Five ‘Environmental Rights’ Questions with Professor Cameron Jefferies

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”408″ img_size=”450×450″][vc_column_text]Photo from the University of Alberta website:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]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.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]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.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]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”? .

“Already done.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”416″ img_size=”large”][vc_column_text]Photo from the Oxford University Press:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]You can learn more about Professor Jefferies, and his work, on the U of A Faculty of Law page here:

Additionally, you can purchase his new book entitled:

Marine Mammal Conservation and the Law of the Seaonline at

~ Jacob Marchel