Accessibility Tools

Skip to main content

Statement on Canada’s Formal Recognition of the Right to a Healthy Environment

June 21, 2023

Statement on Canada’s Formal Recognition of the Right to a Healthy Environment

The Parliament of the World’s Religions celebrates the historic adoption by the Government of Canada of Bill S-5, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act, and calls on all countries to formally recognize the Right to a Clean Healthy and Sustainable Environment.

The bill, which received Royal Assent on June 13, modernizes the 1999 Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) and represents the first set of comprehensive amendments to CEPA since it was enacted over 20 years ago.

With these revisions to CEPA, the Government of Canada delivers on its commitment to recognize, for the first time in federal law, that every individual in Canada has a right to a healthy environment. Years of civil society advocacy have helped to bring about this Canadian legislation.

Canada now becomes the 160th country in the world to legally recognize the human right to a healthy environment, an important step towards universal recognition by national governments. Full realization of this right depends on its implementation by governments everywhere at all levels, with strong support by civil society, including faith communities.

The General Assembly of the United Nations in July 2022 recognized “The Right to a Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment” as a basic human right, with a historic vote of 161 in favor, none opposed, and 8 abstentions. The last time a new basic human right had been recognized by the United Nations was in 2016, The Right to Water and Sanitation.

The Right to a Healthy Environment is of crucial importance, making clear that the welfare of humans cannot be separated from the well-being of the natural world, and is essential to the enjoyment of all other human rights. It also immensely strengthens support for environmental justice and makes it possible for environmental defenders, almost 200 of whom are killed each year, to be called “human rights defenders.”

The Right to a Healthy Environment is crucial to ensuring the rights of future generations and should become a central concern of the UN Trusteeship Council, as proposed by the UN Secretary-General António Gutterres to be a deliberative forum for the rights and welfare of future generations and governance of the global commons.

For further information contact:

Emily Echevarria                                                  David Hales
Director of Climate Action                                   Chair of Climate Action