April 2020 Bulletin

Legal Protection Still Critical During Pandemic

Do you have a question about protecting the environment? Do you need assistance in addressing air, land or water pollution?

Please reach out! CELA staff are continuing to provide essential legal services during the COVID-19 pandemic. New legal inquiries can be directed to articling@cela.ca.

CELA staff are committed to supporting our clients and groups, whose need is greater than ever during this time. The impacts of the pandemic are being disproportionally felt by vulnerable commuities, who are also historically most harmed by pollution and climate change. As a Legal Aid Clinic our top priority is to represent low income individuals and communities, and to speak out for those with less influence and who have less of a say in decision-making. If you are in a position to support our work in this challenging time, we appreciate any and all support through the CELA Foundation.

Earth Day Turns 50… and so does CELA!

50 years ago, the legal framework that protected our air, land and water looked very different than it does today.

As CELA and Earth Day both celebrate their 50th anniversaries, it’s an opportune time to reflect on the progress we have made, and to renew our energy and focus for the next 50 years. CELA’s latest blog post looks at all we have to celebrate from the last five decades, but reminds us of the need for ongoing vigilance and citizen action.

earth_from_spacePhoto credit: Earth from Apollo 11, NASA

COVID-19 Related Updates

Ontario Exempts Itself from Environmental Bill of Rights

In response to the government of Ontario’s announcement that it would be temporarily suspending Part II of the Environmental Bill of Rights, nearly 50 civil society and environmental organizations collectively ask Ontario to implement its COVID-19 emergency response in ways which prevent undue harm to the environment and uphold public participation rights.

Aligning Stimulus Measures with Environmental Objectivesgreen_budget_coalition

Read the Green Budget Coalition’s April 2020 letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, providing input on aligning needed stimulus measures with core environmental objectives to maximize benefits to Canadians in these unprecedented times and beyond.



LPAT Finds in Favour of CELA Client in Northwestern Ontario Gravel Pit Case

CELA’s client, the Trout Lake Campers’ Association, has successfully challenged a proposal for a gravel pit next to an inland, freshwater lake in Northwestern Ontario. In its decision issued April 29, the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) found in favour of the Campers’ Association, recognizing the Lakehead Rural Planning Board had failed to appropriately consider the provisions of the provincial planning framework which promote environmental protection and consider the social impacts of competing land uses, alongside aggregate development. LPAT ordered the zoning bylaw which permitted the extractive operations to be repealed and the matter returned to the Lakehead Rural Planning Board for a new decision. For more information see our website profile of this case.

Historic Drinking Water Contamination

CELA represents clients whose drinking water wells have been subjected to historic and long-lived contamination raising serious concerns about impacts on health. In such cases, once we accept the case based on our eligibility criteria, we can assist in evaluating the factual and legal issues raised in the matter and whether there are legal avenues to pursue.

CELA encourages anyone with concerns about the safety of their well water to get it tested. Find a reputable lab or water well technician. Seek advice from the local health unit. If there are concerns about bacteria, the local health unit will conduct testing free of charge and provide you with the results. For concerns about chemical and metals contamination, homeowners must pay for their own tests.

Good information about protecting your drinking water well is found on the website of our friends at Well Aware, run by Green Communities Canada.

marshSudbury District, Northern Ontario

Blue Box Transition and Paper Recycling Regulation

Consultations regarding changes to paper recycling in Ontario do not include key environmental organizations. This letter to the Minister of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MOECP) asks for a meeting to discuss the changes.

Importance of Investing in Conservation Authorities

Ontario’s conservation authorities are part of the solution to reverse biodiversity loss and ensure our communities are climate resilient. We are fortunate to have already established watershed-based agencies; a model envied by other jurisdictions. Canadian Environmental Law Association and over 100 other organizations have written to the Premier of Ontario, seeking investment in maintaining conservation authorities’ functions and responsibilities, particularly regarding land use planning, environmental monitoring, stewardship and education.

yellow_flowerKen Reid Conservation Area. Photo credit: Stuart Lush

Public Legal Education – Climate Change & Vulnerable Communities

CELA Executive Director Theresa McClenaghan joined a panel at the Ontario Bar Association on April 28, 2020 to speak to legal practitioners about climate change, vulnerable communities and corporate responsibility. Theresa reviewed provincial, territorial and federal climate laws across Canada and assessed the extent to which they provide protection for vulnerable communities. She recommended municipal action on climate to include assessment of inequitable impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations; and suggested that corporate social responsibility efforts should include explicit consideration of how their decisions are imposing extra burdens on low income and vulnerable communities. Her presentation is available on our website.

