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David R. Boyd, The Right to a Healthy Environment, Revitalizing Canada’s Constitution (UBC Press, W. Wesley Pue general ed., 2012) 336 Pages, ISBN: 978-0-7748-2412-5

I. Introduction

David R. Boyd wears many hats: as one of Canada’s leading environmental lawyers; as an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University; as an environmental policy adviser to the Canadian and Swedish governments; and as an international expert [End Page 258] on human rights and the environment, assisting countries from Iceland to Tunisia in securing constitutional protection for the right to a healthy environment.

His book, The Right to a Healthy Environment, Revitalizing Canada’s Constitution,1 is a follow-up to his last book, The Environmental Rights Revolution: A Global Study of Constitutions, Human Rights and the Environment,2 which was favorably reviewed in a previous issue.3 In that book, Boyd provided a comprehensive overview of nations that have incorporated the right to a healthy environment in their constitutions, and demonstrated that constitutional provisions guaranteeing the right to a healthy environment have measurable, positive effects on the environment in many different nations.4

Because The Environmental Rights Revolution concluded that almost all nations—except two outliers, Belgium and Denmark—are better off if they adopt a constitutional right to a healthy environment,5 Boyd’s new book, The Right to a Healthy Environment, attempts to prove that Canadians would benefit if they amended their constitution to recognize the right to a healthy environment.6 Throughout this work, he emphasizes the general benefits of recognizing environmental rights as human rights and the positive impact recognizing these rights in the Canadian constitution would have on the lives of Canadian citizens. He examines the gradual domestic emergence of environmental rights both in Canadian law and from a global perspective. By including both viewpoints, Boyd attempts to identify the complexities and intricate questions that arise regarding various environmental issues both at local and global levels. He asserts that the environmental rights of today will affect future generations and encourages Canadians to think of what they will be passing on to their children.

II. Chapter Analysis

In the first chapter, “Canada Needs Environmental Constitutional Rights,” Boyd proposes five compelling reasons why the constitutional recognition of the right to a healthy environment is imperative for Canada’s future well-being:

  1. 1. Environmental protection has evolved into a fundamental value held by the overwhelming majority of Canadians.

  2. 2. There is a pressing need to improve Canada’s poor environmental performance and preserve the country’s magnificent landscapes, natural wealth, and biodiversity. [End Page 259]

  3. 3. It is imperative to protect Canada’s health from environmental hazards like air pollution, contaminated food and water, and toxic chemicals.

  4. 4. Uncertainty regarding the responsibility of all levels of government for environmental protection has undermined efforts to make Canada more sustainable and needs to be clarified.

  5. 5. Environmental rights and responsibilities are fundamental elements of indigenous law, and acknowledging them would take an important step toward reconciliation with Aboriginal people.7

In Chapter Two, “The Pros and Cons of the Right to a Healthy Environment,” Boyd examines and analyzes the benefits of embedding the right to a healthy environment in Canada’s constitution. Some of the benefits he identifies are: (1) providing a stimulus for stronger environmental laws; (2) bolstering the implementation and enforcement of existing environmental laws; (3) offering a safety net to fill gaps in environmental legislation; (4) protecting environmental laws and regulations from rollbacks under future governments; (5) promoting democracy through greater citizen participation in environmental decisions through procedural rights including access to information, participation through public meetings or electronic commenting, and access to judicial review; (6) increasing the accountability of government officials through the previously mentioned procedural rights for citizen participation; (7) ensuring a level economic and social playing field; (8) fostering environmental rights for all citizens and especially vulnerable populations; and (9) promoting environmental education.8

Next, he examines the various arguments against environmental rights in Canada, including the criticisms that such rights are (1) too vague to be meaningful; (2) that they pose a threat to the economy in Canada, especially natural...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1085-794X
Print ISSN
0275-0392
Pages
pp. 258-266
Launched on MUSE
2014-02-06
Open Access
N

Copyright

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