Project Overview

Flower background image with the words Environmental Accountability in Ontario Consultation Paper written over it

The LCO’s Environmental Accountability Consultation Paper was released on September 22, 2022.  More details on the Consultation Paper and process are included in the section below.

This project considers legal accountability mechanisms for environmental protection in Ontario.

All Ontarians share responsibility for protecting our environment.  However, the government holds primary responsibility for environmental decision-making and, in this role, must balance a complex web of social, economic and other factors contributing to the public interest. How can our legal system most effectively hold government to account for environmental protection while accommodating the diverse and competing interests at stake?

Currently, Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) provides that the people of Ontario have a “right to a healthful environment”. The EBR defines this as a right to receive information about and participate in the government’s environmental decision-making process. These rights are supervised by the provincial Auditor General but there is limited access to the courts to enforce them.

The EBR was enacted over 25 years ago. There has been limited reform since then. Some argue that the EBR’s political accountability model has failed to stem the tide of environmental harm and there is an urgent need for alternative solutions. Meanwhile, concerns about the health of our environment and, indeed, the future of our planet, have become ever more insistent. A range of contemporary approaches to environmental accountability have been adopted or are under development in other Canadian provinces and internationally to meet these concerns.

The project will produce an independent, evidence-based, and comprehensive analysis of environmental accountability issues. The LCO’s final report will recommend reforms to laws, policies, and/or practices where it is appropriate to do so.

As with all its projects, the LCO has a special interest in promoting access to justice in the legal system.

Consultation Issues

Broadly speaking, the Consultation Paper asks two sets of questions. First, the paper asks about potential reforms to the EBR. Second, the paper asks potentially more far-reaching and challenging questions about emerging legal concepts of “environmental justice,” the “right to a healthy environment,” and how to account for Indigenous issues and legal orders in Ontario’s environmental accountability framework. A complete list of consultation questions is here.

The Consultation Paper was prepared by the LCO following considerable research and informal consultations with our project Advisory Committee and many other individuals and groups representing a broad cross-section of perspectives.

Indigenous rights and indigenous laws are a necessary lens built into the foundation of the LCO’s project. Legal history pre- and post-settlement support environmental rights as a key aspect of the reconciliation framework to be carried out in Canada. The LCO is exploring Indigenous rights, perspectives and traditions as a possible source of environmental rights, as well as the crucial impact of environmental harm on Indigenous peoples in Ontario and elsewhere. The LCO is developing partnerships to assist us in reaching out to Indigenous communities.

Consultation Process

The LCO wants to consult with a broad array of stakeholders, including legal and environmental experts, government and justice system leaders, industry representatives, indigenous communities, and individual Ontarians interested in environmental issues.

The LCO will be organizing several consultation processes over the fall of 2022:

Written Submissions

The LCO encourages written submissions. Written submissions can be sent to the LCO’s general email address at LawCommission@lco-cdo.org.

The deadline for written submissions is Friday, November 25th, 2022.

The LCO is committed to sharing ideas and building constructive dialogue. Accordingly, the LCO will post written submissions on our project webpage, subject to limited exceptions. Individuals or organizations wishing to provide a written submission may want to contact the LCO for further information prior to their submission.

Meetings/Forums/Workshops/Partnerships

The LCO expects to organize a wide range of meetings, forums, or workshops on environmental accountability issues over the next several months. The LCO is strongly committed to partnering with interested organizations and stakeholders to develop consultation initiatives. Individuals or organizations interested in working with the LCO are encouraged to contact our Project Lead.

Project Lead and Contacts

The LCO’s Project Lead is Ramani Nadarajah. She can be contacted at rnadarajah@lco-cdo.org.

The LCO can also be contacted at:

Email: LawCommission@lco-cdo.org

Web: www.lco-cdo.org
Twitter: @LCO_CDO
Tel: (416) 650-8406
Toll-free: 1 (866) 950-8406

Law Commission of Ontario
2032 Ignat Kaneff Building
Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
4700 Keele Street Toronto, Ontario, Canada M3J 1P3

Project Documents

Environmental Accountability Consultation Paper (September 2022)