Five ‘Environmental Rights’ Questions with Professor Cameron Jefferies

profile-2

Photo from the University of Alberta website:

https://www.ualberta.ca/law/about/contact/profiles/cameron-jefferies

Cameron Jefferies, BSc, LLB, LLM, SJD

Assistant Professor

Borden Ladner Gervais Fellow

University of Alberta, Faculty of Law

 

1) What would having constitutional environmental rights (e.g. the right to clean air, clean water, safe food, to access nature, etc.) mean to you?

“It is well understood that environmental protection and conservation is a fundamental value of Canadian society. National opinion polls consistently evidence this and our highest court has recognized it as well. Personally, I am interested in how we can achieve a more sustainable Canada and believe that recognizing environmental rights, at whatever level, means that Canadians will get a different tool to use in pursuit of improving their local environment and Canada’s reputation as an environmental steward. For me the discussion does not start and stop with constitutionalized rights. That might be an awesome end goal, but there are a whole bunch of intermediate steps that can be taken along the way—municipal declarations, provincial statutes, etc. These are all important pieces of the environmental rights movement.”

2) What do you think people in Edmonton can and/or should do to further the cause of environmental rights?

“At one level it is about educating yourself. What are environmental rights? How could they make a difference to me or my community? After that, it is about helping spread the word. Talk to your friends and family about these things, maybe send a letter or email to your city councillor letting them know what a healthy environment means to you!”

3) What are you as an academic doing to further the cause of environmental rights?

“In teaching my courses on environmental law, international environmental law, and sustainability I introduce students to the idea and potential operation of environmental rights in the Canadian context. I also explore related issues in my academic writing. This is definitely an aspect of emerging Canadian law and policy that can’t be ignored.”

4) 110 nations around the world recognize their citizens’ right to a healthy environment. Why do you think Canada hasn’t done this yet? (i.e. what do you think are the biggest obstacles in the way?)

“There are a number of obstacles. For one, most of our foundational constitutional documents were drafted back in the 1860s, well before most prominent law makers were aware of environmental conservation issues the way we are today. Then, when Canada patriated its constitution in the early 1980s and included the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, environmental rights did not attract enough attention to warrant inclusion. One of our biggest obstacles, then, is that our supreme laws do not recognize environmental protection and amending them to achieve this sort of recognition is difficult and not likely to happen—at least any time soon. Therefore, it falls to the federal government, the provinces, and even municipalities to consider different ways that they can include environmental rights in law and policy help Canada move towards a greener and healthier future.”

5) Would you be willing to sign the ‘Blue Dot Pledge”, joining the over 100,000 Canadians, and declare that you “[b]elieve every Canadian deserves the right to a healthy environment”? .http://bluedot.ca/join-us/

“Already done.”

Photo from the Oxford University Press:

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/marine-mammal-conservation-and-the-law-of-the-sea-9780190493141?cc=ca&lang=en&

You can learn more about Professor Jefferies, and his work, on the U of A Faculty of Law page here:

https://www.ualberta.ca/law/about/contact/profiles/cameron-jefferies

Additionally, you can purchase his new book entitled:

Marine Mammal Conservation and the Law of the Seaonline at https://global.oup.com/academic/product/marine-mammal-conservation-and-the-law-of-the-sea-9780190493141?cc=ca&lang=en&

~ Jacob Marchel

Five ‘Environmental Rights’ Questions with Sina Kazemi

Sina Kazemi - President of the Environmental Law Students' Association (ELSA)
Sina Kazemi – President of the Environmental Law Students’ Association (ELSA)

1) What would having constitutional environmental rights (e.g. the right to clean air, clean water, safe food, to access nature, etc.) mean to you, and the Environmental Law Students’ Association? 

“Personally, I believe the [constitutional] right to a healthy environment… means that people can expect higher standards with respect to pollution, greater action on preserving vital ecosystems, and would provide a means to take legal action against government conduct that affects the environment. Constitutionally-protected environmental rights can also be used alongside Aboriginal rights, [protected under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982], to provide greater protection for Indigenous groups and would be another step towards reconciliation.”

2) What do you think people in Edmonton can and/or should do to further the cause of environmental rights?

“I think the best way to further the cause of environmental rights is by joining a movement to voice your support and take action. For example, the City of Edmonton currently has not passed a declaration supporting the right to a healthy environment, so joining a movement such as BlueDot to influence Edmonton City Council to pass a declaration would be one way to take action. In addition, encouraging friends, family and other individuals in your community to write to their City Councillor, MLA, and MP in support of environmental rights would go a long way towards informing decision-makers that this issue is important to Canadians.”

3) What are you and ELSA doing to further the cause of environmental rights? 

ELSA Official Logo - Credit: ELSA Facebook Profile Photo
ELSA Official Logo – Credit: ELSA Facebook Profile Photo

“Our organization, the Environmental Law Students Association (ELSA), is working on several new initiatives […]. For example, we are currently in the process of helping to create an environmental law clinic at the University of Alberta. A clinic such as this would allow law students, under the supervision of a lawyer, to assist members of the public with environmental legal issues. We are also in the early stages of launching a divestment campaign, to encourage the University of Alberta to divest from fossil fuels.”

4) 110 nations around the world recognize their citizens’ right to a healthy environment. Why do you think Canada hasn’t done this yet? 

“There are two methods to get Canada to recognize the right to a healthy environment, each presenting unique obstacles. An amendment of Canada’s Constitution, which the BlueDot campaign is aiming to achieve, is extremely difficult to do with many political factors to consider. The other way would be through litigation aiming to read in environmental protection with existing provisions of the Constitution, such as section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protecting the right to life, liberty and security of the person. However, this would require a case with the right set of facts and would also be a tremendously expensive endeavour.”

5) Would you be willing to sign the ‘Blue Dot Pledge”, joining the over 100,000 Canadians, and declare that you “[b]elieve every Canadian deserves the right to a healthy environment”? .

http://bluedot.ca/join-us/

“Absolutely!”

For more information on the Environmental Law Student Association at the University of Alberta please visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Environmental-Law-Students-Association-ELSA-University-of-Alberta-118051618259211/

~ Jacob Marchel