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?
“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”? .
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