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;
- To provide sustainability of the environment by the means provided in the Act; and
- To 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 at this link.
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 might 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, that 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 might significantly affect the environment are made in the Ministry.
The Ministry will examine the SEV on a periodic basis to ensure the Statements are current.
2. Ministry vision, mandate and business
Safe, Fair and Healthy workplaces that create productive relationships between employers and employees and a competitive economy that generates widespread benefits for all Ontarians.
The Ministry of Labour is committed to the advancement of safe, fair, healthy and productive relationships in the workplace and the broader community. The Ministry values the contributions and dedication of its employees in fulfilling its mission and strives to lead by example, ensuring a safe, fair, healthy and productive working environment for all ministry staff.
Ministry contribution to key priorities and results
The Ministry supports the government's priority of Strong People, Strong Economy and its key results of fostering a competitive business environment and providing modern, efficient public services. In particular:
- The Occupational Health and Safety Program supports a competitive Ontario economy, making it more attractive to jobs and investment as a result of higher productivity and lower costs resulting from fewer injuries;
- Targeting the underground economy results in improved worker safety and supports a level playing field within the construction sector as more businesses pay their fair share of WSIB premiums and government taxes;
- The Employment Rights and Responsibilities Program supports fair workplaces, which promote higher productivity, thus reinforcing a competitive business environment that will attract jobs and investment to Ontario; and
- The Labour Relations Program facilitates effective labour relations dispute resolution, thereby supporting fair and stable workplaces and increasing productivity, making Ontario an attractive place for investors.
Occupational health and safety
The Ministry's Occupational Health and Safety program works with its health and safety partners toward the primary goal of reducing and eliminating workplace injury and illness. In administering the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), the Ministry sets, communicates and enforces standards set out in the OHSA and related regulations.
The workplace internal responsibility system is the foundation of Ontario's approach to occupational health and safety. This means that employers and workers who are closest to and most familiar with workplace conditions and requirements are responsible for identifying and controlling hazards in their workplaces and preventing injury and illness.
The Ministry will continue to direct significant resources toward targeting those firms with the highest injury rates and injury-related costs to improve health and safety practices within these workplaces and reduce associated costs to both the employer and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
Employment rights and responsibilities
The goal of the Employment Rights and Responsibilities program is to set, communicate and enforce appropriate policies and standards established under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), and the Pay Equity Act (PEA), to ensure that Ontario employees are protected by minimum standards of employment covering wages and working conditions. The Ministry ensures compliance with these standards through education, consultation, investigation and enforcement activities.
Over the past two decades, Ontario's workplaces have been experiencing rapid change driven by new technologies and increased global competition. The growth of industries is concentrated in the services sector while the traditional manufacturing sector continues to experience a decline. The working population is remaining in the workforce longer, and there are more women and immigrants in the workforce.
The challenge for the Employment Rights and Responsibilities program is to provide employers and workers with the flexibility they need to develop fair and productive workplaces in an increasingly competitive environment, while maintaining an underlying set of essential standards. At the same time, they must focus enforcement activity where it is needed most to ensure workers are protected.
The Ministry's objective in the area of labour relations is to foster, support and maintain a balanced and stable labour relations environment. Stable labour relations are critical to the economy as well as to the government's ability to deliver results in its key priorities of health care, education and other public services.
The Ministry's Labour Relations program focuses on the settlement of workplace disputes under various employment-related statutes, assists in the settlement of collective agreements, and assembles collective bargaining information. In promoting a stable and constructive labour relations climate, the program helps to foster productive workplace relationships throughout Ontario.
3. Application of the SEV
The Ministry endorses the purposes of the EBR and will integrate consideration of the purposes of the EBR when conducting its business. In proposing legislation or regulations, or developing and reviewing policies and programs, the Ministry will consider any significant environmental impacts. The Ministry will seek to integrate the purposes of the EBR into decision-making that may be of environmental significance by balancing environmental consideration with the goal of safe, fair and healthy workplaces.
The Ministry will co-operate with other government ministries as they fulfill their environmental responsibilities. The Ministry will continue to look for new ways within its mandate to contribute to the environmental well-being of the province.
Occupational health and safety
In seeking to achieve a safe and healthy work environment, the Ministry enforces the duties and responsibilities of employers, supervisors, workers and other parties under OHSA, and promotes the internal responsibility system by which the workplace parties work together to address health and safety issues.
The Ministry recognizes and supports the important role played by workers in safeguarding the environment. For those workers who take action in respect of the environment the EBR provides enhanced protection against reprisals by employers. This is achieved through the adjudication provided by the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB).
4. Integration with other considerations
The Ministry will take into account social, economic and other considerations; these will be integrated with the purposes of the EBR when decisions that might significantly affect the environment need to be made. In making decisions, the Ministry will use the best science available. It will support scientific research, the development and application of technologies, processes and services.
The Ministry will encourage energy conservation in those sectors where it provides policy direction or programs.
5. Monitoring the use of the SEV
The Ministry will ensure that the SEV is taken into consideration in decisions that significantly affect the environment and that these decisions are posted on the EBR Registry, where appropriate. The Ministry will ensure that staff involved in decisions that significantly affect the environment are aware of the Ministry's EBR obligations.
The Ministry believes that public consultation is vital to sound environmental decision-making. Where appropriate, the Ministry will provide opportunities for an open and consultative process when making decisions that might significantly affect the environment.
7. Consideration of Aboriginal peoples
The Ministry recognizes the value that Aboriginal people place on the environment. When making decisions that might significantly affect the environment, the ministry will provide opportunities for involvement of Aboriginal people whose interests may be affected by such decisions so that Aboriginal interests can be appropriately considered. This commitment is not intended to alter or detract from any constitutional obligation the province may have to consult with Aboriginal people.
8. Greening of 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 in its own operations, and to wisely use our air and land resources in order to generate environmental, health and economic benefits for present and future generations.
The Ministry will continue to encourage energy conservation and resource conservation in its own operations by, for example, ensuring that office lights are turned off when possible and office equipment is turned off when not in use and explicitly considering environmental performance of the various options when equipment leases or purchases are made. The Ministry will also continue to educate and encourage staff on the 3Rs –reduction, reuse and recycling – to divert materials from disposal.
Requests for additional information concerning the Ministry's SEV should be directed to:
Corporate Policy Branch
Ministry of Labour
400 University Avenue, 14th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1T7
Phone: (416) 327-0001
Fax: (416) 326-7599