How does a province move from intractable inertia on environmental issues that threaten citizens’ health to a proactive approach that protects citizens’ health from environmental hazards?

In New Brunswick, that transformation is taking shape in the NB Children’s Environmental Health Collaborative.

In the 1990s, worrisome environmental health issues included decades of spraying forests with insecticides and herbicides; leaking gas tanks and contaminated groundwater; air pollution from power plants and the largest oil refinery in Canada (coupled with high rates of asthma); and lead contamination from a smelter polluting people’s gardens and causing illnesses in surrounding communities. Public health officials had not stepped forward to warn citizens regarding these hazards. Public discourse on environmental health issues was polarized, divided and not even on government radar. And there was certainly no unified voice calling for government action.

Some groups were interested in looking at the overarching problem of health impacts, particularly on children. But there were many hurdles:
• No one in the province was working directly on them
• No single government department “owned” them
• There was little communication within sectors on these issues, and no communication across sectors
Too complex a problem for any one organization or sector to address on its own, the only possible solution was to move many sectors forward together.

Gaining government confidence started with one person: the Department of Health director of public health, who initially avoided meeting requests because of history between his department and environmental groups. A small group of health and environmental NGOs met with him only through sheer persistence. He ultimately became a key ally.

In 2005, a first province-wide meeting was held, bringing together many sectors. Once in the same room, it was easy for representatives of disparate groups to align with the goal of protecting children’s health.

Conferences were held and speakers were brought in to shed light on research and experience in other jurisdictions. Over time, participants made connections between children’s exposures to contaminants and their issues. Gradually, unlikely allies came together to focus on solutions and create a province-wide strategy to reduce children’s exposure to environmental hazards.

Today the Collaborative Effort is a diverse group linking more than 300 people from more than 100 agencies representing more than 20 sectors. Participants come from health, environment and children’s and family groups, First Nations, academics, researchers, health professionals, people working with mothers and children, and government at all levels — a “web of action”.

Our official champion is Raffi Cavoukian (Raffi, the children`s singer), who founded the Center for Chil Honouring. Supporters include the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, the East Coast Environmental Law Association, Canadian researchers Donald Spady and Colin Soskolne, Canadian pediatrician Robin Walker, and American pediatrician and champion of children’s environmental health, Philip Landrigan.

Since 2008, New Brunswick’s policy landscape on children’s environmental health issues has changed — something not possible without the ethic that emerged among NBCEHC stakeholders.

• The Healthy Environments Branch was established in 2010 with a dedicated staff person; professional development in environmental health is now a “given”, with more than 150 public health professionals, trainers and front-line workers educated on reducing children’s exposures to contaminants and providing information to clients
• NBCEHC participants, who made inroads with government departments through meetings and presentations, were invited back to help develop a provincial, multi-sectoral work plan on children’s environmental health
• Nurses, who used to provide parent and teacher education on children’s environmental health “under the radar”, are now often recognized by management as change agents — some have become management!
• A team of NBCEHC researchers hosted a two-day workshop resulting in a proposal to map provincial environmental hotspots
• NBCEHC participants contributed to the new early childhood education curriculum, adding focus on healthy environments, getting children outside and reducing exposures to contaminants
But there is more to do!

With the help of the provincial Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, Ecojustice and East Coast Environmental Law Association, a draft of a New Brunswick Bill of Rights to Protect Children’s Health from Environmental Hazards has been completed for all provincial political parties’ consideration. After the September 22 election, it will be submitted to the ruling party in preparation for enactment. To date, two political parties have included children’s environmental health in their election platforms.

We’re optimistic that child honouring will become a generally accepted approach to policymaking in New Brunswick. Much has been accomplished, but the well-being and healthy development of our children will require constant vigilance and action. With the help of NBCEHC and its many participants, the future looks bright.

This blog was also published on David's Suzuki Blue Dot Tour website, click here to see it!

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The views expressed in these articles are the author’s personal opinion and not those of the NBEN or its member or associate groups.

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Action Alerts

Conserve Our NB

Friday, 09 February 2018
by Nature Trust of New Brunswick

For countless generations, people in New Brunswick have cherished the wildlife and beauty of their natural surroundings. We have adopted many deeply rooted outdoor traditions that take us to the rivers, lakes, wetlands, forests, and coastlines of our beautiful province in all seasons of the year. Help protect the wild places that you love so that your family, children, and grandchildren will be able to enjoy them forever.

Over 95% of New Brunswick is currently unprotected and open to exploitation that could harm wildlife and damage the natural beauty of our province, and we need to act now to change that.

Through the Convention on Biological Diversity, Canada has signed on to conserve 17% of land and freshwater by 2020.  As Canadians, it is our shared responsibility to hold the government accountable to achieving this target. The Nature Trust of New Brunswick is urging you to speak out to your provincial representatives to declare your support for increased land conservation in the province, and encourage them to set set their own conservation goals for the province and develop an action plan to achieve these goalsThrough Pathway to Canada Target 1, an Indigenous Circle of Experts (ICE) has been identified to ensure all elements of the initiative are guided by Indigenous experts across Canada, which should be reflected in New Brunswick’s efforts as well.

