Environmental law: Defending the Rights of Nature

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On Friday, September 27, thousands of people are expected to take part in the Montreal edition of the Global Climate Strike. To mark this occasion, here’s a review of some of the laws that help protect the environment.

 

Laws

Environment Quality Act

For the last 47 years, the Environment Quality Act has protected the environment and the living things that inhabit it. The Act also promotes the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Environment Quality Act was completely overhauled in 2018. One of the reasons for the amendments was to modernize the process for assessing and authorizing work that impacts the environment. This is necessary, for example, for work carried out in wetlands.

 

The Quebec Charter

Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms also refers to the environment. It states that all people have the right to live in a healthy environment where biodiversity is preserved, to the extent provided by law. 

 

Tree Protection Act

This law was passed in 1964 to protect trees. If you destroy or damage a tree without authorization, you could be fined up to $200 per offence.  These fines apply whether the tree was completely or only partially destroyed or damaged.

 

Other laws and regulations

Several other laws and regulations deal with very specific environmental topics, such as wetlands, greenhouse gas emissions and the protection of threatened species.

 

Municipal bylaws

Certain bylaws in force in various Quebec municipalities also protect the environment. Here are some examples of what the bylaws do:

  • Require a minimum number of trees on your property.
  • Restrict the use of fireplaces that cause a lot of pollution.
  • Ban plastic bags.

 

Legal proceedings

In January 2018, a court authorized a class action on behalf of all Quebecers for non-compliance with environmental standards. This was a first, in Quebec! The class action was launched  in response to the Volkswagen scandal where certain cars were equipped with a device that falsified the results of emissions tests.