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 can be found by accessing the link to the Statement of Environmental Values.
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
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is the steward of Ontario’s provincial parks, forests, fisheries, wildlife, mineral aggregates, and the Crown lands and waters that make up 87 per cent of the province. This is a major responsibility which MNRF manages through a diverse legislative mandate and an array of programs aimed at meeting the needs of a broad client base.
The Ministry envisions a healthy environment that is naturally diverse and supports a high quality of life for the people of Ontario through sustainable development. The Ministry’s mission is to manage Ontario’s natural resources in an ecologically sustainable way to ensure that they are available for the enjoyment and use of future generations. The Ministry is committed to the conservation of biodiversity and the use of natural resources in a sustainable manner.
The Ministry’s mandated activities
Provide leadership and oversight in the management of Ontario’s forests, Crown forest management planning and resource allocation; compliance monitoring, auditing and public reporting on Ontario’s forests. Champions for Ontario’s forests, forest products sector and forest-dependent communities.
Fish & wildlife management
Provide leadership and oversight in the management of Ontario’s fish and wildlife resources, including species at risk; Great Lakes management; fish culture and stocking; resource monitoring, assessment and allocation; research, food safety and disease control; enhancing fishing and hunting opportunities.
Land and waters management
Lead the management of Crown lands, water resources, mineral aggregates, and oil, gas, and salt resources. Includes land use planning, resource allocation, flood management and low water/drought management.
Deliver Ontario’s Parks and Conservation Reserves program, including: protection and management of provincially significant natural, cultural, and recreational environments; provincial parks operations; provision of tourism opportunities, natural heritage education; planning and management of parks and protected areas; policy leadership on conservation reserves; monitoring, auditing, and public reporting on Ontario’s parks and protected areas.
Aviation & forest fire management
Provide leadership and program delivery for the protection of people, property and communities affected by forest fires, floods and other natural resource emergencies. Includes planning and delivery of MNRF’s emergency management program and aviation services for the Ontario government.
Provide leadership and program delivery in the development and application of geographic information for natural resource management and decision making, and contribute to the government’s Information and Information Technology (I&IT) initiative by providing land information and an infrastructure to make Ontario’s land information available, affordable and easy to integrate.
Field services support
Lead the provision of service delivery and operational implementation of natural resource management programs; provide direct client services to the public and resource-based industry sectors across Ontario; work with partners and local communities to encourage resource stewardship; lead professional law enforcement of resource statutes; lead MNRF’s efforts for aboriginal involvement in resource management and decision making.
Provide strategic management leadership and advice, legal counsel, policy development, communications and administrative services in support of business areas.
3. Application of the SEV
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is committed to applying the purposes of the EBR when decisions that might significantly affect the environment need to be made in the ministry as it develops Act, regulations, and policies, by the application of the following principles:
- A sound understanding of natural and ecological systems and how our actions affect them is key to achieving sustainability
- As our understanding of the way the natural world works and how our actions affect it is often incomplete, MNRF staff should exercise caution and special concern for natural values in the face of such uncertainty.
- The finite capacity of our natural systems should be recognized in planning and allocation decisions.
- Natural resources should be properly valued to provide a fair return to Ontarians and to reflect their ecological, social and economic contributions.
- Participation in resource management by all those who share an interest is a necessary ingredient, particularly in support of communities who must balance economic diversity with other needs. Those affected by proposed changes must have access to information and opportunities to provide input to decisions that affect their lives.
- Applied research and sharing of scientific and technological knowledge and innovative technologies must be fostered to support the sustainable development of natural resources.
- An ecosystem approach to managing our natural resources enables a holistic perspective of social, economic and ecological aspects and provides the context for integrated resource management.
- The planning for and management of natural resources should strive for continuous improvement and effectiveness through adaptive management of natural resources.
- In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection must be an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation.
- From both a sound business and environmental perspective, it is less costly and more effective to anticipate and prevent negative environmental impacts before undertaking new activities than it is to correct environmental problems after the fact.
- Rehabilitating degraded environments is an important aspect of resource stewardship.
4. Integration with other considerations
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry 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.
Strategic planning provides the context for the definition and description of corporate direction. It provides MNRF with the opportunity to:
- Identify and analyze ecological, social, cultural, and economic trends at the global to local scales and to gauge change.
- Conduct analyses to measure program strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, costs, and threats.
- Provide direction to guide the establishment of program priorities, policy, and legislation.
Strategic directions are periodically established by the Ministry to determine its priorities for legislative, regulatory, policy and program initiatives. These strategic directions are applied in Ministry land use and resource management planning, and in the conduct of operations and activities on the ground, often through the provisions of Class Environmental Assessments in accordance with the Environmental Assessment Act. Specific strategies and actions to help MNRF plan activities are included in MNRF’s strategic directions document. MNRF strategic directions are updated when necessary to ensure that it reflects government priorities, the evolving needs of Ontario’s citizens, and directions that promote the sustainable use of our natural resources.
The Ministry also recognizes the need for openness and consultation in decision-making which may significantly affect the environment. The Ministry is committed to partnership arrangements in natural resources decision-making and management so that the public shares more fully and directly in the benefits and responsibilities of resource stewardship.
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 of Natural Resources and Forestry will document how the SEV was considered each time a decision is posted on the Environmental Registry. In making decisions that may significantly affect the environment, MNRF will meet its Environmental Bill of Rights obligations. All MNRF presentations to Executive Committee will include an explanation as to how MNRF’s SEV was considered in the development of proposals. MNRF will also provide training tools and opportunities for staff to ensure that the capacity exists within the ministry to meet its Environmental Bill of Rights obligations.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry believes that public consultation and participation is vital to sound environmental decision-making. 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 of Natural Resources and Forestry 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 and energy conservation
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry 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 purchase decisions are made. The Ministry will also continue to educate and encourage staff on the 3Rs – reduction, reuse and recycling – to divert materials from disposal.