Ontario’s Biodiversity and the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993
Ontario has a powerful tool at its disposal to mainstream the conservation of biodiversity. Nearly two decades ago, the Government of Ontario had the foresight to pass one of the most innovative laws on the planet, which couples environmental protection with public participation in decision making. The Environmental Bill of Rights establishes that the people of Ontario have a common goal in the protection, conservation and restoration of the natural environment for the benefit of present and future generations. Moreover, one of its explicit purposes is to enable the protection and conservation of Ontario’s biological, ecological and genetic diversity.
The global community has recognized that biodiversity values should be reflected in decision making and that the public should have a meaningful way to participate. Governments around the world are now searching for such a mechanism, one that Ontario has the good fortune to already have. The Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 embraces these values and provides the Government of Ontario with a mechanism to engage the public in the shared responsibility of conserving our province’s biodiversity.
There are 13 prescribed government ministries that have the opportunity to take full advantage of the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993. Some of these ministries have more obvious responsibilities for conserving biodiversity in the province, such as the Ministry of Natural Resources. Other ministries have a more subtle role to play in tying together the broader responsibilities of the Government of Ontario to conserve biodiversity.
Together, the sum of effort by these ministries can be greater than individual actions alone. Developing a strategic plan would openly signal the Ontario government’s commitment to conserving biodiversity, while also setting out a big-picture vision for what needs to be achieved by the end of this decade.
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