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.
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 of Northern Development and Mines will examine the SEV on a periodic basis to ensure the Statement is correct.
2. Ministry vision, mandate and business
The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines works to make Northern Ontario strong, healthy and prosperous. By providing a northern perspective, the ministry supports provincial initiatives in the North and addresses unique northern circumstances. It provides northerners with access to government programs and services.
Across the Province, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines works to generate new wealth and benefits by supporting Ontario’s mineral exploration, mining and geosciences sectors.
The Ministry supports economic and community development, by promoting a business climate that encourages competitiveness and investment in Northern Ontario. Through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, the Ministry supports job creation and economic growth.
The Ministry promotes a strong, safe and sustainable minerals industry by generating valuable geological information and by fair and consistent administration of Ontario’s Mining Act.
The SEV reflects the Ministry’s responsibilities in the following statements on environmental principles, goals and objectives, as well how the EBR is integrated with Ministry policy and program development processes.
3. Application of the SEV
The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines 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 MNDM develops Acts, regulations and policies, the Ministry will apply the following environmental principles for sustainable development.
- Promote sustainable economic development in Northern Ontario;
- Consider of the importance of the integration of social, economic, scientific and other considerations with the purposes of the Environmental Bill of Rights as they pertain to any environmentally significant decision-making processes.
- Recognize that environmentally sustainable development of Ontario’s mineral resources requires an understanding of the ecological, physical, social and economic impacts of development on a project by project basis.
- Ensure continuing availability of mineral resources for the long-term benefit of the people of Ontario;
- Protect natural heritage and biological features of provincial significance;
- Recognizes mining as a temporary land use, replaced in the long-term with alternative natural, recreational, or commercial land uses.
Specifically with respect to MNDM’s mining responsibilities, the Ministry will promote environmentally sustainable mining activity which:
- Is preceded by sound environmental planning in accordance with Ontario laws, standards and policies;
- Mitigates short-term effects on the environment;
- Eliminates long-term effects on the environment;
- In cooperation with other ministries, minimizes environmental disturbances during all phases of mining, recognizing that prevention is more effective than remediation and rehabilitation of an environmental problem.
- Promotes the fundamental importance of applied environmental research and development of new mine rehabilitation technology.
4. Integration with other considerations
The Ministry will take into account social, economic, scientific and other considerations, with a consistent application of the purposes of the EBR, when decisions need to be made that might significantly affect the environment.
In this regard, with respect to policy development, the MNDM will integrate environmental values into its strategic planning, priority setting and policy development activities.
With respect to the Ministry’s mineral development and regulatory programming, MNDM will act to ensure that advanced exploration, mining development projects and existing operations will comply with rehabilitation (closure) requirements in accordance with the Mining Act and its regulations. These requirements dictate that sites are to be rehabilitated to their former conditions or to a standard conducive to other alternative natural, recreational, or commercial land uses.
MNDM will review and monitor rehabilitation (closure) plans against regulatory requirements defined in the Mining Act, and consult with the Ministries of Natural Resources, Environment and Labour, in regard to closure plan approvals.
In addition to the Mining Act regulatory role undertaken by the Ministry, as outlined above, MNDM conducts science-based activities that directly benefit our understanding of Ontario’s geology, mining potential, and the natural environment.
These other activities include:
- Providing baseline geoscience information which can contribute to effective land use planning and economic development decision-making in Ontario.
- Fostering better research and development networks to develop new cost effective means of protecting the environment and rehabilitating mining lands in Ontario.
The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines will encourage energy conservation in those sectors where it provides policy direction or programs.
5. Monitoring the use of the SEV
MNDM will document how the SEV was considered each time a decision is posted on the Environmental Registry. The Ministry will ensure that staff members involved in decisions that significantly affect the environment are aware of the Ministry’s Environmental Bill of Rights obligations.
MNDM believes that public consultation 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 Northern Development and Mines 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 peoples 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
MNDM 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 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.