A vast majority of Canadians agree that protecting the environment is one of the most important issues currently facing our country. In a recent national conservation survey, 87% of Canadians support increasing the amount of natural areas protected from development, including at national parks. Join the growing movement of people who are speaking out in support of land conservation.

We’ve made it easy for you to take action! It takes less than a minute with our online template to send a letter to your local MLA. To learn more about what you can do to support land conservation, download the Conserve Our NB toolkit.  

Printable pledge link:  Please help by joining the movement and collecting signatures from your corner of the province to show support for increased land and freshwater protection in NB. 

Please return pledge sheets with original signatures to the Nature Trust of New Brunswick office.
Next Deadline: March 13, 2018

By mail:
P.O. Box 603 Station A,
Fredericton, NB, E3B 5A6 

In person: 404 Queen St. 3rd floor,
Fredericton, NB

Have your say on Draft Water Strategy!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017
by Conservation Council of New Brunswick
A Water Strategy for New Brunswick

On October 6, 2017, the department of Environment and Local Government released a draft water strategy for comments. The draft strategy is available on the government website. Comments can be submitted by email to: or by mail to: Department of Environment and Local Government, Policy and Planning Division, P.O. Box 6000, Fredericton, N.B., E3B 5H1. Comments will be accepted until November 20, 2017.

In order to help groups with their submissions, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, in cooperation with watershed groups, has put together key elements of a watershed strategy and a sample letter to send to the Department.

Summary​ ​of​ ​8​ ​Key​ ​Elements​ ​of​ ​a​ ​Strong​ ​Water​ ​Protection​ ​Strategy

New​ ​Brunswick​ ​deserves​ ​a​ ​water​ ​protection​ ​strategy​ ​that:
    1. is​​ ​​science-based;​ ​(involving​ ​baseline​ ​data,​ ​tracking​ ​and​ ​taking​ ​into​ ​consideration cumulative​ ​impacts,​ ​environmental​ ​flows)
    2. sets​ ​water​ ​quality​ ​standards​ ​within​ ​a​ ​working,​ ​legal​ ​mechanism;
    3. conserves​ ​all​ ​water​ ​within​ ​​watersheds​ ​including​ ​surface​ ​waters​ ​(lakes,​ ​streams,​ ​rivers) and​ ​groundwater,​ ​by​ ​developing​ ​good​ ​conservation​ ​plans,​ ​policies​ ​and​ ​practices,​ ​and uses​ ​the​ ​precautionary​ ​principle​ ​as​ ​a​ ​guiding,​ ​legally​ ​enforceable​ ​tool;
    4. protects​ ​our​ ​marine​ ​coastal​ ​areas​ ​in​ ​law;
    5. has​ ​a​ ​meaningful​ ​form​ ​of​ ​​co-governance​ ​with​ ​First​ ​Nations;
    6. includes​ ​the​ ​development,​ ​implementation​ ​and​ ​enforcement​ ​of​ ​watershed​ ​protection plans,​ ​developed​ ​in​ ​a​ ​transparent​ ​manner,​ ​involving​ ​government,​ ​businesses,​ ​watershed organizations,​ ​farmers,​ ​municipal​ ​officials,​ ​and​ ​citizens;
    7. is​ ​accountable,​ ​which​ ​includes​ ​ongoing​ ​monitoring​ ​and​ ​annual​ ​reporting​ ​to​ ​the​ ​public​ ​on the​ ​progress​ ​of​ ​goals​ ​and​ ​objectives​ ​outlined​ ​in​ ​the​ ​water​ ​protection​ ​strategy;​ ​and,
    8. is​​ ​enforceable​ ​through​ ​a​ ​modern​ ​legal​ ​framework
Sample Letter
 My name is ______, and I am writing to express my support for a strong Water Strategy in New Brunswick.

I live near ______ OR I live in ___________ watershed

Describe your favourite spot to fish/swim/paddle etc.

Share your favourite water memory.

Clean, healthy water is important to me because _____________.

Have you recently experienced a boil water order? Blue-green algae? Extreme weather? Describe what is of concern to you.

I applaud the provincial government for moving forward on its commitment to protecting our water; however I believe the draft strategy does not go far enough to ensure healthy water for my watershed.

We need a water protection strategy that (Insert one or multiple key elements).

I am afraid that if left unattended, my watershed will face ongoing and increasing treats from (pollution, wetland and coastal estuary loss, loss of adequate environmental flow to sustain aquatic life, and increasing climate change impacts such as floods, droughts, and high temperatures.)

Please protect my watershed by implementing a strong water protection strategy with modern legislation that (note key element(s)) to ensure the health of our water and people.

Thank you,
Your name.

For more information, visit the CCNB's website.
L'étendue des actions menées au Nouveau-Brunswick pour protéger la santé des enfants des dangers environnementaux