness or believe harm has been done to the environment.

Applications for Review or Investigation must be sent directly to the government ministry responsible for carrying out the requested review or investigation. The Auditor General’s Office will monitor and report on ministries’ compliance with the EBR. This includes how they handle Applications for Review and Investigation.

The Ontario public is the primary means by which environmental decision-making can be improved and kept accountable. That is why the EBR gives the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario the authority to provide public education about the EBR.

 

Ministries listed under the EBR

The 14 ministries listed under the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights are:

  1. Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs
  2. Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
  3. Ministry of Government and Consumer Services
  4. Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure
  5. Ministry of Education
  6. Ministry of Energy
  7. Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
  8. Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
  9. Ministry of Labour
  10. Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
  11. Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
  12. Ministry of Northern Development and Mines
  13. Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport
  14. Ministry of Transportation

More information, including reports and bulletins, can be found on the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario website at auditor.on.ca, or from the Environmental Registry of Ontario.

For legal help, contact an environmental law lawyer.


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