According to a national pollution inventory, large polluters discharge millions of kilograms of toxic substances into the Canadian environment annually, yet the Toronto Public Library collects more fines for overdue books each year than the federal government collected from polluters over the first 25 years that CEPA was in force.
I don't know about you but it doesn't sound to me like the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, CEPA, is working. Ask any Toronto librarian.
Three Canadian law profs are calling on the industry-friendly Trudeau government to implement proposed reforms to CEPA recommended by the Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development.
Implementation would make the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) more effective in preventing pollution and protecting all Canadians from the risks posed by toxins in the environment. As it stands, air pollution kills 7,000 Canadians every year, but Canada is the only wealthy industrialized national that lacks enforceable national standards for air quality.
Another critical proposal is the reversal of the burden of proof for substances of very high concern, such as carcinogens like asbestos and benzene, and chemicals that do not break down in the environment and build up in the food chain, like musk xylene.
Chemicals are not people: they shouldn't be presumed innocent.
Under existing law, those who want to restrict use of a chemical must prove harm to humans or the environment. This is fundamentally backwards. The burden of proof should fall on those who seek to profit from the manufacture or use of the chemical.
This means that the most privileged of us can shop our way out of toxic exposure, by living in the best neighbourhoods and buying all the right things, but everyone else — especially those socially or economically marginalized communities — are left to bear the toxic burdens. It's a phenomenon known as "environmental racism" or "environmental injustice," and is well-documented both in academic and journalistic literature.
One in four low-income Canadians, for example, lives within one kilometre of a major source of industrial air pollution, resulting in higher rates of hospitalization for heart disease and respiratory illnesses. Only one in 14 wealthy urban Canadians lives within one kilometre of such a facility. Indigenous people across Canada often have much higher body burdens of mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, and other toxic chemicals.
Canada is among a minority of countries that up until now has refused to recognize that its citizens have the right to live in a healthy environment. For background, the right to a healthy environment enjoys constitutional protection in at least 110 countries, and is a legal right in a total of more than 150 countries. Incorporating this right into CEPA, as the Committee recommends, would be a major breakthrough for Canada.
Do it Justin. Do it "because it's 2017."