Dalhousie Journal of Legal Studies

Article Title

“Greening” the Charter: Section 7 and the Right to A Healthy Environment


Lauren Worstman


that does not have a constitutionally protected right to a healthy environment. Amid concerns about climate change and its impact on human health and well-being, the Constitution has become a focal point for advancing environmental justice in Canada. This paper explores three questions surrounding environmental rights and the Constitution. First, does the right to life, liberty, and security of the person, protected by section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, protect a right to a healthy environment? If it does, would such a right strengthen Canada’s framework for environmental protection? And lastly, what would a robust conception of the right to a healthy environment look like, given the emergence of international human rights in the environmental context? To answer these questions, this paper analyzes the jurisprudence on section 7 of the Charter in the environmental context to determine whether a right to a healthy environment is protected under the right to life, liberty and security of the person. It draws on research from other countries with constitutionally protected environmental rights to assess what benefits such a right can provide and what challenges it poses. This paper also surveys best practices that have emerged from international human rights law to understand what the content of a robust right to a healthy environment might look like. The author argues that courts have implicitly accepted that a right to a healthy environment may be protected by section 7 of the Charter, and that courts should recognize such a right as it could help Canada strengthen its approach to environmental protection.