Sometimes big moments that deserve celebrating get overlooked because we’re so busy with daily living. Many of us in Manitoba had one of those moments this afternoon with the tabling of  Bill 20 – The Environmental Rights Act.

While we understand if you might not want to sift through the formal language of a piece of legislation, it is surprisingly readable.

The key principles include:

1. Precautionary principle — If an activity raises threats of serious harm to the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if it has not been fully established scientifically that the activity is harmful. In this context, the proponent of the activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.

2. Polluter pays principle — A polluter should bear responsibility for remedying contamination for which the polluter is responsible and must bear the costs of remediation.

3. Principle of sustainable development — Development should meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

4. Principle of intergenerational equity — The current generation holds the environment in trust for future generations and has an obligation to use its resources in a way that leaves that environment in the same or better condition for future generations.

5. Principle of environmental justice — There should be a just distribution of environmental benefits and burdens among Manitobans.

The specific environmental rights include:

  • Right to a healthy environment
  • Information and participation rights
  • Review of laws and government policies
  • Investigation of environmental offences

To support oversight, there is a section on enforcement of environmental rights and appointment of a Commissioner.

Definitely an historic moment worthy of celebrating!