The Applicability of Section 7 of the Charter to Oil and Gas Development in Alberta

Nickie Vlavianos


When Albertans think about human rights in the context of oil and gas development, many think of Africa, and for good reason. Indeed, the tragic events that have unfolded in Sudan in recent years may come to mind. Few, however, will turn their minds to the possibility of human rights violations occurring in their own province. And yet, in at least three court applications over the past year or so, landowners have raised the spectre of the applicability of human rights law in the context of oil and gas development in Al- berta. Specifically, the possibility of the applica- tion of section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is at issue.1 Arguments have been based on both aspects of section 7 — the right to life, liberty, and security of the person, and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accor- dance with the principles of fundamental justice (or procedural fairness), including rights to a fair hearing, to reasonable notice, and to reasons for a decision. Although no definite ruling has yet emerged, in none of these cases was it suggested that section 7 is inapplicable in the context of the actual and potential environmental and health impacts of oil and gas development (or other industrial development for that matter). Where there might have been doubt about this issue be- fore, there does not appear to be any now.

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