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Clean Air is a Right
Government Must Enforce it, say Ecology Groups
The Sierra Legal Defence Fund submitted a legal petition alleging that the Government of Canada's failure to adequately regulate domestic air pollution represents a violation of citizens' basic human rights.
The submission surveys air pollution statistics across Canada and shows that too often Canada is failing to meet its obligations with respect to basic human rights. It is estimated that air pollution causes at least 5,000 premature deaths each year in Canada and costs billions of dollars in health care costs.
The submission asks for a review of the federal government's policies, laws, and regulations concerning air pollution and air quality. In particular, the petition alleges that the government's failure to adequately regulate air pollution and provide legally binding air quality standards in Canada is violating citizens' basic human rights. The 'rights to life, health, and security of the person' are key components of the major international human rights conventions.
"The 'right to life' carries with it a positive obligation on the part of the Government of Canada to do its utmost to protect life within its borders by planning and regulating for clean air across the country," said Sierra Legal Defense Fund lawyer Lynda Collins. "Our petition shows that the Government of Canada is failing to do so and calls on the government to make significant improvements."
The Toronto Environmental Alliance and Greenpeace Canada are also signatories to the suit.
"To ensure clean air the government must create legally binding air quality standards and designate more air pollutants as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA)," said Shelley Petrie of TEA. "The federal government must also enforce the national standards, when necessary."
The groups expect the federal government to review its policies, laws, and regulations concerning air pollution and air quality and act quickly to implement the recommendations in the petition. The Auditor-General will report on her satisfaction with the review and the actions taken by the government in her annual report to Parliament.
The government has yet to issue a full formal response to the action.
The Columbia Journal
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