You and the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

In Uncategorized by couchiching

We are not the owners of this Earth, we are merely its guardians for a short time. That being said, the pace of world trade, manufacturing and consumption has grown exponentially in the past century. So quickly that us mere mortals have had a hard time keeping up. Technological advances render objects obsolete before they are often paid for, the pressures of development leave many of us standing and saying ”I remember when all this was trees.”  Many people, although they want to leave a healthy earth behind them, don’t know how. In the face of it all we can feel so small.  

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However, here in Ontario, we have a special kind of hope. It comes in a special kind of guardian, a person who holds our Environmental Bill of Rights most dear. That person is of course the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. Namely, Dr. Dianne Saxe. 

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However, here in Ontario, we have a special kind of hope. It comes in a special kind of guardian, a person who holds our Environmental Bill of Rights most dear. That person is of course the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. Namely, Dr. Dianne Saxe. She is the protector of our Environmental Bill of Rights and is working hard for all Ontarians to hold our ministries accountable. I must say she is doing remarkable work. 

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Dr. Saxe has already brought up to date more than 1000 proposal notices going back to 1996. This is out of 1800 that were flagged when she took office just one year ago this December.

Her qualifications precede her, and this article has a word count restriction that will not allow me to name them. However, I will let you know that she is one of Canada’s and the world’s top environmental lawyers. She also has 40 years experience working with energy and environmental law here in Ontario. Needless to say, we are lucky to have her. But don’t trust me, look her up and see for yourself.

So, what you ask, does she do exactly? Well, the Office of the Commissioner oversees 15 Ontario Ministries to review and report on their compliance with the Environmental Bill of Rights. All of these ministries must consider public opinion and input whenever they are faced with a proposal that may have a significant impact on the environment. Therefore, we need to report to the commissioner when we believe the law is being broken. Through her, we have the power to ask for an investigation. We need to let her office know when we can think of ways to improve environmental protection. Then we have the power to ask for a review. We have the power to have a say in government decisions and comment on government proposals that may significantly affect the environment. We need to make the office aware when we feel things have gone too far, or when things are not going in the right direction.

In the past trying to be heard by the government of Ontario may have been daunting. However the Commissioner is desperate for public involvement in the process. That is why in the past year the website has been vastly improved and the department is being modernized. There are clear and concise guidelines that will show you how to ask for an investigation, ask for a review, or make comments on government proposals. She is trying to make the people of Ontario aware that we have the right to comment before any potentially environmentally significant proposals are passed. That is why we have an online environmental registry to look through and comment on, the registry also lets you know the deadline to submit comments.

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The website for the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario even has an email signup. This way you can select issues that are important to you and have appropriate government proposals emailed to you to comment on. They have even made the environmental registry available on Twitter. You can enter any keywords you want, such as ‘endangered’, ‘water’, ‘pipeline’ or ‘Orillia’. The email signup will even let you know approximately how many emails you will receive per week on said topic.

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The Commissioner’s Office has done their due diligence making this stuff accessible to us, now it is our turn as citizens to take up the torch and make something of this process. Give feedback. Take back your power as a citizen. Make this province and this world a better place. You can do it. 

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The Commissioner’s Office has done their due diligence making this stuff accessible to us, now it is our turn as citizens to take up the torch and make something of this process. Give feedback. Take back your power as a citizen. Make this province and this world a better place. You can do it.

Although we have this special guardian, she cannot act alone, so please visit https://eco.on.ca/ Report, comment, and make yourself heard. Together, using tools such as this precious one, we can make ripples that will turn into waves. And hopefully we can re-wash this world in green for future generations. Some day they will say, “I remember when all this was pavement.”

Courtney Baker is the Administrative Assistant at The Couchiching Conservancy.