Submit Your Comments on Canada’s First Small Modular Nuclear Reactor

Until June 1, the Canadia Nuclear Safety Commission will be accepting comments on the scope of factors to be considered in the environmental assessment of Global First Power’s Micro Modular Reactor. This is Canada’s first ever small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) and the only SMR design currently undergoing federal environmental assessment. Its technical characteristics are unlike any other operating nuclear reactor in Canada and given SMRs’ problematic environmental, social and economic attributes, they are not the answer or even part of the answer to climate change. To participate, send your comments to cnsc.interventions.ccsn@canada.ca by June 1. The CNSC’s decision is expected later in June 2020.

purple_flowersPhoto credit: Theresa McClenaghan

CELA In The Courts

Supreme Court Re-Schedules Carbon Pricing Appeals

The Supreme Court of Canada has recently re-scheduled the much-anticipated appeals filed by Ontario and Saskatchewan regarding the constitutionality of the federal carbon pricing law. The appeals will now be argued in September 2020, and they will be heard with a new appeal filed by British Columbia against an Alberta Court of Appeal opinion on the same topic. CELA represents two clients that are intervening in the Supreme Court appeals, and we will be advancing arguments in support of the federal legislation in this national test case. For more information, see our website profile of this case.

Ministry Grants EBR Application Filed by CELA Clients

CELA represents two clients who are experiencing material discomfort (and interference with the normal use and enjoyment of their property) due to the discharge of contaminants from an adjacent industrial operation. To address these adverse effects, CELA filed an Application for Investigation under Part IV of the Environmental Bill of Rights on behalf of our clients. In April 2020, Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks agreed that an investigation is warranted under the Environmental Protection Act, and it is anticipated that Ministry staff will commence the investigation and report back to our clients in due course.

On The Blog

New Rules Finalized for Pesticides in Ontario

On the Earth Day anniversary of Ontario’s ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides, CELA Researcher Kathleen Cooper blogs about recent changes to Ontario’s pesticide rules, including good news and bad news.


Nurdle Alert: Plastics Spill Sweeping Lake Superior

CELA summer student Petri Bailey blogs about the scourge of plastic “nurdles” in Lake Superior, their source, cleanup efforts, and possible legal recourse.

Faces of CELA: Petri Bailey

CELA is pleased to introduce Petri Bailey as our newest summer student.

What is your role and how long have you been involved with CELA?

I began volunteering as a pro bono student with CELA in the fall of 2019. This year, I researched a train derailment which left millions of plastic pellets drifting across Lake Superior. I looked at how polluters can be held accountable for spills, and the policy changes Canada should explore with respect to single-use plastics. [Read more]

Upcoming Events

Great Lakes Lessons from the Past Webinar
Wednesday May 6, 12:30pm-2:00pm EST
(Note – new date)

Registration is required.

Hosted by Great Lakes advocates from the 1980’s and 1990’s, this webinar will look at key principles, organizing approaches and learnings from past Great Lakes advocacy for PFAS campaigns today. As busy environmental activists, we all appreciate an opportunity to learn from past efforts and not reinvent the wheel. Presenters John Jackson, Tim Eder, Joyce McLean and Jane Elder will share engaging and relevant stories and photos of past work on toxic chemicals that will illustrate how current Great Lakes advocates can learn from the past.

Full details on our website; register now to reserve your spot!

river_bankPhoto credit: Theresa McClenaghan

Engaging with Indigenous Communities – A 3-part Webinar Series

CELA is hosting a 3-part webinar series with Gary Pritchard, Manager of Environment and Climate Change with Cambium Aboriginal, talking about how to work effectively and meaningfully with Indigenous communities. Full details about each webinar are on our website; register now to save your spot!

How To Work With Indigenous Peoples
Thursday April 30, 1:00pm-2:00pm EST

Achieving Effective and Meaningful Engagement with Indigenous Communities
Thursday May 7, 1:00pm-2:00pm EST

Treaties 101
Thursday May 14, 1:00pm-2:00pm EST

Canadian Water Policy 101

Thursday May 7, 11:00am-12:00pm ET

CELA Special Projects Counsel Healthy Great Lakes Anastasia Lintner will be presenting a webinar talking about the water policy framework in Canada.

Registration is not required for this meeting. Join byclicking here or calling (647) 558-0588. The meeting ID is 261 486 690.