Group proposes Nova Scotia environmental bill of rights

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Nova Scotia environmental bill of rights proposed
WATCH: Steve Silva reports on a group of advocates proposing new legislation they say is necessary to make it a right to live in a healthy environment – Apr 21, 2017

A group of environmental protection advocates is proposing an environmental bill of rights for Nova Scotia.

READ MORE: Environmental groups slam deal allowing Nova Scotia to use coal plants past 2030

“We’re looking at having a substantive right to a healthy environment,” Lisa Mitchell, executive director of East Coast Environmental Law Association, said on Friday.

That bill includes a right to clean water, unpolluted air, and uncontaminated land where food is grown.

One purpose of the act is “to understand and address environmental racism,” it reads online [PDF].
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Mitchell said the bill is not a new a idea – Quebec, the Yukon, and North West Territories have similar legislation.

“What’s different about an environmental bills of rights as opposed to, say, the Nova Scotia Environment Act [PDF], which is also a really good statute, is it shifts the balance a little bit, so it puts some of the power into the hands of the people,” she said.

Mitchell went on to say that the bill would require these issues be factors in decision-making by the government.

The association is part of the Environmental Rights Working Group. Members held a launch event, which included speakers, at a downtown Halifax restaurant on Friday.

Mitchell said she wants the bill to be passed into law.

“I understand we may be having an election soon so, certainly, this is something that we would like to hear candidates talking about,” said Mitchell.

READ MORE: ‘No secret’ Nova Scotia election is coming: Premier

Nova Scotia NDP leader Gary Burrill told Global News at the event that the bill reflects legislative proposals the party made in the past two years.

“We’re very supportive of this proposal, and these are matters which, if we’re able to form the next government, are going to be brought front and center,” he said.

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A statement from Nova Scotia Environment reads, in part: “The department makes it decisions based on science and evidence so we can ensure our processes are equitable for all Nova Scotians. We consult regularly with Nova Scotian’s (sic) on environmental issues and programs.”

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