The Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) was proclaimed in February 1994. The founding principles of the EBR are stated in its Preamble:
- The people of Ontario recognize the inherent value of the natural environment.
- The people of Ontario have a right to a healthful environment.
- The people of Ontario have as a common goal the protection, conservation and restoration of the natural environment for the benefit of present and future generations.
While the government has the primary responsibility for achieving this goal, Ontarians should have the means to ensure that it is achieved in an effective, timely, open and fair manner.
The purposes of the Act are to:
- Protect, conserve and where reasonable, restore the integrity of the environment;
- Provide sustainability of the environment by the means provided in the Act; and
- Protect the right to a healthful environment by the means provided in the Act.
These purposes include the following:
- The prevention, reduction and elimination of the use, generation and release of pollutants that are an unreasonable threat to the integrity of the environment.
- The protection and conservation of biological, ecological and genetic diversity.
- The protection and conservation of natural resources, including plant life, animal life and ecological systems.
- The encouragement of the wise management of our natural resources, including plant life, animal life and ecological systems.
- The identification, protection and conservation of ecologically sensitive areas or processes.
To assist in fulfilling these purposes, the Act provides:
- The means by which Ontarians may participate in the making of environmentally significant decisions by the Government of Ontario;
- Increased accountability of the Government of Ontario for its environmental decision-making;
- Increased access to the courts by residents of Ontario for the protection of the environment; and
- Enhanced protection for employees who take action in respect of environmental harm.
The EBR requires a Statement of Environmental Values from all designated ministries. The designated ministries are listed here.
Statements of Environmental Values (SEV) are a means for designated government ministries to record their commitment to the environment and be accountable for ensuring consideration of the environment in their decisions. A SEV explains:
- How the purposes of the EBR will be applied when decisions that may significantly affect the environment are made in the Ministry; and
- How consideration of the purposes of the EBR will be integrated with other considerations, including social, economic and scientific considerations, which are part of decision-making in the Ministry.
It is each Minister's responsibility to take every reasonable step to ensure that the SEV is considered whenever decisions that may significantly affect the environment are made in the Ministry.
The Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation will review the SEV every five years, at the maximum, to ensure the Statement is current.
2. Ministry vision, mandate and business
The Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation (the Ministry) was created in 2007 to develop a stronger, broader relationship with Indigenous peoples in Ontario. The Ministry leads corporate government initiatives on Indigenous matters, and coordinates cross-ministry Indigenous policy initiatives and multi-lateral relationship processes.
The Ministry’s mandate requires it to:
- in partnership with Indigenous communities, promote collaboration and coordination across ministries on Indigenous policy and programs
- set priorities for, and track, the progress of policy and programs impacting Indigenous peoples
- enhance government's awareness of Indigenous issues and best practices for consulting and engaging with Indigenous peoples
- work with the federal government to find ways to make the most of federal funding
- help Indigenous peoples to access Ontario government programs, services and information
- lead the negotiations for the land claims process to help address historical grievances
- encourage diversity and inclusion, especially representation of Indigenous peoples in the Ontario Public Service.
Building on this broad mandate, the Ministry’s strategic direction sets the focus on four areas:
- building stronger relationships between Ontario and Indigenous communities
- improving social conditions and quality of life for Indigenous communities
- increasing economic opportunity and sustainability for Indigenous communities
- resolving land claim issues and working to achieve reconciliation between Indigenous people and the Ontario government.
While other provincial ministries are responsible for delivery of most programs and services designed specifically to improve socio-economic conditions, the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation is mandated to work with ministries to coordinate policy and program initiatives designed to deliver on these key priorities for Indigenous communities.
Specific details on the responsibilities of the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation can be found on the Ministry website.
3. Application of the SEV
The Ministry commits to the purposes of the EBR and will integrate consideration of the purposes of the EBR when fulfilling its mandate. The Ministry will ensure that the SEV is taken into consideration in decisions that may significantly affect the environment and that these decisions are posted on the Environmental Registry, where appropriate.
4. Consideration of indigenous peoples
The Ministry recognizes the special relationship that Indigenous peoples have with the environment and that Indigenous peoples and communities are deeply connected, spiritually and culturally, to the land, water, air and animals. When making decisions that may significantly affect the environment, the Ministry will identify opportunities to work collaboratively with Indigenous peoples in Ontario. The Ministry will take reasonable steps to consider the cultural, social, economic and environmental perspectives of Indigenous peoples. This will include considering Traditional Knowledge, if offered by Indigenous peoples, and the unique perspectives of elders, women and youth.The Ministry will work together with Indigenous partners, as well as other Ontario ministries, the federal government, other governments, and interested parties as it develops policies and programs that could, if implemented, have a significant effect on the environment.
The Ministry will also work with other ministries to promote or enhance awareness of Indigenous issues and practices, so that Indigenous considerations are appropriately reflected in policies that, if implemented, may have a significant effect on the environment.
5. Integration with other considerations
The Ministry will integrate the goals of creating a healthful environment for Indigenous people and all Ontarians for present and future generations, through development of sustainable economies and improved social conditions, with the purposes of the EBR including cultural, social, economic and scientific considerations when making decisions that may be of environmental significance.
6. Monitoring use of the SEV
The Ministry will ensure that staff involved in decisions that may significantly affect the environment are aware of the Ministry’s EBR obligations and appropriately document the considerations.
7. Consultation with aboriginal peoples
Ontario respects Aboriginal and treaty rights and is committed to meeting the province’s constitutional and other obligations to Aboriginal peoples. The Ministry will implement the SEV in a manner that is consistent with the recognition and affirmation of existing Aboriginal and treaty rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
Ontario, as the Crown, has a legal obligation to consult with Aboriginal peoples where it contemplates decisions or actions that may adversely impact asserted or established Aboriginal or treaty rights. The Ministry is committed to meeting the Crown’s duty to consult with Aboriginal peoples.
Engagement processes, such as the EBR public comment process, are additional processes from the Crown’s duty to consult. As such, the opportunity to provide comments through the EBR provides an additional mechanism to solicit public input and is not intended to alter or detract from any constitutional obligation Ontario may have to consult with Aboriginal peoples.
8. Public consultation
The Ministry believes that public engagement and consultation is vital to sound environmental decision-making. The Ministry will provide opportunities for an open and consultative process when making decisions that may significantly affect the environment
9. Greening internal operations
The Ministry believes in the wise use and conservation of natural resources. The Ministry will support Government of Ontario initiatives to conserve energy and water, and to wisely use our air, water and land resources in order to generate sustainable environmental, health and economic benefits for present and future generations.
10. Climate change
The Ministry believes that the public interest requires a broad effort to reduce greenhouse gases and to build a cleaner and more resilient province. The Ministry will continue to involve and engage individuals, businesses, communities, municipalities, non-governmental organizations and Indigenous communities in the ultimate goal of fostering a high-productivity, resilient, low-carbon economy and society in Ontario.
The Ministry understands that climate change may have a greater impact on Indigenous communities. The ministry will consider the unique impacts of climate change on Indigenous communities when reviewing policies and legislation.