The Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) adopted in 1994 by the province of Ontario, Canada empowers members of the public with participatory rights in environmental decision-making. This thesis evaluates the de facto situation of public participation rights held within the EBR and focuses in particular on the notice and comment procedures.
Evaluation of the effectiveness of the participatory provisions held within the EBR is based on qualitative findings from interviews with individuals who have been involved in environmental campaigns. The focus of this thesis rests in the participatory processes entrenched for the purposes of environmental protection rather than environmental protection outcomes. The research question asks: does public participation facilitate the environmental protection goals of the EBR by considering the factors which respondents identified as having affected the exercise of the rights held within the EBR.
The thesis concludes that the EBR successfully provides the basis for a system of participatory rights in environmental decision-making despite the barriers identified by this research study. A number of recommendations are suggested to reduce these barriers. The recommendations focus on (1) improving access for individuals with resource constraints, (2) improved access to information, (3) improving proactive engagement by government officials, (4) enabling access to experts, and (5) increasing education and awareness about the EBR and Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. These recommendations would further strengthen participatory rights in environmental decision-making under the EBR to make access to such processes more feasible for the public.