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Activists aim a second lawsuit at Ontario's Bill 197

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 9/4/2020 1:53:00 PM

A second lawsuit — this one filed by Earthroots, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, Ontario Nature, 16-year-old activist Cooper Price and Michel Koostachin, who was born and raised in Attawapiskat — is taking on Ontario’s Bill 197, a COVID-recovery Bill that also makes rough work of Ontario’s environmental assessment process. Bill 197 was passed on July 21, 2020 after time-limited debate and no committee hearings, and without having been posted on the Environmental Registry of Ontario for public comment.

The lawsuit charges that Bill 197 did not comply with the public notice and comment requirements of Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR). It also argues that Bill 197 is inconsistent with international law conventions, principles and norms on environmental assessment, public participation, and human rights applicable in Ontario.

The application for judicial review asks Ontario’s Divisional Court to declare that the government of Ontario violated provincial and international law in enacting Bill 197, and to order the government to conduct meaningful public consultation on the environmentally significant aspects of Bill 197 before they are proclaimed into force.

“As Environmental Commissioner of Ontario for 15 years, I constantly had to work to protect and maintain the EBR rights of the people to participate in government decision making about our environmental heritage,” said Gord Miller, chair of Earthroots, in a statement. “Bill 197 has gutted those rights and set public policy back decades. We must react. We must defend those rights for the sake of future generations.”

Earlier in August 2020, Greenpeace Canada and Wilderness Committee, represented by Ecojustice, filed a similar application before Ontario’s Divisional Court.

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