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Read the fine print on your environmental rights

In this week’s newsletter, we talk about what Canadians’ right to a healthy environment could mean, including when communities like Wilps Gwininitxw, Peguis First Nation and Mi’kmaq Nation seek justice and safety for their people

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A man tries to hold onto his fish net with a catch of four fish by the water.
Residents across Canada could soon have the right to a healthy environment — on paper, at least. In reality? Welllll, you might want to read the fine print, or lack thereof.

The federal government is backing a United Nations resolution to recognize that right by putting forward Bill S-5, legislation it says draws from the same principles as the resolution but which a UN expert says needs to be strengthened to be truly effective.

The Senate took one step in that direction when it pushed for more explicit language in the bill to lay out the federal government’s obligations amid a worsening climate crisis. That triggered, well, the inevitable: seven industry groups lobbied to try to prevent those changes, climate investigations reporter Carl Meyer notes in this explainer.

“It really is worth pointing out how these industry groups just openly lobbied the Senate to roll back amendments they were proposing that would clarify the government’s role in administering the law — things like lobbying against the inclusion of ‘vulnerable environments’ to the list of items the government should consider when deciding whether a substance is toxic,” Carl told me.

It’s still unclear whether MPs will accept those Senate amendments when Parliament returns this fall, tasked with examining and voting on the bill. Even if they do, critics say it’s not enough since the legislation doesn’t actually give someone the right to sue a corporation for causing environmental damages.
Ducie Howe, a water protector and high school teacher from Mi’kmaq Nation, holds a sign at a protest against the Alton Gas storage project.

Industry impacts are certainly on the mind of Ducie Howe, a Mi’kmaq grandmother and water protector (pictured above) who argues in this new opinion piece that a proposed Nova Scotia LNG export project poses a risk to her people, their unceded lands and the planet.

As for communities that are particularly vulnerable: our team has been writing about the impacts of environmental racism, from higher pollution levels in Toronto’s lower income neighbourhoods to a First Nation in Manitoba grappling with the effects of being moved to a flood-prone area more than a century ago.

Meanwhile, Wilps Gwininitxw, a Gitxsan Nation house group, enshrined its people’s right to a healthy environment this week by declaring an Indigenous Protected Area spanning all 170,000 hectares of its territory. That ecosystem in the upper Skeena River watershed in northwest B.C. is intact right now, but that may not always be the case with two new proposed pipelines on the horizon. And so, “in the absence of meaningful provincial or federal government action,” Wilps Gwininitxw is acting to protect vital habitat.

The outcome of Bill S-5 could have real consequences for how Wilps Gwininitxw, Peguis First Nation, Mi’kmaq Nation and countless other communities seek justice and safety for their people. Carl will be watching closely for developments on Parliament Hill.

Take care and read the fine print,

Arik Ligeti
Director of audience
Headshot of Arik Ligeti

The Narwhal in the wild

If you didn’t know, The Narwhal has a resident, self-proclaimed Wing Woman™. Ontario reporter Emma McIntosh, who also happens to be ranked as the 13th birder in all of… Manitoulin, appeared on Great Lakes Now’s The Catch to talk about Toronto’s accidental avian haven! She also came on Global News’ CHML station in Hamilton to discuss the Ring of Fire and the many, many claims made by the Ford government during the throne speech. 

Also, remember Geoff Dembicki’s investigation into the American right-wing network that actively worked to undermine Indigenous Rights in Canada? It was republished in Grist — and Geoff even discussed it on air at Energi Talks!

Whew. We’ve got your streaming content for the weekend covered. Go listen!

Photo of Emily, a member of The Narwhal, sitting in front of her computer with a sticker of our logo, smiling.

Note from a Narwhal

Here’s Emily, long-time reader and member rockin’ The Narwhal sticker on her computer! 

“We love supporting the mission and goals behind The Narwhal and independent journalism that cares deeply about Canada’s natural world and history. Also, one of the coolest logos ever!”

Thanks, Emily! And thanks to each of you for supporting The Narwhal's journalism and sporting our cool logo!


This week in The Narwhal

Aerial view of the Scott Islands
Could oil and gas drilling happen off B.C.’s coast? A new lawsuit aims to prevent it
By Ainslie Cruickshank
Conservation groups want to keep resource development out of marine waters that support millions of seabirds and face multiple environmental threats, despite supposedly being protected

A photo of the LRT with an illustrated WhatsApp message from John Manconi that reads: "Total Gong show out on the rail line this morning."
Public inquiry reveals how the Ottawa LRT became the wildest ride in town
By Fatima Syed
A beachside photo of Qualicum Beach
‘Every citizen in British Columbia won’: court dismisses defamation suit against conservationists
By Stephanie Wood
Two cyclists riding a bike with purple flowers in the front view.
Cyclists in High Park are less scary than pedestrian deaths and runaway emissions
By Denise Balkissoon

What we’re reading

In the fight to protect Douglas Fir, in drones they trust
Counting Sheep, Before BC’s Bighorns Disappear
When you just want to read the fine print of your rights. Tell your friends to sign up for our newsletter — we’ll do the homework for you and keep you informed.
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