Through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadians are afforded the right to life, liberty of expression, security and protection from discrimination. However, these liberties and rights can only work against themselves if the people are not allowed to enjoy them with the right to be in healthy environments. To this end, this paper will critically evaluate why environmental rights should be inserted into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Approaching the protection of certain rights through statutory and constitutional means is a practical and achievable initiative and, in the present age of global warming, all citizens in the world, including future generations, are entitled to protection from unhealthy environments. Therefore, the Canadian federal government must consider how the rights of its citizens to an environment that is balanced ecologically and healthy are ensured, both through statutory and constitutional means. Denying Canadians the right to live in healthy environments cannot be justified. Since a nation’s Constitution defines its people in more ways than just a simple set of legal instructions, it should also exemplify their highest values and aspirations. Therefore, as the supreme law of the land, it is only fair that the Canadian Constitution mirrors its people’s connection to their environment which sustains health and life. Sadly, in the industrialized world, Canada ranks extremely poorly in terms of environmental performance. According to a survey conducted by the Center for Global Development, based in Washington, Canada was placed 27th out of 27 among the industrialized countries (Erin 61). From this, there is evidently an urgent need to include environmental rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This will also serve the purpose of confirming the federal government’s public trust obligation of protecting the environment under its authority.