Montreal, March 23, 2023 – This week, the Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement (CQDE) will mark the fifth anniversary of an unfulfilled commitment by the Quebec government as regards the creation of a public register that provides one-click access to essential environmental information. The register, provided for in the Environment Quality Act (EQA), is essential to effectively protect the rights of the population and promote a healthy environment. The CQDE is therefore asking the government to formally commit, within the next 30 days, to give full effect to the law and to create this register before the end of 2023.

“The register is a tool that we’ve been asking the ministry to develop for years, to no avail. Yet it would also benefit the government itself by reducing  the burden of having to respond to numerous access to information requests,” explains the CQDE’s interim executive director, Caroline Poussier.

A register required by the Environmental Quality Act, which has been conspicuous by its absence since 2018

March 2018 marked the entry into force of the revised EQA, after three years of work. Improving access to environmental information for the public was a priority objective of this reform. In fact, the new law provides for the creation of a register that lists the ministerial authorizations requested or granted. The register is a considerable gain as regards access to environmental information and constitutes a major added value of the reform. However, five years later, this is the only part of the EQA that has still not been put into effect.

An essential register for transparency and protection of environmental quality

Having reliable and rapid access to key environmental information is an essential democratic right. It is also a major tool to protect ecosystems and defend the right of all to a healthy environment.

In concrete terms, the online register would allow any citizen concerned about the environmental impacts associated with the development of a project in his or her setting to do so with a single click. Currently, the procedure for accessing this information is still far too tedious. The citizen must submit a request for access to information to the ministry, wait a few weeks, possibly file an appeal with an administrative tribunal, i.e. the Commission d’accès à l’information, and in the latter case, certainly wait several more months before the hearing.

“Having the information accessible at a click instead of going through an access to information request makes all the difference, especially in terms of processing time. Five years ago, the National Assembly made a democratic choice by deciding to create this register, but the government is not following through. However, everyone wins when the population can easily find out what’s happening in their environment,” adds Marc Bishai, a lawyer with the CQDE.

The government must commit to implementing this long-awaited democratic tool as soon as possible

The CQDE regrets that such a register, essential to the protection of everyone’s right to a healthy environment, does not seem to be a priority. The government must not let another anniversary go by without the register being put in place.

As of today, the population has an opportunity to be heard by joining the mobilization action initiated by the CQDE. In particular, they can ask the government to commit, within the next 30 days, to establishing the register in 2023. 

Protecting citizens’ right to a healthy environment and finally obtaining timely access to information can no longer be delayed,” concludes Ms. Poussier. The government must act quickly to fulfill the commitment it made five years ago. Quebecers have waited long enough.

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