Draft environmental bill of rights for youth introduced in N.B.

A new provincial draft bill aimed at protecting children from environmental health hazards was introduced Tuesday in Fredericton.

Bill, which seeks to protect children from environmental health hazards, could be precedent-setting

A draft environmental bill of rights for New Brunswick children was introduced Tuesday in Fredericton — the first of its kind in Canada.

The bill, which has been 10 years in the making, calls on the New Brunswick government to recognize children's vulnerabilities, to protect their health from environmental hazards, and to promote healthy environments that support their development, said children's entertainer Raffi Cavoukian.

He has been working with the New Brunswick Children's Environmental Health Collaborative on the proposed bill for the past two years, and was on hand for its unveiling.

"The fundamental principle here is that every child has the right to protection from environmental hazards and that the government of New Brunswick would have an obligation under this bill with its jurisdiction to ensure that it does not expose a child, or allow a child to be exposed to an environmental hazard," Cavoukian told CBC News.

Environmental hazards are blamed for a wide range of childhood maladies, including asthma, brain disorders and obesity.

More than 80,000 toxins can be harmful to children, said Cavoukian. Common items, such as toys and paint, for example, can contain lead, which can affect a child's nervous system, he said.

He said young children are the most vulnerable to exposure to hazardous compounds in the environment because their bodies are small and their immune systems are still developing.

​Such exposure can cause life-long health impacts, he said. "That's why it's so important to have a bill such as this."

"To be preventative, to be proactive makes a lot of sense and saves a lot of money down the line."

The bill would also be precedent-setting, said Cavoukian. "New Brunswick has an opportunity to be a trend-setter."

Although Manitoba recently gave third reading to a pesticide ban, the proposed New Brunswick draft bill is different in that it would offer a constitutional guarantee, he said.